The Hillary Clinton Problem

Clearly, people assume that Hillary Clinton will run for President in 2008. I’m a big fan of Hillary, and I think she’d be a fine President, and if she ends up being nominated I’ll vote for her as hard as I can, but right now it’s hard not to notice that statements like this:

Six years after battling her way to a Senate seat from her newly adopted state by campaigning night and day, Hillary Rodham Clinton is coasting toward re-election _ and piling up money that could go toward a run for the White House in 2008.

Do a lot to stoke the fires of movements like this:

“New York is not on our radar screen,” said William Black, an operative with the anti-Clinton “Stop Her Now” effort, which was launched a year ago and had raised less than $25,000 as of the end of 2005. “It’s really not much of a race.”

There are two things going on here. First, there is the Rove-style strategy on the part of the Republicans to establish Hillary’s character in the mind of the electorate, in the same way they did to John Kerry (flip flop!) or Al Gore (invented the internet!). Second, there is the press’ willingness to go along with it. After all, it is a good story, Hillary is a widely recognized figure who engenders strong responses. She has not, however, stated any intention to run in 2008, so conjecture like this:

Leftover money could be used for a presidential campaign in 2008 if she runs.

The difference between Clinton’s 2000 campaign and her re-election bid is striking.

seems ill-founded, present more to excite and intrigue readers than to inform them. After all, what about this:

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson would not discuss 2006 campaign strategy, the possible benefits from not having a tough Senate race or the potential effect on 2008.

“We’re not taking anything for granted,” he said. “Senator Clinton is going to continue to focus on being the best senator that she can and making a strong case for her re-election.”

Seems pretty clear to me. It hurts liberals when the focus is taken off of the 2006 elections, which are lining up to be disastrous for the GOP, and put on the 2008 prospects of Hillary who, because of who she is, also allows the Republicans to keep pumping the old Bill Clinton outrage well they love so much. Hillary probably does want to run, and who can blame her? She’s made impressive inroads with Republican-heavy Upstate New York.

For now, though, I think the focus, from a news perspective, should be on the information relevant to a few months from now, as opposed to a few years.