The Hillary Factor

If people knew Hillary, they might like her, but they don't know her, argues Carl Bernstein.

It's said that, in these days of rough-and-tumble politics, a good candidate may not be a good office-holder. But what about the divide between a primary powerhouse and a general election winner?

While it may seem the lock is in for Hillary Clinton to get the Democratic presidential nomination, warned her biographer Carl Bernstein, her potential big campaign liabilities could soon make her a difficult sell in the primaries. In his appearance at this weekend's Texas Book Festival, Bernstein noted that for a political figure about whom so much has been written, little is really known about Clinton. Admittedly, he was schilling his work A Woman In Charge, but his point – that between the loyalist hagiographies and the blood-craving attack pamphlets, her pubic image is a bundle of contradictory stereotypes – was well taken by the audience. Put simply, almost no-one really knows her, but what they think they know, a lot of people don't like.

But Clinton isn't just another candidate. If she got the presidential nod from the Dems, she would head up the ticket, and that could have a serious down-ballot effect. As one seasoned campaign veteran noted in conversation with Chronic, over 50% of polled Texans would rather have anyone other than Hillary in the presidential race, and some Democratic candidates in close-run seats may start to feel the same way. To quote fellow festival attendee Todd Gitlin, you don't fight a political campaign with the candidate you want, you fight it with the candidate you've got. But as Bernstein pointed out, the Dems don't have a candidate yet.

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