Hillary Clinton

Can she shed her baggage?

She's a celebrity politician with near-universal name recognition, heavyweight supporters, and a proven ability to raise heroic amounts of cash. A Gallup poll has named her America's most admired woman for five years running. Yet all that may not be enough to get Hillary Rodham Clinton elected president, said Jill Lawrence in USA Today. Last weekend, the former first lady and current junior senator from New York ended months of speculation over her White House ambitions by declaring, 'œI'm in, and I'm in to win.' But to win, she'll have to win over a lot of skeptics; even many Democrats dislike and distrust her, and doubt she can win a general, nationwide election. Those doubts are well-founded, said the Chicago Tribune in an editorial. Hillary may begin her campaign as the front-runner, but 44 percent of voters already view her negatively, according to the latest Washington Post'“ABC News poll. 'œToo edgy,' say the critics. 'œPersonality problem. Most unusual and complicated marriage in history. Flubbed up health care. War vote. Liberal.' Did we leave anything out?

Only the fact that she's a phony, said Rich Lowry in National Review Online. To win, Hillary must convince red-state America that she's a centrist and not a radical, big-government feminist. So for the past several years, she's deliberately moved to the right, declaring that abortion is 'œa tragedy' that should be both legal and rare, and voting to authorize the use of force in Iraq. But this pandering is transparent. Even her Web site announcement of her candidacy rang false. 'œI'm beginning a conversation with you, with America,' she purred from her cozy, living-room couch, framed family photos by her side. It was a stilted performance, as if 'œshe was desperately trying to project warmth.' Hillary will run 'œthe most blatantly calculated presidential campaign in memory'—and it will show.

That's the conservative conventional wisdom, said Peter Canellos in The Boston Globe. But Hillary is more complicated than conservatives think. She may be a feminist, but her beloved dad was a Main Street businessman, and she spent more than a decade in Arkansas. She has gotten this far because, like her husband, she's acutely conscious 'œof the need to massage public opinion,' and to create consensus before acting. So don't underestimate her.

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Still, 'œthere is one candidate against whom Clinton will inevitably be measured,' said Jonathan Alter in Newsweek. And it's not her biggest rival for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama, the charismatic senator from Illinois. It's her husband. Six years after leaving office, Bill Clinton is still the most popular Democrat, and he's so warm and charismatic that he could easily overshadow the chilly, schoolmarmish Hillary. For millions of voters, Bill presents another problem, said Neil Steinberg in the Chicago Sun-Times. They will always remember him as 'œa liar getting nookie from a chubby intern under his desk.' As Hillary seeks mainstream support, Bill will be an 'œalbatross' around her neck.

James Burkee

Los Angeles Times

The Washington Post

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