Hillary Clinton: The Political Weapon Obama Can’t Use

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A smart Democratic operative fretting about the midterm elections made an interesting point to me today: How valuable might Hillary Clinton have been to the Obama White House as a campaign surrogate this year if she were still in the Senate and not at Foggy Bottom? My friend argues that Clinton could have saved Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, and that she could rally critical swing voters–namely the kind of “waitress moms” who sustained her in the 2008 presidential primaries–in several general election contests. Imagine the role she could play in Ohio, for instance, where she beat Obama by a 54-44 margin, and where Democrats are facing several tight contests, including for governor and Senate. (One recent poll shows more voters saying Clinton is qualified to be president than Obama himself.) But meddling in domestic politics is more or less taboo for a Secretary of State, which leaves Clinton on the sidelines. Sure, her husband remains a powerful weapon, as Jay recently explained. But Hillary could help a lot, too. That said, there’s no evidence to suggest that Obama regrets having tapped Clinton for State–recall, for instance that she’s one of the few civilian officials for whom Stanley McChrystal had praise. But particularly after the passing of Ted Kennedy, Obama doesn’t have a plethora of star surrogates to dispatch on behalf of Democratic candidates, and having both Clintons to deploy certainly wouldn’t have hurt this fall.

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