WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Do my eyes deceive me? The morning after Super Tuesday expired with a burst of fireworks enhaloing the hunk of granite that is John Kerry's head, Sen. Hillary Clinton -- still the most popular Democrat in the country -- pops up at Washington's Mayflower Hotel to give a major speech on trade and manufacturing, two burning issues during the Democrats' primary season. What can this mean?
Several weeks back, as Kerry emerged as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, that veteran Clinton-watcher with the keen eye for political machinations, Dick Morris, announced that Hillary had become a likely prospect as Kerry's running mate. Morris' observation makes sense. Kerry is a regional candidate. Hillary has national reach. She is the most popular Democratic candidate in the land. Owing to her feminism and her cachet with the other building blocks of the Democratic coalition she could, as Morris puts it, turn the presidential campaign into a "national crusade." Moreover, with the vast financial resources she commands, she could be for Kerry's campaign what his wife has been for Kerry's lifestyle: a bonanza.
What is more, sources have told me that Clinton loyalists have been calling Democrats around the country telling them to prevail on Kerry at least to invite Hillary to be on his ticket. Kerry needs help. For most of his senatorial career, he has been a loner, and the source of too many bizarre utterances. As recently as December his candidacy was dead in the water. Kerry has not been the consensus Democratic candidate. Rather, he is the candidate the consensus has settled on.
Hillary is at the center of the party. Some would say she sits atop it. The Clintons' servitor, Terry McAuliffe, heads the Democratic National Committee. Her political action committees are prodigious fund-raising mechanisms. Another of her servitors, Harold Ickes, controls financial honey pots with reserves of over $100 million. Thus Hillary is the most likely source of prestige and funding for the impecunious Kerry.
More recently, sources tell me that longtime Clinton supporters including those in the now-defunct Clark campaign have been told to sit tight and await unfolding events as though "something big" is about to happen. And Hillary's fund-raising operations have curiously slowed. She has been the top Democratic fund-raising draw since 2000. But three months ago, her fund-raising appearances seemingly fell off. In the last election cycle, she did four to five fund-raisers a week. Now she is down to one or two.
With her early morning speech just after Super Tuesday, she may be approaching that "something big" that her old supporters have been promised. In addressing trade and manufacturing at the Mayflower on Wednesday, she confronts two staples of Ralph Nader's song and dance -- a song and dance that will be heard many times as his third party candidacy gets underway. Nader's candidacy could become a political "giant sucking sound" of votes away from Kerry. At the Mayflower, Hillary demonstrates her political value to Kerry as a neutralizer of Nader.
It makes perfect sense for Hillary to get into the Democratic presidential action now. She has enormous power, and as with all political power, if you do not use it you run the risk that you might lose it.
Running as veep on a Kerry ticket might not doom her to second fiddle for eight years. The trial might last only eight months, and if the valiant ticket goes down to the hellish Bush, she would be seen as the loyalest of loyal Democrats, a Joan of Arc to her party. Her rights on the presidential nomination in 2008 would be secure. Then, too, some shocking revelations might surface about Sen. John Pierre Kerry before convention time. Things like that have happened before in this Democratic race. Ask Dr. Howard Dean.
Come to think of it, ask Kerry. In that event, Hillary, the loyalest of the loyal, would be there to lift the party from chaos and against the Forces of Darkness. Whatever transpires, the Clintons are active again.
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