Call Them Arkansas Also-Rans

Posted: Feb 23, 2008 12:01 AM
Call Them Arkansas Also-Rans

Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall when the Clintons pause from their hell-bent battle against political extinction and confront (if they can bear it) the humiliating parallel of her own and Mike Huckabee's recent primary defeats? In Wisconsin on Tuesday, for example, Hillary's 17-point drubbing by Obama (58-41) was almost identical to Huck's 18-point shellacking by McCain (55-37).

Oh, the indignity of it. Though both Bill and Huck, by one of fate's oddest jokes, hail from Hope, Arkansas -- which probably grated on Bubba when Mike mentioned it in the early debates, back when he had no better claim to people's attention -- the Clintons have put the state far behind them with an identity makeover that includes Yale, Georgetown, Oxford, the White House, the Senate, Chappaqua, Harlem, and Davos, while Huckabee remains an unapologetic Arkie complete with toothy grin, down-home talk, and weight-loss testimonial. Declasse' all the way; Hill and Bill's Hollywood pals must wince.

Yet "First Lady of Arkansas" remains one of only three entries (two of which were marital, not electoral) on Mrs. Clinton's embarrassingly thin political resume, bringing us to the delicious symmetry of two also-rans from Arkansas trailing almost 20 points behind the streaking GOP and Dem front-runners at this late stage in the primaries.

Stranger still, when you really compare the resumes of Hillary and Huckabee, despite her pretensions as the candidate of experience, his ten years as governor give him the decisive edge in experience preparatory to being America's chief executive. When you look at political skills and overall campaign moxie, you see him on a come-from-nowhere rising trajectory to become one of the two Republican finalists, whereas her glide path is more and more downward -- from inevitability to doubt to dismay and desperation.

It's true that her odds to become the Democratic presidential nominee (about 19% vs. Barack's 79%, according to the University of Iowa political futures market), though poor, are still far better than Huckabee's odds to become the Republican presidential nominee (a miniscule 1% vs. McCain's dominant 92%).

But when media stereotypes of her as a star and him as a hick are put aside, the matchup as far as beating the preseason political point spread clearly flatters Gov. Huckabee, the Other Man from Hope, and reflects unflatteringly on Sen. Clinton, the Original Mrs. from Little Rock.

The immortal, uncensored words of John Kerry in 2004 come to mind: "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy." The same lament from Hillary and Bill Clinton, updated for 2008, would be a sense of utter incredulity that they are rotting in steerage class with this guy, while the Great Helmsman Obama and the Aviator McCain bestride the flying bridge. Oh, the mortification.