Time to dust off the old Operation Chaos playbook, perhaps?
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton far outpaces her boss - President Barack Obama - in hypothetical matchups against top Republican candidates. Clinton would beat Mitt Romney by 17 percentage points, with the former Massachusetts Governor trailing 55 percent to 38 percent, while Rick Perry trails Secretary Clinton by 26 percentage points. The TIME magazine poll finds Clinton winning that hypothetical matchup 58 percent to 32 percent.
Meanwhile, TIME's poll found Obama only leading Romney by 3 percent and Perry by 12 percent. The poll did not survey either Democrat against insurgent Republican contender Herman Cain, but a Rasmussen poll released last week found the former Godfather's Pizza CEO edging the president in a hypothetical matchup.
Even if the sample is significantly skewed to the left, Clinton would still be a much, much stronger Democratic horse than Obama in 2012. Conservatives could help kick the Draft Hillary Express into high gear with full confidence that it's a risk-free proposition. It would sow discord among Democrats, and underscore what an unpopular liability Barack Obama is -- yet it would have virtually zero impact on the actual race itself. Why not? I offered this analysis last time a Hillary poll bubbled to the surface:
President Obama will obviously be the Democratic nominee in 2012 for at least three reasons: (1) Team Obama's 2012 money and campaign infrastucture are largely already in place. The fundraising train has left the station; it's not turning back. (2) Does anyone believe this president's ego would permit him to stroll quietly into the sunset for the good of the party? No chance. (3) The optics. What are the odds the Identity Politics Party would allow its elders to tell the country's first black president that he's not good enough to run for re-election? Only a handful of president have ever chosen not to seek a second term (Polk, Hayes, Buchanan, LBJ...am I missing any?) Barack Obama will not join their ranks.
All three points are at least as applicable today as they were six weeks ago. Obama isn't going anywhere, and Hillary won't run. But it sure is fun to talk about. The internecine meltdown on the Left would be exquisite. The only hazard for Republicans in talking up Hillary is that her dominant head-to-head numbers are a sobering reminder that a huge number of voters think the 2012 GOP field reeks. It promulgates a perception that the main reason Republicans even stand a chance next year is because the incumbent is so weak. Also, it could embolden Clinton to start plotting a 2016 run, despite her repeated assurances that she's done . She'd be 69 years old then -- not too old -- and would likely be formidable.