Symposium: Top GOP Strategists on Hillary

Posted: Oct 31, 2007 4:35 PM

I had a chance to catch up with three top GOP strategists to get their take on Hillary's performance last night ...

Terry Nelson, who has served as political director for Bush/Cheney '04, as well as campaign manager for John McCain, believes Hillary's front-runner status may be a burden because it means she is essentially in a "prevent defense":

Hillary has a classic front-runners dilemma: how does she avoid messing up a good thing?  That is the reason she is not answering important questions on issues like Social Security reform and drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.  In the dynamic of the campaign, she knows the answers on these issues for the primary voters is different than for general election voters, which puts her in a terrible bind.  Either way, it will harm her campaign. 
Republican Strategist Dan Hazelwood believes Hillary's failure to successfully answer the question regarding illegal aliens receiving driver's licenses just might have legs today, as well as other long-term implications:

This will be remembered as the moment where the flawless campaign could not protect Hillary from herself. This not only revealed her deep liberal roots, but also her evasiveness when caught making a flub. The really critical part is it just made Drivers Licenses for illegal aliens a pivotal issue in next year’s general election. Just as they have in the past two Presidential elections the Democrats are looking at a nominee who is fully capable of handing the election back to the Republicans. Thank you.

And Glen Bolger, one of the Republican Party's leading political strategists and pollsters, believes Hillary's slickness last night may remind voters of some the negative qualities of her prevaricating husband:

This is what to expect out of a Clinton campaign -- and another Clinton White House -- refusal to answer difficult questions.  She'll say one thing to one group, and then carefully nuance an answer that's slightly different to a different group.  It does highlight the issues the Democrats are afraid of, however, and they are certainly afraid of the impact their support for giving government benefits, like a drivers license, to illegal immigrants.

As you can see, it's clear that Hillary's front-runner status is perceived as being both a blessing and a curse.  There also appears to be a consensus that Hillary stumbled last night, and may be in danger of allowing a negative narrative (that she is less than truthful, and avoids answering tough questions) to take root ...