By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Hillary Clinton’s non-challengers

Hillary Clinton strategist Mark Penn is quoted in the New York Times as saying:

She has consistently shown an electoral resiliency in difficult situations that have made her a winner. Senator Obama has in fact never had a serious Republican challenger.

Now, why would Times reporter Patrick Healy take dictation from Penn without observing that his statement is pure spin? This is Clinton’s third run for office. She did not face a serious Republican (or Democratic) challenger in her 2000 Senate run, as Rudy Giuliani dropped out. (If Rick Lazio counts, so does Alan Keyes.) Her 2006 re-election was essentially a coronation.

It looks to me as though Penn is conflating Bill Clinton’s campaigns with his client’s. And that Healy neglected to pause and say, “Wait a minute.”

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  1. Rick Burnes

    Not only is it inaccurate, but it’s tone-deaf. The Clintons are arguing that they have the toughness/nasty streak needed to beat the Republicans. But the success of the McCain and Obama candidacies shows that voters don’t want nasty elections.

  2. Anonymous

    Sadly Dan, it long ago ceased being about anything but advancing an agenda. The end justifies the means. And you wonder why people are cynical?

  3. Anonymous

    What? You can’t seriously be putting Rick Lazio and Alan Keyes in the same category, can you? That’s just nuts.Keyes was a joke, and Obama beat him with 70 percent of the vote. There was no chance whatsoever that Keyes was going to win that race.Clinton and Lazio had a hard-fought campaign (look up the news reports from the time), and although she ultimately beat him by 10, it was in no way a foregone conclusion she would win it.You’re entitled to be scornful of Clinton, but not to your own version of history, Dan.

  4. Steve

    In the same vein, I notice Jon Keller uncritically reported a Republican talking point from the “respected” National Journal – the Obama is the “most liberal” Senator for 2007. (More liberal than Socialist Bernie Sanders and liberal icon Russ Feingold.)It’s not clear whether Jon bothered to check the National Journal’s methodology on this, which hinges on just 10 votes out of more than 250. The NJ reported that Kerry just happened to rate “most liberal” for 2003.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Lazio was obviously more serious than Keyes, and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. But he didn’t have much more chance of winning than Keyes. Clinton beat him by 12 points — a landslide in anyone’s book.

  6. Sean Roche

    While I think that it’s pretty remarkable that the two Democrats standing never had close races, there really is a big difference. While Clinton beat Lazio by a lot, it wasn’t for NY Republicans lack of trying. She faced a withering barrage of Republican attack. They tried hard. By the time that Ryan dropped out of the Illinois race, it was too late for the Republicans to respond at all. Obama’s really was a walk in the park, through no fault of his own.I’ll say that Penn’s statement is a little over-the-top, but within the range of spin (as opposed to outright deceit and falsehood).Rick,The results of the 2004 Swiftboating show that the electorate responds to the nastiest tactics. Don’t think McCain is going to stay above the fray. More importantly, don’t doubt that the Republican machine will do the dirty work, with or without McCain’s blessing.

  7. O-FISH-L

    Sean – Why is it “nasty” for veterans to remind voters, or inform some for the first time, of Kerry’s behavior and statements during and after his brief service in Vietnam? Especially when Kerry made Vietnam the hallmark of his campaign?The SBVFT didn’t throw their medals over the fence, but Kerry threw his. Or was it someone elses? Medals. Or was it ribbons? The electorate didn’t necessarily believe the SBVFT, they believed the video, still pictures and audio of Kerry despite his best effort to spin, in a manner reminiscent of Genghis Khan. Was Romney “swift-boated” when video surfaced showing his past support for abortion and homosexuals?

  8. Zach

    What’s worse: lazy journalism or biased journalism?

  9. TC

    I believe that Rick Lazio outspent Hillary Clinton. They were pretty close in the polls until the first debate, which is when she opened up a lead. It was a tough campaign, with Lazio using the attack on the USS Cole in a commmercial against her. Talk about a harbinger of campaigns to come. It was never a forgone conclusion that the seat would remain Democratic. Don’t forget Al D’Amato has only recently been knocked out by Chuck Schumer and George Pataki was still the governor.

  10. Anonymous

    “Lazio was obviously more serious than Keyes, and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. But he didn’t have much more chance of winning than Keyes. Clinton beat him by 12 points — a landslide in anyone’s book.”12 points is a landslide now? Good grief.But whatever the final result, NOBODY thought Lazio had no more chance of winning than Keyes, Dan. Nobody. He was a serious candidate fully backed by the establishment, who ran a serious campaign, and the polls teeter-tottered between a couple points either way for months before HRC pulled ahead. Supposedly her only chance of winning, according to pundits as wise as yourself, was to rack up massive margins in NYC because she was so certain to massively lose upstate. Hah.Sean Roche has this absolutely right.Give it up, Dan. Your dislike of Hillary Clinton is affecting both your memory and your judgment, and you should probably make it a point to check your facts every time before you write about anything involving her.

  11. Peter Porcupine

    Steve – did they HAVE to use 10 votes out of 250, given Obama’s penchant for missing votes or voting ‘Present’? :~)

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