Carly Florina, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum.
Those were the top four choices of one of my friends on Facebook and, of course, others chimed in with their choices. Among those were Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Mike Pence and Rick Perry.
All I can say is these conservatives must like Hillary Clinton a lot, because she’d win an election against any of these faster than you can say, “Sarah Palin.”
But conservatives will weigh in heavily between now and next year’s primary election. Idaho Republican Party Chairman Steve Yates wasted little time sending out the rallying cry. He’s asking 100,000 people to pledge to “STOP” Hillary Clinton.
“It’s time to show the liberal establishment that conservatives across the country stand united against Hillary Clinton,” Yates wrote.
The tough job is finding someone who can win. The best shot for my money is Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who brings the same kind of life to the Republican Party that President John F. Kennedy did for the Democratic Party in 1960 – coming out of the Eisenhower years. Rubio is the same age Kennedy was when he ran for the presidency (43) and they are close to having the same birthday (Rubio’s is May 28; Kennedy’s was May 29). Is there something in the stars?
Some of Rubio’s campaign themes are similar to Kennedy’s.
“Now, the time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American Century,” Rubio said in his announcement. That’s a nice spinoff from Kennedy’s “new frontier.”
“This election is not just about what laws will pass. It is a generational choice about what kind of country we will be,” Kennedy said in 1960. Excuse me … that came from Rubio in 2015.
Rubio’s best line was reacting to Clinton’s announcement, a day before his. “Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday. But yesterday is over, and we are never going back. We Americans are proud of our history, but our country has always been about the future. Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America.”
Put a Boston accent on that statement, and you’d have Kennedy in 1960.
Reviving Kennedy might not be the GOP’s cup of tea. But Republicans are not going to beat Clinton with tired old conservative lines. The next election comes down to voter appeal, and Marco Rubio has it – unlike Republican candidates of the recent past. Hillary Clinton has it, too, which makes her so formidable. She wrote the book on image transformation.
During my younger reporting days with the Pine Bluff Commercial, I had the opportunity to cover Arkansas politics when the Clintons were emerging on the scene. Hillary was a quiet, and mousy-looking, political wife when Bill Clinton was elected governor in 1978 and she stayed that way through his first term (two years). Clinton lost the election in 1980, but regained it in 1982 – this time, with Hillary’s help.
That quiet little church mouse still wore those mousy-looking glasses, but she was a different person – the model of southern hospitality. I covered Bill’s opponent in that 1982 primary campaign, but she was as friendly as a plate of catfish and hush puppies. And so was Bill, for that matter.
So Republicans should be forewarned. Any mistakes Hillary made in 2008 will be corrected. She will be America’s favorite grandma and, in political terms, the Democrats’ version of Ronald Reagan – likable and electable.
Republicans can’t get away with dismissing Hillary as a wide-eyed liberal wanting to provide social engineering to all our problems. Former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig had nothing good to say about Bill Clinton when he left office, but had respect for Hillary as a Senate colleague. Today, Idaho Sen. Jim Risch gives Hillary credit for her work as secretary of state and giving the Obama administration credibility in foreign policy. Those emails from her time as secretary of state may provide a bit of a sideshow, but it’s nothing that America’s grandma can’t handle.
Hillary is beatable, but the GOP is going to have to show some imagination. The first step for Republicans is to decide if they want to win, or just make a political statement.