Monday, August 06, 2007

Hillary, Foreign Policy, and the General Election

The Washington Post notes that Senator Clinton has consciously packaged her foreign policy for consumption in the general election. Rather than getting caught in the classic predictament of running far to the left in the primary and desperately trying to run back to the center in the general election, Hillary is attempting to minimize the difference between her rhetoric in the primary and her rhetoric in the general. This is a pretty sound political strategy, at least according to Republican campaign guru Ken Mehlman's standards, and I don't mean that in a bad way.

Not too long ago, Gabe told me about the time he heard Mehlman speak about how to translate a win in the primary into a win in the general election. Gabe said Mehlman made a convincing argument that the candidate who is ultimately elected president is usually the candidate whose message changed the least from the primary campaign to the general election campaign. When you think about it, the rule works as an explanation for Bush's victories in 2000 and 2004.

But is this gambit too late for Hillary? Right-wing pundit Sean Hannity has already treated his audience to a tape documenting the evolution of her stance on the Iraq War, and it's not pretty. On the other hand, there is no denying that Senator Clinton is very adept at projecting a presidential heir when she discusses foreign policy on the campaign trail. In other words, she knows how to articulate her foreign policy proposals without falling into the rhetorical traps of sloganeering that are so prevalent in any primary. If she wins the nomination, she will certainly have to answer Republican questions about her inconsistent position on Iraq, but her current strategy of answering questions on foreign policy with the "tone of a commander-in-chief" will take away at least a few of GOP talking points.

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