Friday, August 12, 2005

Thanks NY GOP!

Although no one in her camp would ever admit it, there is no candidate in New York that Hillary Clinton wanted to face more than Jeanine Pirro.

(I should preface these comments by saying that I have been wrong in predicting Hillary almost as much as Dick Morris has been, almost.)

Although the NY GOP was pressing hard to get the Westchester County District Attorney to run against Hillary because they though she might have a shot at keeping the margin of loss low, they have in fact done Hillary a great favor.

Jeanine Pirro is a highly unlikable politician, who also lacks a politician’s deft touch. Pirro is a camera chaser in the mold of Chuck Schumer, but without his intelligence. As an example, she involved herself in the Catholic priest cases, getting a great deal of TV coverage, but once the headlines died away, so did her interest. And there are several examples of Pirro jumping for the news coverage at the expense of actual justice. (And just try dealing with her office when a high publicity issue is at stake.)

As her announcement debacle should have demonstrated, she has no natural political talents. A good politician would have turned that moment around to make them seem human -- you know Hillary would have and Bill Clinton would have made it an absolute moment to remember, heck even Junior would have cracked a smile and a joke. (And then it private all would have absolutely destroyed the staffer responsible.) Pirro just stood there blankly in front of the cameras for 30 SECONDS! No smile, no self-deprecating joke, just 30 seconds of confusion and blank stares. And the speech itself was poor and her delivery even worse.

Few people in Westchester have ever seen her smile (and those who have are envious of the others.) She makes Katherine Harris seem downright natural and personable. No one will be calling Hillary the Ice Queen in this race.

It is also worth noting that Pirro almost lost her reelection bid in 2001 to Tony Castro, an underfunded nobody. (She won by six points.) And my guess is that less than 50% of the people who voted for him had ever even heard her name. (Although New York & Westchester are Democratic in national politics, they are much more open in state and local races.)

Furthermore, neither her politics nor her personality will endear her to upstate New Yorkers who Republicans dearly need for any hope of a victory. (Hillary was actually able to win upstate New York in 2000, and will again this time.)

So you have a politician who has no great skills, no real natural bases and who comes across as cold. (Oh yeah, she has a husband problem too, except her husband went to jail, and doesn’t have a popularity rating around 70% with NY state voters.)

When Hillary absolutely destroys Pirro in the general election, and she will, probably by 15 or more points, the national press will have no other option but to cover the story as a coronation. If she had crushed a nobody, it would be a story, when she crushes the best candidate that the NY GOP could have hoped for (absent a Rudy run) it will be a giant story.

In short, the NY GOP has helped Hillary’s 2008 plans, and made it even more difficult for those in both parties who would prefer that she sit this one out.

Other comments on the race are available from Robert George.