Congress is a different kettle of fish [than the public, which he allows Obama could probably swing to his side], and obviously a lot depends on just what kind of majority the new president has to work with. I think everyone’s assumption here is that Obama’s personal charm and readiness to listen would help him hive off at least a few moderate Republicans to pass his legislative agenda. Hillary, by contrast, is someone who knows how to throw elbows when she needs to, and she’d play a tougher, more conventional form of politics: a bit of hardball here and a bit of logrolling there, a process that might not be pretty but can be effective. And the surprising fact is that she’s demonstrated a remarkably strong ability in the Senate to work with Republicans, most of whom generally trust her to keep her word and do what she says she’ll do.
I see Congressional relations with Hillary very differently. The problem with her is that Republicans hate her. A bunch of them grew up through their formative years hating her, and to them, she represents everything bad about the Clinton years. I expect her negatives are higher than her husbands are, and that won’t change in the course of a mud-slinging general election campaign.
That means all the weakened Republican minority of 2009 has to do to score points with their base will be to block her agenda, and claim that they’re standing up against the evil, liberal, lesbian agenda of Clinton, Jr. I imagine they’ve got those press releases drafted already, most of them carefully mothballed for that purpose for the past 8 years.
Obama, simply by virtue of not having been in the crosshairs for a decade already, will force them to change up, and while they try to find a chink in his armor, he’ll have some time to govern, then to line up a couple extra seats in the Senate for a filibuster-proof majority, and then a chance for a few more years of serious legislating. By contrast, a Hillary White House seems like a dream for Republicans hoping to pick up a few of the Red seats Democrats grabbed in 2006, and hope to snag in 2008 (or seats that the right Dem could nab in 2010, like Brownback’s open seat).
I don’t down that Kathleen Sebelius could take that seat, and that she’s putting pieces in place to do just that. And she might be able to run on Obama’s coat-tails, what with his Kansas heritage, but Moran or Tiahrt or whoever the Republicans nominate to fill Brownback’s vacancy would make a sport of tagging Sebelius as Hillary-lite, and all the misogynistic crap already being tossed at Nancy Boyda will only intensify if they can tag her with Hillary and Nancy Pelosi both.
It’s not fair, and I’d be at the ramparts fighting against that, but this seems like a no-brainer. The public distaste for Hillary didn’t happen by magic. She watched it happen, and couldn’t or didn’t stop it or turn it around. Bill managed to rehabilitate his image, but Hillary’s rep still sits in the dumps, and that’s not the fault of the right-wing, it reflects her weakness at engaging the public. She couldn’t control the slings and arrows being lobbed at her, but she could control her response, and she doesn’t seem to have done so. With Obama, I think we can peel off a couple of moderate Republican votes for a couple years, then pick up a few seats in 2010. With Hillary, it’ll be an uphill battle for two years, then a stiffer fight after 2010, since Republicans stir up the sentiment against her to win House and Senate seats in 2010. It’ll be 1994 all over again.
There’s a saying about those who don’t learn from history, but I don’t want to repeat it.