Maybe it's time to bring back the working class heroine.
OK, she went to Wellesley and Yale Law School, but Hillary Clinton turned out to be a world-class campaigner when it came to lunch-bucket Democrats, the ones who seem to be eluding Barack Obama.
The race is just too close for comfort if you're a Democrat. The president's popularity is lower than the stock market, gas prices are sky high, houses are falling to foreclosure as if they were, literally, a house of cards, banks are shaky, job losses climb and health care is a mess.
This should be prime time for Democrats. But Barack Obama isn't closing the deal. His nearly flawless trip abroad should have given him a huge bump in the polls, but the presidential race is tightening, even with a lackluster performance by McCain.
Barack's doing well with Hispanics, the young, affluent liberals and many women. But in the swing states, the Republican attempt to paint him as just too different -- too elite, too Harvard, too confident, too thin, and a little bit too Muslim -- seems to be working.
Even the so-called liberal media, apparently cowed by attacks from the right, seem to be letting McCain get away with uproarious gaffes while buying into the "Is Barack too presumptuous?" storyline, It's absurd, of course. If McCain could have gathered those crowds in Berlin, he'd have been jetting over there faster than you could say Sieg Heil!"
He can't get such adoring throngs, of course, of course, so his campaign has been giving us Barack as Britney, an empty celebrity. One McCain ad even depicted Barack as Moses (AKA Charton Heston) raising his staff to part the Red Sea. Not the kind of guy who can walk into a bar and ask for a Bud, the ad suggests.
So here's where Hillary comes in. She plays well in swing states, the ones where the old Reagan Democrats could make the difference. She looks comfortable standing in the bed of a pickup truck or belting down a whiskey in a bar. People believe her when she says, as Bill famously did, that she feels their pain. She could be the beer to Barack's champagne, the apple pie to his arugula.
And she could sink her teeth into John McCain's ankles. Ask Hillary to be your attack dog, and she'll give it all she's got. Can you see Evan Bayh doing that?
If Barack is a little too unfamiliar to Americans voters, too different, too remote, well, Hill and Bill are the exact opposite. We know everything about them, the good and the bad, and maybe that's somehow comforting. And they are certainly very very popular among many voters.
Though Bill didn't turn out to be a great asset in Hillary's campaign, he can still be a whiz on the trail when he puts his mind to it, and maybe Barack does need a Bubba to offset his elite image. Send Bill to Arkansas, to Virginia, to North Carolina, to West Virginia -- he'll get you votes.
Let's face it, there is no other veep candidate who would give Barack Obama more sizzle, more excitement than Hillary Clinton. I mean, the woman got eighteen million voles in the primary, and singlehandedly brought back the pantsuit (the latter may have been harder than the former).
Sure, I understand all the arguments about why, if you are elected president, you might not want Hill and Bill living right down the street at the vice president's mansion. Just who would be running the country anyhow?
But to run the country, you have to get elected. Obama's campaign is not exactly on fire. Put Hillary on the ticket, and you have the dream team to rival Tracy and Hepburn. Not only the first African American and the first woman, but two superstars in their own right, and more sheer brainpower than you could hope for (and won't that be a change in the White House?) It would be an unexpected move that would be bold, daring, and, just maybe, very, very savvy.
Or, as Variety would put it,"Boffo."
Boston University journalism professor Caryl Rivers is the author of Selling Anxiety: How the News Media Scare Women (University Press of New England.)
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