Is Hillary the winner?

Clifford May, for National Review Online, considers the consequences of Gore’s endorsement of Dean. According to May, the endorsement means that the anti-war wing of the party is now led by Dean/Gore and the moderate wing of the party, the faction that favors a muscular foreign policy, is led by Hillary Clinton. May predicts (safely enough) that the Dean/Gore wing will carry the party’s banner in 2004 and (plausibly, but more controversially) that the Clinton wing (meaning Ms. Clinton) will carry the banner in 2008, if Dean loses.
I think it is interesting to compare Gore’s stance in 2004 to Nixon’s in 1964. Both had been defeated, as centrist Vice Presidents trying to step up, in the previous presidential election. Both took themselves out of the running in the following election. In their absence, their parties abandoned centrism and nominated (or will nominate) an angry candidate from the ideological wing. Both Nixon and Gore endorsed that candidate. Both had formidable-seeming centrist-type figures looming on the horizon as potential opponents four year down the road — Nelson Rockefeller in 1968 and Hillary Clinton in 2008.
However, if I remember correctly, Nixon gave his endorsement later in the process and did so correctly, but not with great enthusiasm (I still recall the bemused look on Nixon’s face during Goldwater’s fiery acceptance speech at the San Francisco convention). Nixon was able, therefore, to appease the Goldwater wing without tossing away his credentials as a moderate.
Gore, on the other hand, seems to have forfeited those credentials (assiduously built up over the past 20 years). Thus, assuming Dean loses, he can only be nominated in 2008 if (1) the party wants to go with another leftist, anti-war type candidate and (2) the activists are willing to accept Gore as their top choice as that candidate, instead of embracing the next fire-brand de jour. This is not a good position to be in. Thus, I see Hillary as the winner here, because she has retained much more flexibility than Gore.
But this assumes that Gore’s main focus is 2008. As I suggested yesterday, that may not be the case. Arguably, Gore remains seared by his experience in 2000 (most of us would be) and isn’t looking much beyond his hatred of Bush and his self-hatred for having been (or having posed as) something of a centrist for all those years.


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