Calling Sen. Clinton… Calling Sen. Clinton…

Calling Sen. Clinton… Calling Sen. Clinton…

: I know nobody’s buying my scenario for Hillary Clinton coming into the campaign (doing unto Howard Dean as Bobby Kennedy did unto Gene McCarthy).

But let’s look at more arguments in favor of this crazy scenario:

First, see, the NY Times poll today, showing that voters, including Democrats, are still shrugging and yawning at the entire Democratic field:

…But most voters, including most Democrats, are largely unmoved by any of the nine Democrats who are seeking to unseat President Bush, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll….

But Mr. Bush shows broad signs of strength going into the 2004 election. Voters continue to choose the Republican Party as better able to manage national security and foreign policy.

Democrats are battling a perception that they are fighting a losing battle, particularly after Saddam Hussein’s capture in Iraq. In a question asked after his capture, voters said by three to one they expected Mr. Bush to win next year….

In a potential sign of concern for Democrats who are contemplating the prospects of a contest between Mr. Bush and Dr. Dean, one-quarter of registered voters already have an unfavorable view of Dr. Dean….

In one very rough measure, the number of voters who said they had a favorable view of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the field’s strongest supporter of the military campaign in Iraq, jumped over the weekend…. Before the capture, 25 percent of likely Democratic primary voters said they had a favorable rating of Mr. Lieberman. In the second poll, the number increased, to 37 percent….

Bad news for Democrats at every turn.

The war is simply not a winning issue. That is, Dean’s issue is not a winning issue. Given any sniff of victory, the voters rush to the winning side (read: Bush or even Lieberman, not Dean). Another recent poll backs this up.

So the more Bush grows in polls and stature, the more nervous Democratic leaders will be. Oh, they could say, what the hell, let’s let Dean be the sacrifice fly. But here’s the problem with that: Dean is not just running for President. He’s taking over their party.

Everett Ehrlich’s wonderful piece in Sunday’s Washington Post says that Dean is really a third-party candidate who is using his unique campaign structure (see the post/soliloquey below).

For all Dean’s talk about wanting to represent the truly “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” the paradox is that he is essentially a third-party candidate using modern technology to achieve a takeover of the Democratic Party. Other candidates — John Kerry, John Edwards, Wesley Clark — are competing to take control of the party’s fundraising, organizational and media operations. But Dean is not interested in taking control of those depreciating assets. He is creating his own party, his own lists, his own money, his own organization. What he wants are the Democratic brand name and legacy, the party’s last remaining assets of value, as part of his marketing strategy. Perhaps that’s why former vice president Al Gore’s endorsement of Dean last week felt so strange — less like the traditional benediction of a fellow member of the party “club” than a senior executive welcoming the successful leveraged buyout specialist. And if Dean can do it this time around, so can others in future campaigns.

If they’re not careful, the Democratic leadership will lose both the election and their party.

Who can ride to the rescue? I can think of only one person who could step in above the current field: Hillary. If she were only a sacrifice, she would not do it, Lord knows. But even losing the election, she could win two fights: She could hold onto the party for the moderate, Clinton wing. And as the first serious woman candidate for President, I contend that she could actually set herself up for a stronger run in 2008.

Crazy? Yes. But it’s looking less crazy every day.