A few days ago I was talking to a prominent conservative commentator who told me how much he'd come to admire the campaign Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., had waged against Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
No fan of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the commentator said to me that if Clinton promised to not raise income taxes and she gave the conservatives the next Supreme Court pick, he'd vote for her.
That won't happen, of course -- but it's a remarkable phenomenon, and now it's showing up in conservative publications.
"Was just talking to a shrewd friend. His take on the turn of events in the campaign and how it has affected Hillary Clinton (quoting roughly): 'Hillary has shown a Nixonian resilience and she's morphing into Scoop Jackson. She's entering the culture war as a general. All of this has made her a far more formidable general election candidate. She's fighting the left and she's capturing the center. She's denounced MoveOn.org. She's become the Lieberman of the Democratic party. The left hates her and treats her like Lieberman. Today, Obama is distancing himself from Wright and Hillary is getting in touch with O'Reilly. The culture war has come to the Democratic party.'"
"She's running a right-wing campaign. She's running the classic Republican race against her opponent, running on toughness and use-of-force issues, the campaign that the elder George Bush ran against Michael Dukakis, that the younger George Bush waged in 2000 and then again against John Kerry, and that Ronald Reagan--'The Bear in the Forest'--ran against Jimmy Carter and Walter F. Mondale. And she's doing it with much the same symbols. ...she is becoming a social conservative, a feminist form of George Bush. Against an opponent who shops for arugula, hangs out with ex-Weathermen, and says rural residents cling to guns and to God in unenlightened despair at their circumstances, she has rushed to the defense of religion and firearms, while knocking back shots of Crown Royal and beer. Her harsh, football-playing Republican father (the villain of the piece, against whom she rebelled in earlier takes on her story) has become a role model, a working class hero, whose name she evokes with great reverence. Any day now, she'll start talking Texan, and cutting the brush out in Chappaqua or at her posh mansion on Embassy Row….
"She might run to the right of McCain, if she makes it to the general election, and get the votes of rebellious conservatives. Or she, Lieberman, and McCain could form a pro-war coalition, with all of them running to pick up the phone when it rings in the small hours. The New York Times and the rest of the left would go crazy. Respect can't get stranger than that."
Discussion point: Obama is getting the support of some prominent conservatives -- Doug Kmiec comes to mind -- because of their view that he could maybe unite the country.
Clinton, on the other hand, is starting to get Atta-Girls from other conservatives because they sense compared to Obama she's more or less on their side in the "divided" America. (Though after a nasty Fall campaign they would no doubt consider her the second coming of Bella Abzug and race to pull the lever for McCain.)