Thursday, June 30, 2005

Cox Puts the Wrong Foot Forward

Since I am a New Yorker, I'll obviously be watching next year's Senate race between Hillary Clinton and Republican Candidate TBD quite closely. Since I am a Republican, I would like nothing better than for my party to field a decent candidate who I can support. After yesterday, I'm not sure that's going to happen.

Attorney Ed Cox, best known for marrying the daughter of Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday that he is forming an exploratory committee to begin planning a campaign for the GOP nomination to take on Clinton. In his announcement, and in a press conference just following, Cox laid out what seem to be the twin themes of his campaign: A) that Hillary Clinton is a carpetbagger, and B) that she's not a Republican.

One theme A: "She parachuted into New York solely for the reason of running for the Senate," Cox said. "How can she focus on the problems in New York when she's thinking of running for the presidency? She's more concerned about the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire than the priorities of the people of New York." And on theme B: "We need a senator from New York, for New York, who's in the majority in Washington, who can deliver for New York State."

In 2000, I campaigned for Rick Lazio in his campaign against Mrs. Clinton; I thought then that the carpetbagger issue was an important one, that New Yorkers would have to decide whether they wanted a senator who had lived in New York and represented our state in Congress already, or whether they wanted a former First Lady who had previously only visited the Empire State. The people of New York decided in favor of Hillary Clinton, and she's been our senator now for nearly six years.

The carpetbagger argument failed in 2000, and for Ed Cox to try and recycle it for 2006 is frankly one of the stupidest political strategies I've ever heard. New Yorkers knew six years ago that Hillary hadn't lived here, and it didn't matter then - what on earth can Cox and his team think is going to make it work now?

On the charge that Mrs. Clinton is planning a run for the presidency, that's certainly an issue that the senator will have to deal with during the campaign, and I'll be watching closely to see how she handles the questions that she will undoubtedly get (i.e. will you pledge to serve a full six-year term if you're reelected? etc.) But I personally can't see how future political decisions should serve to disqualify the senator from reelection (a la George W. Bush in his 1998 gubernatorial campaign, just as an example).

As for theme B, the argument that Cox could get more done for New York as a Republican than Hillary can as a Democrat, I really have my doubts as to the accuracy of that statement. Every time Hillary Clinton opens her mouth, people listen. Her speeches, and her actions in committee, get covered widely by media not only from New York, but from around the country and the world. Would six years of Ed Cox create even a tenth of the ink spilled about the words and positions of Hillary Clinton? Seems doubtful.

Senator Clinton has been a strong voice for New York in the Senate. She has worked effectively across the aisle, and has made a name for herself even among Senate Republicans as a hard-working and serious legislator. Any Republican candidate who wants this Republican's vote next November will have to make a very strong case that they can do more for New York and for centrist, common-sense government than the incumbent.

If yesterday's statements from Ed Cox were any indication, his campaign against Hillary Clinton is based on little more than "I'm not Hillary", a strategy which failed miserably in 2000 and would undoubtedly do so again in 2006. If Mr. Cox intends to be a serious candidate in next year's election, he'd better get a grip on reality and start making a real case for himself. Since I think that unlikely, if the New York Republican Party intends to field a serious candidate against Mrs. Clinton, they might want to look at someone other than Ed Cox.


At 10:16 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Presidential aspirations didn't hurt Bush in the 1998 Texas Governor race or hurt Bill Clinton in the 1990 Arkansas race and it's not going to hurt Hillary now. Although, really, it should. How can someone be an effective legislator (or Governor) if they're dashing all over the country? At least a Governor can still sign legislation, but a Senator can't vote when not in Washington. Or sit on committees.

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