November 6, 2007
When Hillary Clinton muffed the Tim Russert question on the support of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to give fake drivers' licenses to illegal aliens, a seismic shift occurred. But it was not what the conservative pundit universe believes it was. Yes, Hillary stubbed her toe and reinforced some of her already high negatives, but claiming she is now dead on arrival is far too premature. If anything the reaction to the issue may have sealed the nomination for Hillary Clinton. Understanding this shift will be the difference in electing her or stopping her and the advice that talk radio had better heed is: "let it alone."
Here are five reasons why:
1. Talk radio speaks to the wrong audience. The echo chamber that conservative talk radio is will not be heard by the voters Hillary is courting. Conservative talk radio aims its message largely to 50-year-old white guys. Rush Limbaugh's audience tips somewhere around 70% male to 30% female. So do Laura Ingraham, Bill Bennett, Dennis Prager, and Mike Gallagher. The more female-friendly versions of the genre tip 65% male to 35% female include Sean Hannity and Michael Medved. Michael Savage and Hugh Hewitt are even higher at roughly 75-80% male dominance. 50-year-old white guys weren't voting for Hillary to begin with. At what point does the spin that "the boys" are piling on, move from fantasy to reality? The moment that the general public (the greater majority of the nation who does not access talk radio) begins to feel as though talk radio went beyond reporting what she said to pummeling her beyond oblivion.
2. Barely anyone saw the muff. The Hillary illegals license flip-flop happened in the final two minutes of one of the least watched debates to date. If you took the national audience watching when it happened and the combined total number of views to the two most prominent YouTube clips highlighting the incident (54,000 views at press time of this column), you have an audience that is dwarfed by the number of people who watch the first 90 seconds of any “American Idol” episode in history. Replaying the sound byte of the moment more than once or twice begins to be heard largely out of context. The real power of which—the shifting of her feet, refusal to look at Russert or the audience as she replied, and the general look of nervousness she exhibited—is all lost in the audio-only form.
3. Conservatives said she did well otherwise. The day following the debate Charles Krauthammer reminded Fox News’ Brit Hume and Fred Barnes that until the license meltdown Hillary Clinton had actually had a rather strong showing in the debate. Uber-blogger and alternate media mogul Michelle Malkin penned, "She is looking solid and grown-up. The men are nervous, small, and nutty." To date, most politicos have maintained the general impression that Hillary has been largely on message. And even though fiscal conservatives had a hearty chuckle and quickly produced the cost of the total tab on a $5000 give-away per child initiative, few of the women Hillary was speaking to objected, and undoubtedly, many found it an enticing proposal.
4. Hillary only wins when she is a victim. Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of the entire Hillary fall-out issue is that such an incident plays directly into her strategy. Hillary can never be a champion of strength for anything as long as she is a "front runner." Her most historically significant positives always came in the aftermath of a moment in time in which she was able to castigate herself as a victim of circumstance, or of the abuse of men. When her husband was preoccupied with an intern in the Oval Office, her approvals were low. When he was discovered and exposed for it - her positives shot through the roof. It gave her a "cross to bear" moment to do the "right thing" even though she and the former President are more like business partners than any marriage I'd ever want to participate in.
Fast forward to her run for the U.S. Senate after Mayor Giuliani had dropped out of the race due to his personal marriage issues and prostate cancer. Enter Congressman Rick Lazio and the now infamous moment of crossing the stage and slapping the pledge form on her podium and demanding that she "sign it." The Congressman confessed to me just a year ago that had he understood how that act would be spun by Hillary and her team of support in the mainstream media that he would have never considered it.
Team Hillary was out in force following the debate, even through alternative media pages like Drudge. They were able to work the headline spin that Hillary had been ganged-up on. She was given a rousing "homecoming" at Wellesley College where she worked a jab into the speech. Emotional conference calls held by the campaign called down more criticism upon the man asking the questions at the debate—not the candidates. And just to sweeten the pie, team Hillary's number one attack dog, the former President, was sent to shake his finger before television cameras and call Russert's aggressive questioning "breathtakingly misleading." Rush has said it for years, but it’s worth repeating: the only way Hillary wins is as a "victim," and now the front-runner is just that.
5. Rasmussen shows she gained. Using polling methods that enabled them to get 2000, 2004, and 2006 accurately predicted, Rasmussen Reports released findings on the Hillary gaffe on Friday, nearly a full work week after the event. On Monday and Tuesday night's polls, Hillary's lead remained constant. On Wednesday and Thursday night's polls after the negative attacks were hammered hard by talk radio, Hillary's lead gained 5% and her closest opponent dropped 6%. That's an 11% swing after the "rubbing her nose in it" effect fully kicked in. In addition, 74% of voters believe Hillary will be the "inevitable" nominee.
Because I felt the sound byte was newsworthy I played it a total of two times in a three minute segment on one broadcast of the show this week—which is about all the attention it needs amongst talk radio. It will have to be John Edwards and Barack Obama who will need to exploit the issue from this point forward because they mainly seek the same audiences that Hillary does. Of the two, Obama is the only "more persecuted" demographic in the race and he of all the democratic candidates has the best opportunity to both exploit her gaffe, while then carrying the water as the "victimized front runner."
The more talk radio yells louder than Edwards or Obama about Hillary for the next 60 days, the more talk radio will ensure that Hillary remains not only the front runner, but the candidate for the Democratic Party.
And just imagine the finger-pointing Bill will be able to get away with then...
Kevin McCullough is the host of “The MuscleHead Revolution” radio program, heard daily in New York City on WMCA 570 at 2pm ET. He’s the author of “MuscleHead Revolution: Overturning Liberalism with Commonsense Thinking” and regular blogger at www.muscleheadrevolution.com. Contact Kevin at [email protected]