At the Las Vegas airport last week, I overheard two Southwest Airline flight attendants commenting on the 2008 presidential race. Both attendants were female and both noted they would normally vote Democratic. BUTÖ. "I'm just scared Hillary will become the nominee," said the one woman. "I can't stand her." "You're right," said the other. "Anybody but Hillary; otherwise I'll probably have to vote for a Republican. And I don't like them much either."
I told a Utah Republican leader about the conversation. He smiled and said, "Honestly, we're in trouble, especially in Salt Lake County, and we planned on losing some legislative seats next year. But our saving grace is Hillary. If she's at the top of the Democratic ticket, you'll see droves of people come out and vote the straight Republican ticket. As Republicans, we're rooting for Hillary!"
I agree Hillary would be a disaster for the Democrats. If she's too feminine, she'll be labeled weak and timid; if she's aggressive, she'll be called a beast. As national columnist Marie Coco wrote last week, Hillary is the "two-for-one blue-plate special" when it comes to criticism.
Indeed, a Zogby poll this week showed Hillary trailing each of the five leading GOP candidates.
That should make most Utahns happy. But, at the expense of popping your bubble, I think the Beehive State's top choice, Mitt Romney, would be the weakest of the Republican candidates. His religion doesn't help him with evangelical and fundamentalist votes (although they'll dismiss these fears if the choice is between Mitt and Hillary). His "flip-flops" on issues can be explained, but won't inspire cries of principled leadership. And then you have his business background.
When it appeared he could topple Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1994, the Democrats dusted off an ad detailing how Romney's firm bought an Indiana factory, promptly fired all the workers, and then hired many of them back at lower pay and minuscule benefits. At a time when Americans worry about the rich getting richer and reduced health coverage, advertisements like this could portray him as Ebenezer Scrooge, not Abraham Lincoln.
If the Republicans want to win, they should nominate Fred Thompson. (People trust him on "Law and Order" and he comes across as a trusted grandpa.) If the Democrats want to win they should nominate Barack Obama. (His fresh face and mega-watt smile could attract millions of college-age voters who typically sit out elections.)
With Hillary, the Democrats lose. With Romney, the Republicans can only cross their fingers. And if that's the final race, Utah's legislature could look redder than the ripest tomato.