Mary Matalin: Hillary Won't Even Run

Saturday, 08 Feb 2014 03:10 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The wide variety of potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination boils down to one question in many quarters — which one can beat Hillary Clinton?

But to at least one powerful Republican consultant, Mary Matalin, the "Hillary" question is pointless.

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"Hillary Clinton’s lead is ephemeral," Matalin told Politico Magazine. "As soon as she gets in, if she gets in, she will be challenged and it will evaporate. Just the nature of the beast. I predict she doesn’t run."

Matalin, who is married to former Clinton adviser James Carville, joined other key Republican figures in telling Politico Magazine that the field of potential GOP candidates is widely scattered. Like Matalin, most agreed that it's not so much a matter of who seeks the presidency, but what they stand for.

"The question is less "who" than "what," Matalin said. "Conservatives should lay down as their nonnegotiable, baseline candidate requirement an outcome-based, empirically demonstrable record or a policy agenda that has succeeded historically...our bedrock must be the Constitution, with an emphasis on enumerated powers."

That said, candidate skills will matter, and the chosen person must have "the fortitude born of unshakable confidence in our convictions. There are more than a few candidates who fit this bill. This is going to be a rocking great primary," Matalin said.

Until recent months, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie looked like the man to beat for the nomination. However, the evolving George Washington Bridge scandal has caused Christie's poll numbers to tank, and has opened the field of potential Republican candidates.

William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, told Politico this means "everyone" is going to think about running.

But who will survive "training camp, endure pre-season and do well enough in scrimmages to be on stage for the first post-Labor Day 2015 presidential debate, moderated by [Fox News Channel] host Megyn Kelly?"

Kristol predicts for U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, fomer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, onetime vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, talk show host and former Florida Rep. Joe Scarborough,  and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be "the regular season starting nine. Maybe."

Political consultant and media strategist Mark McKinnon predicts a "Clash of the Titans" battle between Clinton and Bush for the White House in 2016.

"Jeb Bush is the sort of pragmatic, common-sense and compassionate conservative Republicans need to win back the White House," said McKinnon. "He’d attract Hispanics and likely win the key electoral prize of his home state, Florida. And he has a great record to run on, including some innovative, forward-thinking strategies like early childhood investment. Florida leads the country in the number of four-year olds in literacy programs—over 70 percent, and Jeb did it without increasing taxes."

McKinnon said he is not worried about either Bush or Clinton being too familiar for voters to choose.

"Americans have likely quenched, at least for now, their thirst for fresh faces," said McKinnon. "Most have had their fill of change. What voters might be looking for in the next presidential election is experience and competence."

But if Bush doesn't run, McKinnon said Americans should "watch out for Scott Walker. He’s the dark horse. Getting brighter every day."

Meanwhile, Washington Examiner columnist Byron York says he does not think the GOP field looks "fantastic."

"You know things are bad when some people seriously discuss whether Mitt Romney might run a third time," said York. "He won’t. The bottom line is the GOP could be in for another long, hard, polarizing slog—precisely what it wanted to avoid this time around. How long until Republicans start saying optimistic things about 2020?"

York said he thinks many of the top names, such as Paul and Cruz could prove divisive, while Paul Ryan doesn't seem interested in running. Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, and Perry have no "carryover momentum," and the base would be "underwhelmed" by a Bush campaign.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pointed out that there is no front-runner or "even a mid-runner yet."

"Senators can build notoriety because the political media is centered on Washington," said Gingrich. "Governors, however, can raise more money and have actual achievements as opposed to speeches and fights."

His early field includes Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Walker, Bobby Jindal, Perry, Bush,  Christie, and Huckabee.

The only certainty for Republicans, said Beth Myers, political consultant and former adviser to Mitt Romney, is that the field is wide open and the bench is deep.

She also thinks Christie will get past the current scandal, and "his no-nonsense leadership and broad appeal make him a strong contender in 2016."

"And my former boss, Mitt Romney?" said Myers. "When asked this week whether he’d consider a run in 2016, he said, 'No, no, no, no, no.' I take him at his word, but it’s sure nice to know that he’s missed."

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said that six candidates have the names, staff and ability to raise money to run: Christie, Walker, Bobby Jindal, Perry, Bush, and Paul.

"Each has a financial base, supporters nationwide and a narrative that justifies his claim to be presidential, and each has begun to do the work needed to flesh out a national campaign," said Norquist.

John Feehery, president of Quinn Gillespie Communications and director of QGA Government Affairs had another name to throw in: Peter King, who he describes as "the street-corner conservative. The anti-Rand Paul."

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