WASHINGTON -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign is daring President George W. Bush to stump in New York for her Republican opponent - joking that Clinton would even consider paying for Bush's airfare if he stumped in Dubya-phobic Gotham.Aside from being a very funny joke, let's take a look at the "inside baseball" aspect of this.
In an interview airing this weekend on WNBC-TV, Clinton's Republican challenger John Spencer said he'd welcome the president's presence, arguing that Clinton's "vitriolic attacks" on Bush's Iraq policy have been "helpful to the enemy."
When Spencer was asked if he wanted to stump with Bush, the former Yonkers mayor said, "Absolutely. Absolutely, I would. ... I would welcome President Bush."
That prompted Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson to quip, "We might consider paying for that ourselves."
First off, Bush would sooner campaign for Clinton as for Spencer. Why?
Spencer is running somewhere south of 20% in polling, which means that, given Bush's 20% approval rating in New York State, he would actually be hurt more by campaigning for Spencer than Spencer would gain.
Second, with that disparity in polling, Spencer having comfortably lodged in the high teens against Clinton since he announced he was running (and even that is more an anti-Hillary vote than a pro-Spencer vote...altho it might be that they think Spencer is that nice Leo McGarry from The West Wing...), Bush would really serve no purpose in campaigning for Spencer.
To sum up, Spencer's statement was a falsely brave one. He knows Bush would never bother campaigning in a blue state like New York for a candidate that stands no chance of winning. Incumbents like to be seen with people who are at least competitive, if not winners, and so why would he bother? There's no real ideological difference between Hillary and Spencer, other than Bush could put a leash on Spencer, whereas Hillary is an active critic of Bush.
"Lapdogs" have their place in New York politics (just ask George Pataki about his relationship with Al D'Amato) but this kind of stuff doesn't fly outside the state onto the national scene as it does in other states that have stronger political machines.
Spencer knows this. So does Howard Wolfson. This bluster is entertaining, something that will be in short supply in this political season in New York.
snarkasm, snarcasm, snarky