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« Illinois Selects Cong Nominees | Blog Home Page | Strong Dem Runs In VA-11 »

Cole: Fear Clinton

In a wide-ranging interview with Politics Nation yesterday, National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Cole went against conventional wisdom to suggest it is Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, who would present Republicans with the strongest challenge in November. "I think she is actually a stronger presidential candidate than he is," Cole said.

A former executive director of the Republican National Committee, political consultant and chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party, Cole is one of the rare members of Congress who knows something about politics outside his own district. As a political junkie of the first water, analyzing the other party's presidential contest is something he can do with some measure of objectivity, while throwing in a few message bombs as well.

"The Democratic Party is clearly in an incredible fight between it's head and it's heart right now," Cole said. "There's no question [Obama] is a brilliant orator, attractive figure, you know, potentially historic figure, but so is [Clinton]. If you look at it, I mean, he's to the left of her, which creates, you know, what we want to some degree, which is an ideological battle. Second, he's got the thinnest resume since Wendell Wilkie. And third, I'd argue he's not a very plausible commander in chief in a time of war."

"This idea that somehow Obama's going to bring Republicans, it just ain't going to happen," Cole continued. He characterized Obama's wins in red state primaries as misleading. "He's winning a lot of states now," Cole said. But "he's not going to carry South Carolina and Georgia and Alabama and places like that either. Or Idaho, I don't care how many people show up at a rally." Obama drew about 14,000 during a stop in Boise last week.

While some Republican strategists suggest a presidential contest is a silver bullet that will help their party pick up large numbers of seats, Cole is more cautious in his optimism. "The presidential race is broadly helpful to us, with the caveats that obviously, you got Obama on the ticket, that complicates things in Illinois. You got Hillary, that complicates things in New York," he said. "I would think if we have McCain, we probably have better chances in the couple of seats out there, the two or three seats out there we're interested in."

Check back with Politics Nation for more on our extensive interview with Cole, during which he laid out House Republicans' strategies and pointed to key seats his committee needs to defend and contest in order to inch back toward the majority.