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In the Crossfire

Does Hillary Clinton help or hinder Democrats?

(CNN) -- U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, isn't on the ballot this year, but her name has been all over the campaign trail. Why are so many Republicans giving her a starring role in their political ads? Is the junior senator from New York a boost or a burden to Democrats?

Ann Lewis of the Democratic National Committee Women's Vote Center and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos step into the "Crossfire" with hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

CARLSON: ... Republican ads [are] using the image of Hillary Clinton to get votes and raise money for Republicans. [Paul] didn't have any ads from Democrats using Hillary Clinton to their advantage, saying, you know, "I'm a close friend of Hillary Clinton's, vote for me." Because there aren't any. Because Democrats are pretty embarrassed to be friends with Hillary Clinton frankly.

LEWIS: But Democrats want to use their time and their money to talk to people about issues like Social Security and what are we doing about the economy and how are we going to have a prescription drug plan that really reaches every senior?

And you know what? Republicans, for reasons that I'm not sure I understand, Republicans are either so worried about Hillary Clinton or so determined to avoid discussion of these issues that they're going to use their time and their money to say to voters, not what we're for, not what we want to do, but, "Oh, boy, isn't this something to worry about?"

CARLSON: I'll tell you why Republicans are convinced, and I think Hillary has helped raised millions for the Republican Party, and I want to thank you on its behalf for her. But because look at the track record of what happens to people who are friends with Hillary Clinton, who worked in the Clinton administration, who run for office. They don't do well.

And I'm talking about Janet Reno in Florida, [who's] going to lose; Robert Reich in Massachusetts, [who's] also going to lose; Andrew Cuomo in New York pulled out [Tuesday]; Erskine Bowles in North Carolina, is going to lose; Bill Curry in Connecticut is going to lose. You know that that's true. Rahm Emanuel, [who is seeking a House seat from Illinois, is] basically the only one.

It's the kiss of death. I hope you're not planning to run for office, Ann, because I think your time in the White House would hurt you.

LEWIS: Well, thank you for your concern, Tucker. But we've already tested this theory, and it happened in New York in 2000. A large state -- you may have heard of it, millions of voters. Republicans had exactly one campaign strategy -- "Oh, we're doing to demonize Hillary Clinton." That's all they did. And you know what? She won with 56 percent of the vote.

CARLSON: It's a Democratic state.

LEWIS: Well ... that's pretty good.

BEGALA: ... You're smarter than the average bear. The Republicans ought to know that this is a losing strategy as Ann just pointed out. I think this is not driven by strategy though. I think it's driven by some deep psychological disorder like their mamas didn't breast-feed them or something. ... So now they want to attack this woman, right? Isn't that what's going on here?

CASTELLANOS: Speaking of bears, the interesting thing about all this is those same Democrats that are not getting anywhere near Hillary Clinton ... are bear-hugging the president of the United States. Democrats are running ads saying, "Oh, we support the president and everything he's done on the war on terror; we support his tax cuts." So I think that gives you the stark contrast between the Clinton administration's failure and the Bush administration's success.

BEGALA: Well, there is a phrase for the people who are trying to attack Hillary, and they're called losers. Let me go through them.

The Republican running against Max Baucus, senator of Montana, the state where Bush did even better than he did at home in Texas. Max Baucus [is] being attacked for being too close to Hillary Clinton; he's up by 30 points, a good Democrat. Tom Harkin, Democrat from Iowa, [is] being attacked for being too close to Hillary; he's up by 9 points. Mark Pryor, a young man running against an incumbent senator in Arkansas, [is] up by 10 points despite the fact they're attacking him for his connections to Hillary Clinton.

And in my home state of Texas, Ron Kirk, the former mayor of Dallas, [who has] never held a statewide office, [is] running against a Republican anointed by Bush; he's dead even, even though they're attacking him for Hillary. It's a loser strategy, isn't it?

CASTELLANOS: You know, I don't think the right thing for Republicans to do is to attack Hillary Clinton for -- she was Enron before Enron was cool. She took 100 ...

BEGALA: Now that was Bush. That was Harken Energy. That was Halliburton. That was Dick Cheney.

CASTELLANOS: She took $100 and turned it into $100,000. That's not the way to go. The real problem and the real reason Hillary causes problems for Democrats is she's a '60s, big-spending, taxing Democrat. She's driving that agenda here in Washington.

And right now that kind of high-tax agenda would drive us back into recession. There's a fear factor out there. There's a fear factor for Democrats like Hillary Clinton.




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