Hillary haters take center stage

Prowling the Internet, spilling venom on blogs and dominating the airwaves on conservative talk radio, “Hillary haters” are back and out in force as 2008 presidential nominating contests loom.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is sparking the same waves of vitriol in the conservative echo chamber that burst forth during her husband Bill Clinton’s eight years in the White House.

Just 37 days before the leadoff Iowa caucuses, Clinton remains a lightning rod, targeted again by enemies who hounded her as first lady but adored by supporters backing her potentially historic campaign.

Clinton is the target of a daily ouburst of vitriol on blogs, branded a “communist,” “Satan,” “Jezabel,” “Lady Macbeth” and a “female Stalin.”

One group, dubbed “Stop Hillary Now” is trying to recruit hundreds of millions of anti-Clinton activists through the online networking site Facebook.

With Christmas approaching, what do you get the “Hillary hater” who has everything — how about a tree ornament of her as a devil, or tee shirts with a similar design from web based vendor Cafepress.

Clinton has been an object of anger since her husband’s 1992 White House campaign, provoking the ire of anti-feminists and conservatives which is being whipped up again as she strives to be America’s first woman president.

“It is a carry over from the Clinton administration — a group of people, who for a variety of reasons find her very polarizing, don’t like her personality,” said Dean Spiliotes, a New Hampshire political expert.

“She and her husband encapsulate a whole approach, an ideology regarding government they do not like, a larger broader cultural war that goes back to the 1960s,” he said.

Clinton’s corps of high profile enemies on the airwaves include populist conservative radio hosts like Glenn Beck, who has branded her “Satan.”

Another popular conservative radio host Sean Hannity, has dubbed his show the “Stop Hillary Express.”

Clinton, a veteran of the fiercely partisan war raging through US politics, has in the past lambasted the “vast right-wing conspiracy” targeting her and her husband.

But the fierce attacks against her may amount to a back-handed compliment — testimony to a hardnosed, highly competent campaign, and a formidable politician.

Clinton has also tried to turn the ire of what she calls the “Republican attack machine” to her advantage, saying she knows how to beat the hardball tactics.

She has equated rising attacks from her Democratic rivals, including Senator Barack Obama and former vice presidential nominee John Edwards, to negative Republican tactics.

“I have absorbed a lot of attacks, my opponents have basically had a free reign,” she told CBS News in an interview on Monday.

Kim Gandy, president of the feminist National Organization for Women, believes that Clinton is a victim of her success.

“Clinton’s road to the top has been paved with published gender stereotypes and broadcast sexist overtones,” Gandy said.

“Some of it may be caused by gender but a lot of it the ramping up that we are sensing now is perhaps driven by the fact that there is a real possibility she might the actual nominee.

“(But) the only thing that scares Clinton’s opponents and the media more than her running for president — is her closeness to actually winning it.”

No conversation about Clinton and her electoral prospects is complete without mentioning her “negatives” — personal unfavorable poll ratings which some Democrats fear could drive Republicans to the polls in record numbers.

Despite that however, Clinton’s favorable ratings are also high, reflecting her high visibility as a public figure. And people tend to either love her, or hate her.

A USA Today poll in October gave Clinton a 53 percent favorable approval rating, compared to a 44 percent unfavorable rating.

And despite polls showing the race narrowing in key states ahead of the Iowa caucuses on January 3, Clinton still leads nationwide in almost every significant opinion survey of the Democratic field.