Are Republicans falling in love with Hillary Clinton?

It sure looks that way. Rush Limbaugh has famously launched “Operation Chaos,” urging GOP voters to cross party lines and vote for Clinton in Democratic primaries. His aim, of course, is to disrupt the nominating process and hurt Barack Obama’s candidacy.

But other conservative pundits have started speaking of Clinton — long a villain in Republican circles — with some genuine-but-grudging admiration. The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, last week extolled her toughness and wrote of the “strange new respect” Clinton is gaining from Republicans.

What is going on here? Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, moderators of, weigh in.

Joel Mathis:

There was never any truth to the caricature of Hillary Clinton as a deranged leftist bent on bringing socialism to our shores. She’s actually very much a centrist — to a fault.

Hillary and Bill Clinton have always been chummy with Wall Street, her recent disdain for the “elites” notwithstanding. And she is more hawkish than many liberals, famously voting to invade Iraq back when it was popular to do so. Yes, she wants to expand government’s role in providing health care to Americans. That’s also what Republican Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney favored in their respective states; it’s just not that radical anymore.

What does that leave? Gay rights? Like many Republicans, Clinton opposes same-sex marriage but favors civil unions. Abortion? This is where Clinton is most identifiably at odds with conservatives. But ask yourself this: Does Clinton’s pro-choice position differ greatly from the views of many Republican women serving in major state and federal offices?

The GOP wins twice by supporting Clinton: It undermines Barack Obama and makes rank-and-file Democrats suspicious of her candidacy. But there simply aren’t many ideological reasons for the GOP to have such disdain for the New York senator. Once they looked beyond the myths of their own making, it was only natural that Republicans would like Hillary Clinton.

Ben Boychuk:

As a rule, Republicans shouldn’t meddle in Democrats’ primary elections. Republicans shouldn’t play tactical voting games, such as re-registering to vote for Hillary Clinton in Texas and Ohio with the goal of extending the contest between Clinton and Barack Obama. Republicans shouldn’t take bad advice from radio talk show hosts, no matter how popular they may be. Clinton’s late resurgence might not owe everything to Republican games, but to the extend Republican voters had a hand in reviving her flagging fortunes, shame on them.

Republicans — and conservatives especially — should know better. Hillary Clinton is not the devil, but she is a shrewd politician whose “progressive,” nanny-state policy proscriptions would be bad for the country. Period. By helping keep Clinton in the game, Republicans have needlessly preserved Clinton’s meddlesome politics. They’ve given a second chance to HillaryCare and “It takes a village to raise a child.” Shame, shame, shame.

Some conservatives, unsure about John McCain’s prospects in the fall, are desperately seeking the appearance of virtue in a Hillary Clinton presidency. She’s ruthless, so she might just be ruthless enough to kill America’s enemies. Some of those conservatives also like the fact that the left is turning its ire on Clinton, who is more of an “establishment Democrat” than Obama. This is foolish rationalization, a recipe for disappointment and defeat. Republicans would do well to make the best case they can for limited government and individual liberty, not indulge in stupid voting tricks.

(Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis are moderators of To join the debate, go to

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