Would unemployment have been lower under a President Hillary? Would the Democrats have lost fewer seats on Tuesday? It's impossible to know. But what can be said with confidence is that Clinton's toolkit is a better match for the current set of national woes than they were for 2008, when her support for the Iraq war dominated the campaign.
Back then, Clinton's populist appeal to low-income white voters, union members and workers of the Rust Belt was not enough to overcome Obama's energized youth vote. But Clinton's working-class whites were the very ones who switched to the Republicans on Tuesday.
Back in '08, Clinton's scars from HillaryCare were seen as a liability, proof that she was a product of the old ways of Washington. But now that Obama has himself succumbed to the partisanship, his talk of a "growth process" in office makes Clinton's experience in the trenches look like more of an asset.
Clinton campaign advisers I spoke with say she almost certainly would have pulled the plug on comprehensive health-care reform rather than allow it to monopolize the agenda for 15 months. She would have settled for a few popular items such as children's coverage and a ban on exclusions for pre-existing conditions. That would have left millions uninsured, but it also would have left Democrats in a stronger political position and given them more strength to focus on job creation and other matters, such as immigration and energy.
The Clinton campaign advisers acknowledge that she probably would have done the auto bailout and other things that got Obama labeled as a socialist. The difference is that she would have coupled that help for big business with more popular benefits for ordinary Americans.
Just...really, Dana? Really?
Unless Hillary could have gotten a significantly larger stimulus, the answer is she'd be in the same boat. The GOP would have blocked her every move, Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman would have jerked her around, and instead of birthers we'd have Clinton truthers refighting every stupid thing from 1997. Instead of pushing Obama's race to separate white working-class men in the Rust Belt from the Democrats, the GOP would have pushed gender fears instead. Rush wouldn't be making racist jokes, just misogynist ones.
Sarah Palin would still be throwing around her Mama Grizzly scat everywhere, the distractions of Michelle Obama, woman with Big Arms and Food Police, would be replaced with Hey What's First Dude Bill Doin'? Hillarycare would still be Hillarycare and not have gotten passed at all, we'd still have firebaggers because of that (Hillary wasn't progressive enough arrrrrgh!), energy and immigration still would have gotten blocked and we'd still be in the same damn mess we are right now.
No difference. Oh and the youth vote still wouldn't have turned out.
And the most important difference is that Milbank would be writing a fantasy column about what would of happened if Obama had been President instead of Hillary.
Off to get bagels.