OXFORD, England – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will capture the presidency in 2008 unless the Republican Party can rise to meet the challenge, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said Thursday.
DeLay, once a pillar of the Republican establishment and still a fierce Clinton opponent, said the New York senator had the intelligence and organization to beat her Democratic rivals — and her Republican opponents.
"Don't kid yourself. She will be the next nominee, and if Republicans don't get their act together — and it is pitiful — she will be the next president," he told a crowd of Britons and Americans at the Oxford Union, a 184-year-old debating society.
DeLay, who resigned from Congress in 2006 amid legal and ethical problems, was in Oxford to debate the merits of a Democratic victory in 2008.
"She has, over the last six years, put together the most powerful political coalition I have ever witnessed in my career," he said. "It's not a left-wing conspiracy, ladies and gentlemen, it's a smart, very impressive political coalition."
DeLay warned that a Clinton victory would result in higher taxes and bloated government. He also said she would seek to create a British-style publicly funded health care system, a prediction that was met with thunderous applause.
"By the way, there's no one denied health care in America. There are 47 million people who don't have health insurance, but no American is denied health care in America," he said to derisive laughter.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who was due to debate DeLay at Oxford, did not show up. Organizers did not immediately have an explanation for the absence of the political activist.