With poll after poll showing President Obama’s prospects sinking along with the economy, wild scenarios suddenly pop up in conversations. Some Democratss, for example, believe there is a small but growing chance the president will pull a Lyndon Johnson and decide not to seek re-election.
Then there’s the perennial Hillary guessing game. Actually, there are two Hillary guessing games.
The first, and more likely, is that the secretary of state would switch jobs with Vice President Joe Biden and take his place on the ticket. The White House denied that idea when it initially emerged, saying Obama already told Biden he wanted him to run for a second term and the veep accepted.
But that was months ago, before Solyndra and other scandals appeared and the economy fell off a cliff and took Obama with it.
The second Hillary scenario mentioned is that she would challenge Obama in a primary. She quickly spiked that one, telling friends no Democrat could win the general election without the black vote, and so even a successful primary challenge would lead to her defeat in November.
That convinced me the door was closed on 2012. But then Bill Clinton surfaced last week, and the former president pushed the Hillary door open a crack by saying some decidedly unflattering things about Obama’s various proposals to raise taxes and cut the deficit.
He used variations on the word “confusing” four times to describe the president’s plans, leading me to suspect Bubba is up to something.
“The timing on President’s Obama’s thing was somewhat confusing,” Clinton told an interviewer. “I think everybody is confused about whether he’s proposing all this stuff at once.”
He added: “I personally don’t believe we ought to be raising taxes or cutting spending, either one, until we get this economy off the ground. It’s a dead-flat economy.”
Clinton, looking thin and tired, told Christopher Ruddy, a conservative publisher, on Newsmax.tv that Obama “knows perfectly well Republicans” would block the tax hikes and offered his own advice: Obama and House Speaker John Boehner should get together and “focus on putting Americans back to work now.”
Clinton dismissed Obama’s base-pandering millionaires tax, saying, “It won’t solve the problem,” and suggested there were too many regulations coming out of the administration all at once, citing the Dodd-Frank banking bill as an example.
These are serious criticisms that echo those of business leaders and recall Clinton’s successful triangulation strategy.
While they could be the genuine ramblings of a man concerned about his country, experience teaches that the safest bet when it comes to assessing the motivations of the Clintons is that there are no accidents or coincidences.
The key argument for why Bubba might be scheming is that Obama looks increasingly vulnerable as the election year approaches, meaning disaster could be in the offing for Democrats in the Senate as well as the White House.
The party is so dispirited that it’s not hard to find Dems who openly talk of staying home or voting Republican.
Independent voters, who gave Obama 52 percent and carried him to victory in 2008, now disapprove of his economic policies by about 3-to-1, and a near-majority of these swing voters say they will not support him again.
So the chance that Hillary could wind up on the ticket one way or another now makes more sense. Indeed, interviewer Ruddy got a rise out of Clinton when he noted that former Vice President Dick Cheney said he thought Hillary would be a better president than Obama.
“That tickled me,” Clinton said as he threw his head back in laughter.
“Cheney is a very shrewd fellow and he knows one way to win a race is to sow discord in the ranks of your adversaries. What he said about Hillary made me feel good, but I didn’t want to assist him in his political strategy.”
No, of course not, Bill Clinton wouldn’t do that. Perish the thought.
Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist. To continue reading his column on other topics including the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, click here.