On March 19, the Los Angeles Times published its own “The Anti-Hillary” story about Feingold in which reporter Maura Reynolds saw in the senator “shades” of both Howard Dean and John McCain. Reported Reynolds: “Campaign analysts agree the Democratic field of potential White House contenders is dominated by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who has been staking out territory toward the political center, leaving open the left end of the spectrum. ‘Basically, the field will be Hillary and the anti-Hillary,’ said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. ‘There’s this big void out there that needs to be filled. Since [the left wing’s] unhappiness is generally about the war and [the NSA] surveillance, Feingold’s talking to them and they’re listening,’” wrote Reynolds. (Duffy gave the Christian Science Monitor the same spiel way back in November 2004, but back then the “anti-Hillary” was no lefty: “There’s going to be Hillary and the anti-Hillary — somebody who’s kind of everything she’s not — more moderate, probably from the Midwest or the South,” declared Duffy.)


What of Al Gore? According to New York, Gore is the “un-Hillary” — or “the political pariah who might be the one person to stop Clinton in her tracks” — because he can both “challenge [Clinton] from the left” on Iraq, as on opponent of the war, and “run to her right” on national security “given his long-held expertise about bombs and bullets and his advocacy of intervention in Kosovo and Bosnia.” Moreover, “Gore’s anti-global-warming jihad” would please “greens and other liberals, while his long and demonstrated history as a moderate on countless other issues … would allow him to score with centrist Democrats who fear that Clinton is a once-and-future lefty.”


In March, CNN’s Bill Schneider also emphasized Gore’s lefty appeal, saying, “there’s a part for the left alternative to Hillary” since “many Hollywood liberals and online activists consider Hillary Clinton too moderate” and “want a more outspoken choice like Senator Russ Feingold or maybe Al Gore.” In April, the (London) Guardian described Gore as “the conscience of the Democratic Left — the anti-Hillary figure speaking out in anger against the war in Iraq and domestic wiretapping.”


Reporters who can’t locate the ideal “Un-Hillary” might consider building their own fantasy version. In June 2005, the Economist (in a story headlined “The Un-Hillary”) identified “two potential un-Hillaries” in Mark Warner (“the most interesting un-Hillary”) and Sen. Joe Biden. The reporter went on to offer this assessment: “If Messrs Warner and Biden were rolled into one, they would make a formidable rival to Hillary even at the top of her game” but “[s]ince that, alas, is impossible, they will have to wait for her to stumble” — and, the Economist warned Economist-esquely, “There is many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip.”


And there is many a month ‘twixt now and presidential primary season. How many more “Un-Hillaries” will journalists identify (and for what reasons) between now and when candidates actually begin to announce their intentions? How many “Un-Bushes”?


It’s going to be a long slog.


Is there any way we could get some “un-journalists” to cover the ‘08 election?

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.