Obama vs. Hillary Clinton in 2012?

It’s not unrealistic to imagine Obama facing a challenge from a moderate Democrat along the lines of an Evan Bayh or a Jim Webb. But Hillary?

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Bernie Goldberg, Fox News Channel’s scourge of media bias, floats what he readily concedes is a far-fetched scenario: a Democratic primary challenge of President Obama by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

He speculates bluntly about the likely political landscape and a potential rehash of 2008’s first-black vs. first-woman offering:

If things don’t improve, Independents, who switch back and forth from one party to another all the time, will have no trouble abandoning President Obama next time around. Blacks won't, of course, and that poses a real problem to any challenger. White liberals would never forsake America’s first black president, either—at least not to vote for some other Democrat who looks like Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis or Al Gore or John Kerry. But Hillary gives them the opportunity to assuage their white liberal guilt—and—bonus!—make history all over again. They can drop the black guy and vote for someone they hope will be the first woman president of the United States and still hang on to their precious liberal credentials.

This all sounds very provocative, but I’m having trouble imagining what a Hillary in ’12 campaign would actually look like. Goldberg runs down a litany of Obama vulnerabilities beyond today’s rocky economy: He’s soft on terrorists, illegal immigrants, and wants to impose a costly cap-and-trade scheme on the energy industry, etc. Assuredly, these are charges that potential Republican candidates like Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin will make in 2012. But Hillary?

[See a slide show of 10 reasons Sarah Palin would make a good president.]

How, exactly, would Hillary make this Goldberg attack sound plausible?

When unemployment was at 10 percent and Americans were clamoring for a real jobs program, President Obama was busy pushing through a massive overhaul of our healthcare system, something most Americans did not want. Don't worry, he told them, over time you'll like it just fine.

Gee, Barack, you know I dedicated the lion’s share of my political career to reforming healthcare; you got it done, and even moved my way on the individual mandate! But your timing was lousy. We Democrats and the country would have been better off if you waited.

Doesn’t compute, does it?

Goldberg is not, however, crazy to talk of primary battles. When the economy’s lousy, incumbent presidents are inherently vulnerable. It happened to George H.W. Bush, who lost the 1992 New Hampshire primary to an insurgent Pat Buchanan.

And it happened, of course, to Jimmy Carter. Carter’s management of the economy looked pretty bad in 1980, as Obama’s may in 2012—but, running as he did to Carter’s left, with talk of “restoring the dream of social progress,” the late Sen. Ted Kennedy was misaligned with a national mood that was warming to conservatism.

It’s not unrealistic to imagine Obama facing a challenge from a moderate Democrat along the lines of an Evan Bayh or a Jim Webb. [See who supports Bayh.]

But Hillary? I just can’t see it.