Well, okay, Dick Cheney didn’t exactly call Hillary Clinton our only hope.  The former VP did say on his book tour that Hillary might be the only hope that Democrats have of keeping the White House in 2012 — and he’s probably right:

“I think it would be good for the country [for Clinton to run for president], I think that it would be good for the Democratic Party – it might even help the Republicans a little bit,” the former Vice President said with a smirk, in an interview with ABC’s Jonathan Karl on Wednesday to promote his new memoir, “In My Time.”

The former vice president said that Clinton might have an opening due to the stagnant economy.

“Maybe if– the Obama record is bad enough– and these days it’s not very good, given the shape of the economy maybe there will be enough ferment in the Democratic Party so that there will be a primary on their side,” said Cheney.

“So far she hasn’t said she would [run], but I think it’s not a bad idea,” said Cheney.

We’re getting to the point in the cycle where Hillary might be the only viable challenger on the Democratic side.  Only the Clintons could organize a campaign quickly enough to be competitive by January, and only the Clintons would have entree to the big bundlers needed to fund a national campaign at this stage.  Some of those may be waiting for just that event; for months, we’ve had indications that big-ticket Democratic donors have sat on their hands, especially on Wall Street.

However, Hillary would have to resign first, and that takes longer for a Cabinet secretary than just a couple of weeks.  That’s especially true at a critical position like State, where Hillary would have to extricate herself from a number of issues and hand off the duties without damaging American diplomacy.  Any reasonable time frame would put the eventual handoff sometime in mid-October, and probably more like the end of next month.  Even with the Clinton network and the disappointment from Obama’s base, that’s already almost too late.

Besides, Barack Obama’s problem isn’t only on his right, where Hillary would have to run.  His problem is on his left, where his activist base has become disillusioned and demoralized.  A Hillary primary challenge would probably allow Obama to get his base back into the game, somewhat grudgingly, but would necessarily force him to look even more radical than how he’s governed over the last three years, which would kill his already-fading chances in a general election.

If things get bad enough, Hillary might not need to stage a challenge at all.  As I wrote last month, if Obama’s polling slide continues to accelerate and the economy doesn’t show any signs of improvement — and especially if it dips back into recession — Democrats might push Obama out of the race and invite Hillary to fill the vacuum.  And that might not be good news for Republicans if it happens, either.