The Clinton Juggernaut

by Dave Schuler on February 3, 2014

While I continue to wade through the same boring arguments, most of which could have been written two weeks or even two years ago, I wanted to make one out-of-the-blue observation about a putative run for the presidency by Hillary Clinton. Despite the impressions of inevitability and invincibility that are being conveyed in the media, I don’t think that either are the case.

As to invincibility, Ms. Clinton will either need to run as the standard bearer for a third Obama term or run against a third Obama term. To try to remain mute on the subject would cede the initiative to her opponents, allowing them to define her position for her. On November 8, 2016 the president’s approval rating is unlikely to be higher than it is today, today it’s well below 50%, and the historic experience is that we can expect a certain level of “Obama fatigue”. To run against the president would alienate a significant portion of the very constituencies she would need to win.

In addition, Ms. Clinton has negatives of her own.

In her favor, she is very well thought of in some Democratic circles, she probably won’t make the same mistakes again, and she will undoubtedly have Bill Clinton in her corner, an ally who should not be underestimated.

As to inevitability, nothing is inevitable as Ms. Clinton learned to her sorrow in 2008. She might decide not to run; she might be prevailed upon not to run; her health could deteriorate; any number of things might intervene. Although the necessities of modern presidential campaigns mean that serious presidential campaigns are already organizing, two years is a long way away.

It’s been said that running for the presidency is a taste you never get over. That’s among the factors that would impel her to run—the same factor that might impel Mitt Romney to try again in 2016.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

... February 3, 2014 at 9:11 am

I just don’t believe Romney will run again. It has to be an embittering experience to have been praised as a moderate Republican for years, then get accused of being an insane Nazi by the same people that gave him the praise because they were never sincere in their statements to begin with, and then have those people praise him again NOW.

And Hillary! was far more inevitable in 2006 than she is now. For one thing, people NOW know she can be had in the nomination process despite the name, the recognition, the connections, and the mountains of money. If she was taken out by a rookie Senator who’s only positive credits were that he had been opposed to a war when it didn’t matter (for him, politically), gave an okay speech once, and was just black enough. (Interestingly, Hillary! lost to Obama despite getting more votes. But she ignored the caucuses and Obama’s machine KILLED her in those events.)

Plus, as I keep stating, Democrats historically worship youth, and she’ll be pushing 70 in 2016. That will make her the oldest Democratic nominee ever, and only the second one in his/her sixties since 1877.

The counter-factual to that is that the other candidate in his sixties in that time frame was John Kerry in 2004, who was a youthful 61 at the time. But I’ve never heard anyone in real life state that they wish Kerry had been elected.

But Dems worship youth, and Hillary! isn’t young, or even middle-aged, anymore.

* I’m only counting non-sitting Presidents.

Dave Schuler February 3, 2014 at 9:14 am

Yeah, I’d meant to work that in. That’s one of her negatives.

Just for the record I cannot envision voting for Hillary Clinton in a primary or general election.

Her greatest advantage in a general election: she’d be running against a Republican.

Tim February 3, 2014 at 9:15 am

She’s still the odds-on favorite; Biden may well run but he hasn’t been as high-profile as Gore was, and will be 74 on inauguration day 2017.

Thinking on the GOP side, I do wonder if Romney would try again. It seems that the party can’t seem to catch a break, with the bridge scandal hanging over Christie and the party still facing it’s identity crisis.

Another thing to think about: In 2016, the GOP will have won only one primary vote (in 2004) in the last quarter-century; the time before that was 1988, when the Internet was a novelty, the Soviet Union was still an entity, and the US latino population was much, much smaller.

... February 3, 2014 at 9:18 am

Her greatest advantage in a general election: she’d be running against a Republican.

Her greatest advantage is that the Republican Party is falling over itself to give another 20 million Mexicans the vote before 2016. Neither party will be satisfied until we look just like Mexico in terms of social stratification.

... February 3, 2014 at 9:21 am

It seems that the party can’t seem to catch a break, with the bridge scandal hanging over Christie and the party still facing it’s identity crisis.

Christie wouldn’t get 45% of the vote. Conservatives would stay home in droves for a man that makes a point of being closer to Obama in his politics than to any other Republican. The only people that want Christie to run are people that would never vote for a non-Democrat in any event.

... February 3, 2014 at 9:30 am

Tim, Dems didn’t win a strict majority of the vote from 1980 to 2007. Clinton didn’t do it, neither Gore, and the others aren’t worth talking about. Obama was the first Dem to win a majority of the popular vote since Carter in 1976. And Carter only got 50.08 percent!

In fact, the last non-sitting Democrat before Obama to comfortably win a majority of the popular vote in his first run was FDR back in 1932. Yeah, from 1932 to 2008, only one non-sitting Democratic Presidential nominee cracked 50%, and that one just barely when the Republicans were suffering under the twin hardships of Watergate and the Ford Presidency.

In that same span of time, three Republicans pulled off the trick: Eisenhower (1952 with 55.2%), Ronald Reagan (1980 with 50.8%) and George H. W. Bush (1988 with 53.4%).

Dave Schuler February 3, 2014 at 9:36 am

If George H. W. Bush is at all instructive, consider that Reagan’s approval rating when he left office was in all likelihood considerably higher than Barack Obama’s will be and George H. W. Bush’s negatives were much better than Hillary Clinton’s. That’s not to say that she can’t win but that she’s no shoe-in.

... February 3, 2014 at 9:37 am

Interesting to me (and probably no one else) is that all three Republicans that won their first presidential term with a popular majority since 1932 were all older than any non-sitting Democratic Presidential nominee since 1876.

PD Shaw February 3, 2014 at 9:43 am

Eight years ago when she ran Hillary had negative ratings around 47%, and sometimes as high as 52%. It will be interesting to see the extent to which time and a stint at the relatively non-partisan Sec. of State have broadened her popularity, or if throwing her hat in the ring will reset opinions to the prior state.

I think Hillary’s primary run was largely hampered by the tension between being an obvious front-runner with a lot of institutional support from the Clinton years, and the obvious challenges she was going to face as a divisive public figure (earned or not). Favorites like her are supposed to run boring campaigns; refuse to recognize the level of the competition; and avoid creating intra-party splits that will hurt you in the general. If she runs again, that’s how it will look, and I think it will matter if the Democrats fear that she cannot win and start looking for any alternative.

... February 3, 2014 at 9:50 am

Demographics heavily favor the Democrats from now on in this country. The nation is increasingly poor, and poor people tend to vote Democratic. The nation is increasingly non-white, and non-whites tend to vote heavily in favor of the Dems. And finally, the country has an ever increasing percentage of families that have no father, and single mothers vote very heavily in favor of Democrats.

So it is no surprise that Dems think the Obama years are going so well, since policies that increase poverty, racial diversity, and broken families help only help the Democratic party to win elections.

Permanent single party rule probably won’t happen until after the 2022 mid-terms, however, because Obama’s disastrous 2010 mid-terms allowed Republicans to gerrymander House seats much to their favor in 2012. I doubt there will be any gerrymandering possible to produce that result after giving 20 to 30 million more Third World peasants the vote. Seriously, Florida is now a blue state*, and Texas will probably swing blue within ten years. How are the Republicans supposed to win if they’re giving up all the largest states without a fight?

* Florida is still red at the state level, at least for now, because the elections at the state level aren’t held during Presidential elections. And poor people, single mothers and non-whites don’t seem to know that elections happen without the Presidency being decided at the top of the ballot.

PD Shaw February 3, 2014 at 10:17 am

It will also be interesting to see if African-Americans, a majority of which rate the economy as good, become more critical after Obama leaves office; and what the effects of that might be for whomever follows.

Dave Schuler February 3, 2014 at 10:23 am

I suspect that for much of the rest of my life intraparty politics in the Democratic Party will be an extended game of Let’s You And Him Fight, with black Democrats and Hispanic Democrats playing the roles of the contending suitors and the white power structure of the Democratic Party playing the role of the instigator.

steve February 3, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Politicians have a limited shelf life. Hillary’s has expired. She may make a run at it, Gingrich did. When it gets serious people will remember, just like they did with Gingrich, why they didnt choose her the last time. I guess it is possible she could win by default, much the same way Obama beat Romney, but I wouldnt bet on it.

Steve

Andy February 4, 2014 at 11:36 am

Once again, I’ll bring up the generational aspect. Obama is at the border between Gen-X and the Boomers. Clinton is a solid boomer. If she wins, she will be the last of them.

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