It is official. Democrats want Hilary Clinton to run in 2016. Okay, we did not get an official announcement. But the public might as well have received one with Senator Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) endorsement of the former First Lady, before she has even hinted at her intentions. McCaskill was one of the first Democratic candidates to endorse Obama in 2008. In fact, it seems very, very. few Democrats seem to banking on any other candidate than Clinton.
Democrats seem to be under the allure that Clinton has an appeal no Republican can match. They point to her favorable and approval ratings as Secretary of State that hover around 60% (they were around 70% before Benghazi). They also point to the connection her husband has with rural whites across the country and the fact she still can claim to be the first female to ever run for the highest office in the land. But while all these things might be true, they also seem to be very dubious on the surface.
Sure, if Hilary runs she will have history on her side as she tries again to break the “glass ceiling.” But that glass ceiling has been shattered in everyday America more and more as ever-increasing numbers of women head the household, earn the majority of their family’s income and lead major corporations and states. Barack Obama’s election also has stolen the thunder of a historic candidacy, especially since he beat Clinton in 08. There are also other reasons a Clinton candidacy might be weak.
The claim that good old Billy Boy connects with rural whites in the country was shattered in 2012. Mitt Romney won 59% of the white vote, more so in swing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. In those states he also won more than 60% of the white, rural vote. Clinton stumped for the President in these areas and it did not help the President win reelection. So even if white, rural voters like Clinton it does not appear their personal like of him transfers over to pulling the lever for his partisan preference.
Lastly, her approval and favorable ratings as Secretary of State are not an indication of how she would fare in a national, deeply ideological and partisan campaign for the White House. Call me crazy, but I can see those ratings dropping back down to Earth afterwards. If this happens and the GOP nominates a smart, charismatic, conservative candidate (they have many options to choose from), Clinton could be in for a challenging campaign and far from the coronation some think she will have.
There are of course other issues with the belief that Clinton is likely to win in 2016. Clinton, no matter how she distances herself from Obama, will likely be seen as running for an Obama third term. She served in his cabinet, was and still is a mouthpiece for his priorities nationally and abroad and shares a partisan affiliation with the President. Since the 1952 Presidential election no party has held the White House for three consecutive terms except Reagan and H.W. H.W. bears the distinction of being one of the few incumbent Presidents to lose his reelection bid in the 20th century.
Clinton also does not appear to be a natural fit into the younger, majority-minority modern Democratic Party. She has changed stances on the Iraq War, Healthcare, and gay marriage to appeal to the party’s new coalition. But while that may work if she does not face any stiff competition in her party’s nomination process it might not turn out party partisans to back her in the general. Then we get to the current administration’s scandals and how it might have soured Obama’s historic coalition to turning out again in an electoral process they see as corrupt and rigged (big brother is watching you).
Republicans could play a hand in making sure Clinton can overcome all these obstacles. They could nominate an uber-conservative candidate that fails to swing minorities or the middle. They also could nominate a young gun like Rand Paul or Marco Rubio who holds so much appeal now but could fall flat on the national stage. The national party could reignite the social issues they lose on, gay marriage and abortion.
Even if the GOP does this however it only covers up Clinton’s flaws. Yet, many Democrats do not see these flaws. They think she is the perfect candidate for 2016. An accomplished women who can connect with female voters and the middle on a visceral level. Polls show Clinton besting the most likely GOP nominees but polls three and a half years out from an election do not usually make good barometers of public support in the future.
There is an irony in Senator Claire McCaskill and many of her centrist Democratic brothers and sisters supporting Clinton. They think she can help revitalize the Democratic brand in red states. This brand has been tarnished in three consecutive Presidential elections where the party has run an unabashed liberal. But Clinton is now another unabashed liberal. She has to be if she wants her party’s nomination. And for McCaskill that will not help her in 2018 if Clinton is in the White House. Nor will it help many other red state Democrats.