Perusing the New York Times, yes I still do from time to time, I came across an interesting article on Hilary Clinton and the inevitably argument that got me thinking about 2016. Buried in the NBC/WSJ poll released last week was an interesting finding. Hilary Clinton, the inevitable 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee had seen her favorable ratings drop from 56% to 46% and unfavorable ratings climb from 29% to 33%. This as she has been absent from the political scene in the last six months. And it raises questions about her inevitable nominee status.
First off, the Clinton camp might have been absent from the political scene for the last several months but former allies and surrogates of theirs have not. Take Anthony Weiner in New York City. Or more recently Governor elect of Virginia Terry McAuliffe. Voters might not pick up on these connections immediately but despite the media’s leftward bent they do like to point out that the Clinton’s have a wide social circle.
Second, though overshadowed by the GOP’s internal struggles the Democratic Party is changing. It is not the party of Bill Clinton in 92 and 96. Those years Clinton won by winning many whites that have solidly turned away from the party. Indeed, what was left of this coalition gave Hilary her base of support during the 2008 Democratic primaries. It was the New Democratic Party of single women, affluent suburbanites and minorities that gave Obama his win over Hilary and for that matter McCain in the same year. This New Democratic Party, despite reelecting Obama in late 2012 also elected a new folk-hero in former CFPB head and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. They just elected yet another progressive firebrand in NYC Mayor elect Bill de Blasio. Blasio makes Warren look tame by comparison and Obama a conservative.
Finally, there is the unpredictability of the American electorate. A new generation of voters have shown that while they lean left they have yet to develop a partisan loyalty to Democrats. Note the exit polls in Virginia and New Jersey where Christie easily won the youth vote and Cuccinelli lost them by a mere six points. Republicans have many young up and coming candidates that can appeal to a new set of voters along generational lines. Hilary cannot say the same. In fact, possible contenders for the nomination including Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and NY Governor Mario Cuomo are younger than Hilary. Furthermore, the dysfunction in DC may mean voters want somebody who is pragmatic that has come from outside the Beltway like a Scott Walker or Chris Christie from the right or a O’Malley or Blasio from the Left.
It is far to early to tell whether Clinton will face a tough primary. The race in Virginia has shown she has deep, deep pockets to call on (than again, she did when Obama beat her). It still remains her and everybody else but the Democratic Party is unlikely to stop changing away from her camp in the next two years. Depending on the 2014 elections, the old Clinton base in the South could effectively disappear with the loss of several Democratic Senators. Perhaps her best benefit may be business would prefer her over a Warren or Blasio. Like the business community worries about the populist Tea Party movement in the GOP they must also be worrying about the new progressive strain in the Democratic ranks.
This could culminate in Hilary facing a serious primary challenge in 2016. Her drop in favorables did not come among Republicans but among Democrats and Independents (the voters she needs to woo in a primary). It would not shock me to hear that her possible opponents are eyeing these numbers and working behind the scenes to set up for their own runs. Certainly an Elizabeth Warren, who read the tea leave right in Massachusetts in 2012 would be crazy not to do so.
Perhaps beyond ideology Hilary can run on the competence theme she found late in the 2008 campaign. Still, was she incompetent during Benghazi and for that matter over four years what major achievement does she have to show as Secretary of State? Heck, within several months of replacing her as Secretary of State John Kerry has gotten he Israelis and Palestinians back to the Peace Table. And leftist voters still do care about ideology but in the past have also cared about winning more than party purity.
Regardless, Hilary is likely to run in 2016, She might be dragged down by Obamacare, a fickle electorate and face a liberal primary challenger but her donor base will ensure she can maintain an air of inevitability if only for a little while. But will that be enough? I cannot predict the future but I can note this from the NYT article. “One of the widely circulated nuggets from the just-published book “Double Down: Game Change 2012” is that Obama’s advisers considered knocking Joe Biden off the ticket and putting Hillary on. The anecdote has been cast as an insult to Biden. But he remained, because internal research apparently suggested that Obama wouldn’t get a meaningful bump from the swap. What does that say about Hillary?”
What does it say indeed?