Hillary Clinton had the nomination all to herself. After surviving a horrific Summer where virtually every story about her was negative she weathered an 11 hour Congressional hearing on Benghazi, scared Joe Biden away from running and bumped up in the polls.
Clinton genuinely appeared to have calmed down. Until the Sanders campaign picked up steam. The two are now virtually tied in Iowa and Sanders lead in New Hampshire, after shrinking in December, has begun to grow again. In short, Clinton could lose both Iowa and New Hampshire, a nightmare scenario for her campaign.
Clinton does not have a lot of attacks to unload on the veteran Senator. She’s tried with limited success to paint Sanders as pro-gun (Vermont may be blue but they like guns). She’s also attacked his record on Wall-Street regulation (as if she is Wall-Street’s biggest enemy). It has not worked.
But perhaps her biggest mistake was attacking the Senator on a liberal’s dream; Universal Healthcare. Specifically, the former Secretary of State went on the attack by arguing Sanders truly does not support UHC (ahem, what) and would never be able to achieve it.
Certainly the second part is true. Sanders is not a policy expert despite decades in the Senate and let’s be honest, a self described Socialist Senator from Vermont really would not do well in divided government.
But Hillary’s attack is also certainly wrong. Sanders is a significant proponent of UHC. In fact, he lobbied his home state Governor, Democrat Peter Shumlin, to implement its own version of UHC.
One problem, the plan would have been prohibitively expensive. To implement the single-payer plan, the cost would have been $4.3 billion. Vermont taxpayers would foot $2.6 billion and the Fed the rest. For comparison the entire 2015 Vermont budget was $4.9 billion.
The Governor’s office estimated the state would need to impose new personal income taxes of up to 9.5 percent, on top of current rates that range from 3.55 to 8.95 percent. Businesses would be hit with an 11.5 percent payroll tax, on top of 7.65 percent payroll taxes employer pay for Social Security and Medicare. No wonder lawmakers backed off.
So Clinton is right he would not know how to govern. But she is also wrong he does not support UHC and it showcases her worst quality. She is not a good candidate. Not only is she not charismatic, she’s power-hungry and just not trustworthy.
Clinton certainly is a smart woman. She has held so many high profile gigs it is hard to count them. She can quote the ins and outs of policies lightning quick. But none of that is honestly that useful to campaigning before a primary electorate that wants to hear more platitudes and hopes of liberal dreams being fulfilled.
In this the Clinton campaign fails because their candidate is simply not equipped to run an election that way. She does not trust voters to behave rationally. So, she pretends to be something she is not.
The examples of this backfiring are legion and they have been multiplying of late. First, there was her campaign’s focus on making Clinton relatable to working, college educated women. Except that failed because Clinton linked herself to a man who was as power-hungry as she was and easily made more than most women earn in a lifetime.
Then there was her “abuela” comment. It was a relatively harmless attempt by the campaign to make Clinton’s new status as a Grandmother mean something to Latino voters. Except it didn’t. Instead, it surprised the campaign when thousands of Latinos, many Democrats, took to social media and in some cases the airwaves to argue Clinton, a privileged white women, had no idea what it was like to be an “abuela.” Grievance culture sure is grand. Then came her disingenuous attack on Sanders stance on UHC.
Even worse, the Clinton campaign is being dogged by accusations of Bill Clinton’s past indiscretions (the author believes the man should be in jail). In a recent interview Clinton was actually asked if she “enabled” her husband’s actions. This was not on Fox News by the way.
At a time when the Sanders campaign is surging it would make sense for the campaign to want to debate ideas and values more. Except, yet again, the Clinton’s penchant for secrecy and not trusting voters won out. Only six Democratic debates have been scheduled and they have all been at times when viewership is low (Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays). Indeed, the latest debate took place last night when it was competing with a divisional football playoff game.
Clinton has arguably won every debate she has been in. Her command of history and the facts are impressive. Her policy acumen shines through. But when you hide that from the voters because you don’t trust them it makes it more likely these voters will act with their hearts in the ballot box. Not their brains.
Perhaps Clinton’s saving grace is her opposition. Martin O’Malley is a data driven technocrat who excites only actuaries and number crunchers. Sanders, for all his strengthens, seems to behave as if he cannot win.
Indeed, Sanders has said he is leading a movement more than a campaign. Despite his campaign’s gradual increase in infrastructure, funding and resources, Sanders still behaves as if he is merely representing the ideas of a movement. As Brian Beutler at the New Republic writes, “Sanders, as New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has noted, often renders his criticisms of Clinton in the most positive possible light, prefacing his answers to debate questions with compliments and qualifiers. If he took it to her and attacked her on her credibility and beliefs she would likely prove easy pray.
But he has not and Clinton remains the front-runner. It is hard to imagine that changing in the near-term. But what about the general? If Clinton cannot even appear genuine to Democrats how can she be to a more skeptical electorate?
Clinton might school Trump on the issues but Trump would come off as at least honest. Against a Ted Cruz she could go toe to toe but again, Cruz at least believe what he says whereas Clinton is questionable. Finally, against a Rubio not only would he appear genuine but he could offer a generational contrast Cruz cannot (due to ideology).
Clinton cannot change who she his. She’s a weak “beer” candidate. She instead should focus solely on the issues. Except she has broken with the base on Iran (wants new sanctions) and already criticized the liberal dream of UHC. Further, due to modern campaigns being as much about culture as the issues she has to behave as somebody she is not. Unfortunately, she is no better at that then she was in 2008.