Friday, April 5, 2013

Ten Feet Tall

I completely endorse the distinction that Ed Kilgore makes but appears to feel isn't really necessary between "clear the field" and "dominant opening position" when talking about Hillary Clinton and the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

I think, that is, that the distinction is necessary. To me, "clear the field" means something pretty specific: that no other plausible nominee would run. So I wouldn't say that Al Gore in 2000 cleared the field; he solidly beat Bill Bradley, and it was probably over before the Iowa caucuses, but Gore had to run a real primary campaign against a candidate who certainly could have been nominated.

I mean, around the margins, I can imagine arguments...did George H.W. Bush clear the field in 1992 when Pat Buchanan ran? Did Richard Nixon in 1972, when two members of the House ran? But Gore clearly didn't. And my guess is that Clinton won't.

It seems to me this is quite a meaningful distinction, too. For one thing, it could affect whether she chooses to run or not. If she really could have the nomination without having to run through the primaries and caucuses...well, that's a lot easier decision than one that would involve defeating one or two or three candidates, no matter how heavily she would be favored.

I'm also not quite ready to conclude exactly how dominant she would be if she ran. Clearly, she's would be a heavyweight, top-tier, contender. But there's a long time to go, and it's not clear yet how Democratic party actors will think about this when they really have to commit. Basically, the reasons why she's an overwhelming apparent favorite right now -- she's well-known, well-liked, clearly qualified, clearly can raise money, and to some extent there may be a feeling that she's earned it -- may not turn out to be the things that actually yield her the overwhelming support of party actors in 2014 and 2015. I'm not saying that she wouldn't win, or even that she isn't an overwhelming favorite...I'm just saying I'm not sure yet. All we can say for sure is that she would be a heavyweight/top tier type candidate. Which is a lot, but not everything.


  1. I hope she doesn't clear the field in the sense you mean it. Even if her challengers are more Bill Bradley than Barack Obama, it's healthier for the party to have contested primaries. I don't want the Republicans to have 2015 all to themselves, where their nominees get a platform while Hillary is basically ignored because she's the presumptive nominee.

  2. I don't dispute this really- it's just that when an analysis like this essentially turns on "Yes, but things might change" I would like to hear some of the specific changes that could occur. I'm not asking anyone to predict the future- if, say, another 9/11 happens or something, its okay that we don't account for the politics of THAT- but outside of events like that, what factors that make HRC dominant right now might not be present in 2015? I think being well known, well liked, and capable of raising money are going to be evergreen advantages to a candidate. Experience- which kinda goes hand-in-hand with "she's earned it"- may not be, if she can get tagged as a dreaded "Washington insider"- but that's all a matter of spin, anyway. So, while yes, everything could change, outside of the completely random, I'm not sure how much I predict WOULD change.

    1. I'm thinking along the same lines. I suppose a major HRC-linked scandal would be the obvious choice. Perhaps another recession or continued economic stagnation would change things, though I'm not sure how/if that could cause party actors to favor another candidate. It may make HRC less likely to run, but I doubt it would have much of an effect on the support she would get from the party if she does run.

      This one's a reach but maybe she encounters some health concerns, decides to run anyway, and some faction in the party belives those health issues would weaken her as a candidate/president/surrogate for the party and therefore oppose her or work behind the scenes to dissuade her from running.

      I really dont have any idea, but I had the some question you do.

    2. Things could be changed by the same type of issues that made a lot of Democratic party actors not want to commit in the 2008 cycle. She has the baggage of the 90's as well as a long and controversial record. I could see lots of people wanting to look forward with a Martin O'Malley type person as opposed to re-fight The Clinton Wars. That said I'd agree she's a top tier contender.

  3. If she really could have the nomination without having to run through the primaries and caucuses

    She probably still has nightmares about her team's unforced errors in caucus states. It would suck to go through those same steps again doing shots with the proles, traveling incessantly, and gas-bagging for hours a day while hugging and consoling the PUMAs.

    HRC's biggest problem is probably her health; she doesn't seem well at all. Well enough to go on short junkets where she's paid half a mil to talk for an hour to former and future political allies, but she's looking too OLD to campaign.

  4. Let's not kid ourselves. Obama's victory was made possible by a superior team of campaign advisors/strategists, I don't claim to know all the insiders but for shorthand call it the "Axelrod/Plouffe/database wranglers machine."

    They were not afraid to go against conventional political with confidence in their own methods, and won 3 significant victories -- against Clinton in the '08 primaries, and then against McCain and Romney.

    So the real question for '16 is whether this machine stays together as a machine, and who they might work for. That unknown person they might work for is the one who should be the favorite. And the question for everyone else is whether they can successfully apply the lessons of the Axelrod/Plouffe/database wranglers for their own campaign, or devise an even more superior new model of political machine.

    Not entirely irrelevant, large portions of the Dec. '10 political article at my site go much deeper into the uselessness of liberal/leftists wishing their favorite cultural figures into the Presidency years before the election, and the challenges of "herding the liberal/leftist cats" into an effective political organization.

  5. Building off of Ron's point, over at LGM when discussing HRC, one point that was brought up was the idea that HRC's poor decisions regarding campaign personnel, which led to difficulties with her campaign, were evidence that she wouldn't be as good at the office as Obama, because a large part of the President's job is appointments and staffing. JB, do you think there is any merit to this?

    1. Getting to this late, but:

      1. Yes, there's some merit.

      2. But she's also had another eight years of experience. I don't have the sense that her SoS years suggested it's an ongoing problem.

      3. But it is an important part of the presidency, and so it's worth watching going forward.


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