I have recently taken a liking to the political analysis editorials of Harry Enten at the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog. I believe he, along with Larry Sabato, do some interesting research into political trends that have some predictive value. Enten’s most recent article is titled “What May Persuade Hillary Clinton Not to Run in 2016.” Sabato recently made some headlines when he predicted that there was only a 60-70% chance that Clinton might run.
Enten’s reasons come with a huge caveat: It is only 2014 and a long way from the 2016 campaign. Things can change between now and then. Obama’s approval rating could increase, although after the midterm elections, he continues his descent to almost under 40% according to an average of polls in November compiled by Realclearpolitics. Additionally, the GOP brand can get a black eye should they fail to get anything done while they control the House and Senate. A Republican presidential candidate could, by proxy, be linked to an ineffective Republican controlled Congress. Furthermore, any poll this far out has little to no predictive value.
The primary reason for Enten’s conclusions are that (1) Clinton does not look as invincible as most believe and (2) the political environment favors the Republicans at this stage. For example, one polling company gives the GOP a 3-point lead using a generic candidate for each party among registered (not likely) voters. YouGov- a polling company- has been tracking Clinton’s hypothetical performance against a generic Republican since 2009. She started off with a 16-point lead which reached its high of a 20-point lead in 2011. Three years later, that lead has shrunk to 4 points. Clearly, her trajectory is heading in the wrong direction for her. And it is not just YouGov; polling by NBC/Wall Street Journal and Quinnipiac University have discovered similar trends to varying degrees.
It should be noted that these leads are against generic Republicans. Obviously, when specific names are inserted, she may perform better point-wise. But, for example, against Mitt Romney she actually trails. She leads to varying degrees over most other Republican names listed as possibilities. But that may be due to name recognition. As the GOP field emerges and the campaigning picks up, that should change to the advantage of the GOP. In short, particular possible GOP candidates would have nowhere to go but up and Clinton would be either stagnant or take a blow.
Regarding the alleged “invincibility” of a Clinton candidacy, obviously that has taken a hit. A disastrous book tour and some gaffes along the way have hurt her image. The assertion of near poverty after leaving the White House was met with laughs considering her real estate holdings and speaking fees. One article recently noted the riders attached to those contracts for speaking fees and it makes Clinton look worse than the worst spoiled rock star.
Equally important is her connection to the Obama administration. I have no doubt that she will survive the Benghazi scandal, but she cannot totally distance herself from an unpopular president and his even more unpopular policies, agenda, and decisions. In fact, unless some Democrat emerges as the uber-anti-Obama, most potential Democratic candidates will be dragging some heavy baggage. And they cannot make a claim that Obama did not do enough or go far enough. The 2014 midterms were a repudiation of that.
A further consideration is her age which some potential Republicans have been delicately alluding to recently ([mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] and Scott Walker). In fact, all the GOP names mentioned thus far are younger than the three most viable Democratic candidates by an average of 12 years. Personally, Hillary Clinton looks haggard at times and screams of “I’m back” to Hillary worshipers in Iowa cannot roll back the years.
The Arkansas senatorial race this year- a state where the Clintons still remain fairly popular- is an indication that the Clinton mystique and mojo have worn thin. This was a race that was supposed to go down to the wire, yet there was very little drama as Republican [mc_name name=’Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’C001095′ ] easily defeated the Clinton-backed incumbent, [mc_name name=’Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000590′ ]. In effect, you have what many political pundits are now calling “Clinton fatigue.”
Hillary Clinton’s time has come and past. Her best chance was in 2008 and bad campaigning in the primary and the prolonged battle against Obama took a toll on her. In effect, she reached her high years ago and peaked too soon. Unfortunately for her (and the Nation), Barack Obama stood in the way. I have no doubt that had she prevailed in the Democratic primaries and convention in 2008 she would have been the first female president and would have defeated [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ]. But Obama robbed her of eight valuable political years. Her best choice is to join her husband at the Clinton Foundation, shore up those family finances through over-priced speaking engagement fees, and play the role of doting grandmother. Because her time has passed, the best chance for a Republican victory in 2016 may just be to have Hillary Clinton as an opponent. In other words, run, Hillary, run.