Hillary's Dilemma

With Hillary Clinton’s anticipated video announcement of her candidacy for President, some recent articles have made the assumption that she is the future president of the United States.  That is, forget Election Day 2016; just mail in the presidency to her.  They base this on two items- the alleged built-in advantage for the Democratic Party in the Electoral College and group identity politics.  I have written recently in the past about the alleged Electoral College advantage and the so-called Blue Wall.  However, the “blue wall” is not insurmountable for the Republicans and several states the “experts” put in the Democratic camp are not really that blue.  While it may be difficult for a Republican, they can win.

The reason is that these experts like Cook and Rosenberg often base their state rankings on the past two presidential elections.  In 2008, it was a perfect storm- the first viable black candidate coupled with a financial crisis- that led to Obama’s large victory.  Along the way, McCain made some errors, most notable was the suspension of his campaign while he strode into Washington on his white horse amid that financial storm and… accomplished nothing!  In 2012, Mitt Romney, not exactly conducting the best campaign in US political history, made improvements on McCain’s performance (at least he won North Carolina).  Yet, if we go back three election cycles (or just over 10 years which takes in a greater period of electoral change), we find that the PVI ratings change somewhat.  If I were running a campaign strictly on the Cook PVI ratings, I would think that a state like Minnesota, Oregon and Washington were actually in play for the Republicans, or that a state like Georgia or Indiana was in play for the Democrats.  Minnesota has not voted for a Republican candidate since 1972.

The built-in advantages and the segmentation of the United States into blue, red and swing states is fine on a broad basis, but it fails to accurately predict outcomes in certain elections.  For example, until 2008, Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina were all counted as red states, but 8 years later they are swing states.

Leaving aside the so-called Electoral advantage, several articles note that Clinton could win back white and older voters while replacing the Obama advantage with minority and young voters with women voters.  That is, she could afford to lose minority votes because they would be made up for by female voters.  Hence, this analysis is based on the assumption that Hillary Clinton will, by virtue of being a woman,  overwhelmingly win the female vote in every swing state and that will carry her over the magic number of electoral votes.

We can look to 2008 when Clinton last ran and although she was not the eventual candidate, her performance against male counterparts in the New Hampshire election can give some indication of a test of this mainstream media theory.  Despite actually winning the New Hampshire primary, Clinton won only 46% of the female vote compared to a shared 49% between Barack Obama and John Edwards (with the remainder going elsewhere).  Thus although it was a primary, she failed to garner even 50% of the female vote.

Realizing that a general election campaign is much different, Clinton can expect to perform well among female voters but it depends on how far she wishes to push that envelope.  Many political analysts have noted the dichotomy of the female vote, especially in swing states.  Younger, single women gravitate towards the Democratic candidate while older, married women tend to vote Republican.  These most recent articles assume that because Clinton is an older white female, she will steal some of this Republican advantage with these voters.  If Clinton drifts too far from the ideals of older, married female voters who tend to be less pro-choice and more conservative in most matters- that is, if Clinton overplays the “reproductive rights” card or becomes too liberal in her outlook- that alleged advantage she may have will dissipate.  Considering that there is tremendous pressure on Clinton to move to the left from within her own party, the dynamics are potentially in action to implode on Clinton.

Most of the political analysis coming from the left is this unspoken belief that Clinton has the advantage because of her chromosomes.  Some analysis points to the fact that she built up a coalition of white, working class voters in states in the Upper Midwest and Pennsylvania that would thwart any Republican inroads there.  However, that was eight years ago and there are likely Republican candidates out there today- declared and undeclared- who will steal some of that thunder from Hillary.  These analysts are basing their assumptions on eight year old results and data ignorant of the possible appeal of Republican candidates.  For example, the oft-cited Clinton meme is about how she rose from humble beginnings to become a champion for the working class people.  Yet, look at the story of a Scott Walker who did the same and became a champion of the working class (that is, tax paying) people of Wisconsin at the expense of the teacher and public worker unions.  He is no less a champion of the working class than is Clinton.  He has the additional advantage of not having several homes scattered around the country while claiming poverty after leaving the White House.  And although the Left is trying to hang the Koch brothers around the neck of Walker, he does not have the well-documented ties to Wall Street or foreign donations to a foundation that Clinton has hanging around her neck.  And I am only using Scott Walker as an example, not necessarily assuming he will be the Republican candidate.

Furthermore, the roll-out of her announcement is strange to say the least.  It is also indicative of the fact that Hillary is still possibly beholden to the belief that there is the vast right wing conspiracy out to get her.  There is enough in her resume (or lack thereof) upon which to attack Clinton without the Right wing bogeyman conspiracy.  Considering she has a fawning press already in her corner, it seems odd that she would announce her candidacy via social media.  Perhaps she believes she is being cutting edge here, but this writer believes she is not quite ready for the huge spotlight that will inevitably fall upon her “campaign” once the honeymoon is over.  Some have speculated that she either wants to or does not want to overshadow a possible Rubio announcement on Monday.

If she wants to overshadow the Rubio announcement, then she is picking a strange way of doing it.  It would seem to me that by going this route she somewhat worries about a Rubio candidacy as a possible opponent in 2016.  If she wants Rubio to have the spotlight, then it indicates that she is not quite ready for prime time and there is some baggage that needs to be explained should it inevitably come up.  That is, despite her gender and all these alleged advantages built into a Hillary candidacy, there remains nagging questions that beg for answers- answers a Clinton campaign may not be ready to give.

The most disgusting aspect of all this is that she will, by virtue of being Hillary Clinton- the first viable female candidate for President-, get a free pass along the way.  She has that zone of protection around her of being female.  On the one hand, she is being portrayed as tough as nails, battle-tested, etc., yet one has to treat her with kid gloves because she is female lest one get labeled sexist.  It is the same bubble that surrounded Obama in 2008 except then the zone of protection was his race.  Yet rest assured, Clinton will play up that “first woman President” theme for all its worth which explains why she has recently made appearances at woman-centric functions.

The Democratic Party loves to be the party of firsts.  They had the first black President and would like nothing more than to have the first female President.  To hear some talk, [mc_name name=’Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’C001091′ ] is positioning himself for a possible Vice-Presidential position.  That would make the first Hispanic a heart beat away from President.  Again- a “first.”

Before that “first” can be achieved, there is another first that must be overcome.  It is difficult for the party in the White House to win three consecutive terms.  The last Democrat to do so after at least eight years of Democratic rule was Harry Truman.  The last Republican was George H.W. Bush in 1988 after eight years of Reagan.  The difference for Hillary is that there is no Republican equivalent of a Michael Dukakis this time out.