Now that she is officially in and the presumptive front runner for the Democratic nomination and the actual Presidency, the Republican Party should begin a coordinated effort towards her defeat. The stakes in 2016 are enormous for this country. Leaving aside the obvious “first woman President” meme, there is work to be done that can tear down the Clinton mystique and alleged built-in electoral advantages. Opposition research analysts should be working overtime right now following her every move, filming her every appearance, documenting her every step for general election fodder.
It would not hurt to gently tear her down before a general election campaign even begins in 2016. There is enough in her resume, or lack thereof, from which to choose. Additionally, there is tremendous pressure from her own party pushing her to the left on several issues. The whole strategy starts with one thing the GOP has in its favor- greater than 50% of the electorate warily views anything “big-” especially big government. It is also true that three in four show disfavor with Congress which, with all due respect, I believe places Cruz, Paul and Rubio at a disadvantage.
So, what would this strategy against Clinton look like?
1. Take advantage of anti-big government. Assuming Clinton moves even slightly to the left, the GOP should illustrate in basic terms what this will cost the American voter. Does she support Obama’s war on coal even it means your electric or heating bill increases 20%? How does this narrow the income inequality gap with working class people? Does she support Obamacare even if it means you cannot keep your doctor or you see you see your premiums increasing albeit at a slower rate? After all, that is less expendable income for the average family with or without a government subsidy. What does she mean when she says “it takes a village to raise a child?” Is she suggesting parents should abrogate their child-rearing duties to government? At every juncture and with the roll-out of every policy paper, speech and announcement, the Republicans must be ready with facts and figures showing what any Clinton policy would cost the individual in money, or in expanding the federal government. And then force her to justify those positions relentlessly.
2. Keep the negatives in the forefront. There are a lot of negatives in Clinton’s past. She has also shown a tendency to wilt under relentless pressure. Start with the most recent and move backwards, but remember she, not Bill Clinton, is running for President. Despite his piggish nature, he remains a fairly popular figure so let’s leave talk about Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones and Whitewater out of the conversation. Instead, what about that poverty claim after leaving the White House in 2001? How does that square with your several homes throughout the country? How can she claim the mantle of being for the working class when she’s never done manual labor in the past? What exactly does she consider her biggest accomplishment as Secretary of State? As a Senator? As First Lady? A good campaign advertisement would be replaying “What difference does it make?” for every policy position she puts out there. Fact is she is just another white elitist liberal hack with nothing in common with working people.
3. Obfuscate and feint. The eventual Republican candidate should stick to the issues with a wink and nod and occasionally drop some Hillary Clinton-associated “scandal.” For example, if the subject of foreign policy comes up, simply drop the word “Benghazi” somewhere in the answer. If someone’s ethical principles come up, drop the phrase “Clinton Foundation” in there. If character is the point of a question, simply mention “private e-mails” as Secretary of State. There may very well be nothing of substance in Clinton’s handling of Benghazi or her record as Secretary of State, but reality is not the purpose: the perception is what is important. Keep her on the defensive because eventually she will shriek, yet stay above the fray yourself. It worked for Obama in the 2008 primaries after all.
4. However, use your attack dogs. There is a certain segment of the population to which the red meat of attacks does resonate. Without going over the line, it is important that these attack dogs- conservative talk radio, websites, think tanks- are unleashed against Clinton. The key is to (1) not cross over the line, (2) have the GOP candidate disavow potentially incendiary commentary while obfuscating and feinting, and (3) stealing the thunder from Hillary Clinton. Every day she has to respond to these attacks is one less day she gets her message out. If you are lucky, she’ll pull the right wing conspiracy card out of her sleeve and appear paranoid. Test the limits of that female protective bubble she has around her candidacy.
5. The “new face” strategy. With any luck, Jeb Bush will NOT be the Republican candidate come 2016. By eliminating Bush, the GOP can claim that they are endorsing a new face with new ideas. Clinton must be portrayed as an older face of politics and the emphasis must be that the country must move on with a new breed and generation of leaders.
6. Obama! Obama! Obama! And that means tying her to Barack Obama. This will be tricky since it is dependent on Obama’s approval ratings as the election nears. However, in every area of foreign policy, Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State must be portrayed as laying the seeds of current and future crises. She can distance herself from unpopular Obama domestic policy somewhat, but stress those unpopular policies, force Clinton to definitively defend or denounce those policies and then provide the link that by not being a “new face,” four or eight years of Clinton would be 4-8 more years of Obama.
7. Stress age. I hate to say this but ageism could be a powerful tool, especially if the GOP candidate appeals to a younger generation of voters. A candidate could simply say, “Maybe Hillary’s time was in 2008…” or stress the fact that the GOP envisions a different future of America. Stress the future, but then tie Clinton to the past by virtue of her resume and age. Despite the alleged advantage she has with women voters, there are some of these very same females who question her age which likely explains why people like Warren and Gillibrand are sometimes mentioned not only as ideological foibles to Clinton, but also younger ones. When asked, simply say: “They said the same thing about Reagan and he was a fine President. I’m more concerned with the fact that Clinton represents the past, not with her age.” In this way, you lay the seeds of doubt regarding her age while not appearing ageist.
8. Portray her as out of the mainstream. People mistrust government, especially big government. How can electing Hillary Clinton- a champion of big government (“villages raising kids,” Hillarycare, etc.)- be trusted, especially since she is a face from the past? Use the intellectual expertise of conservative think tanks to tear down her policy solutions and use conservative voices to tear down her public persona without going over the line. Portray Clinton as the candidate of a bigger and more intrusive federal government.
9. Women, women women. There will certainly be a segment of the American electorate who will vote for Clinton because she is a woman and only for that reason. But if that is all she has going for her, then maybe we SHOULD bring back literacy tests to vote. Stress the silliness of that selling point. It may even motivate some people to vote against her in a reactionary fashion.
10. Don’t screw up. This is the most important aspect to a winning campaign. Obviously, don’t get caught on tape saying something that could be considered disparaging to any segment of the population. This can be best achieved by portraying your policies as helping ALL Americans, not just women…or Hispanics…or blacks…or anything else. Stress the inherent greatness of the United States and equality of opportunity, not equality of results. Better yet, just do not say anything disparaging. We have lived through eight years of Obama disparaging the country or segments of the population or religions; we need to show the difference between them and us and that it is time to move on and Clinton is not “moving on.” And for crying out loud, don’t pull a Todd Akin and fall for those “gotcha” questions that stray far off the task. When they inevitably bring up the Koch brothers, ask “Is that anything like the vast right wing conspiracy?” or “Are they anything like George Soros?” Turn the tables and move on. You are going to be criticized either way so its better to be criticized while planting seeds of doubt about Clinton. The goal is not to win points with the media but to defeat Clinton.