Obama, Hillary, and the Inevitable Break
Over at the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar has an interesting piece “Obama is Setting up Hillary Clinton to Fail” (read it there).
Kraushaar’s article makes the interesting point about President Obama’s poll numbers and their disconnect from the otherwise negative response to the issues at the forefront of the President’s State of the Union agenda. Largely, these policy moves find their inception in the fact that the President no longer has to deal with the possibility of an election referendum on his policies.
Now, you might be saying that 2016 will certainly be a check on the American people’s response to the President’s policies. While this is certainly true if President Obama were running for re-election, or even in a midterm election, this same pattern does not hold true when there is another force at the helm. While the President is still the titular head of the Party, the mantle will be taken up by the presumptive nominee for the 2016 election. As there is only one horse in the race right now, the leadership will pass to Ms. Clinton at the beginning of the 2016 presidential season.
Mr. Kraushaar’s point regarding President Obama’s push to the left being a stumbling block for Ms. Clinton is correct in the short-term but likely anything but an impediment in the long term. In the short-term, Ms. Clinton will have to strike a conciliatory tone with the Administration in order to garner support from the loose coalition that brought Mr. Obama to power despite a lack of enthusiasm for his policies. Ms. Clinton cannot, especially as the only contender for the crown, show herself as breaking off from the Party and criticizing the sitting President. In a way, this is where Ms. Clinton would benefit significantly from a primary challenger or two. Rather than simply define her positions, she would be able to chart a course of nuance without making an absolute break from Mr. Obama.
In the long-term, to the contrary of the pitfalls of Mr. Obama’s policies’ unpopularity, Ms. Clinton stands to benefit. In 2016, Republicans will have to defend up to nine Senate seats in danger of flipping (along with all the other seats up for grabs). This is largely due to the Tea Party class coming up for reelection. Thus, the Democratic Party will have numerous candidates moving away from the President and running towards the center to show that, first, they are the moderate alternative to the “whacky” Tea Party alternative, and, second, that they are not liberal clones of the President.
On the national scale, Ms. Clinton is likely to embrace the same model as these Senatorial challengers. Ms. Clinton will, undoubtedly, like her husband, move towards the center. Already dogged by her perceived foreign policy weakness as Secretary of State, Ms. Clinton will be forced to take a hawkish stance. You can also expect Ms. Clinton to propose slight changes to the Affordable Care Act as an overture to business leaders. Thus, Ms. Clinton will likely benefit from an Obama movement to the left as she will be able to run as a middle-of-the-road candidate.
Mr. Kraushaar’s article is correct, though, that there is a real problem for Ms. Clinton in the rollout of her campaign when she still needs to appear in the good graces of the Administration while not being caught in its wake.