The Clinton era

THE CLINTON ERA…. The LA Times had an item yesterday about Terry McAuliffe’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in Virginia, and the headline read, “Does McAuliffe’s loss cap end of the Clinton machine?”

[T]o many, some with more glee than others, the McAuliffe loss is the last nail in the coffin to the Clinton machine that once catapulted a little-known governor from Arkansas and his Ivy League-educated, ambitious wife into the White House.

The gratuitous shot at Hillary Clinton notwithstanding, I feel like I’ve been seeing quite a few reports of late about McAuliffe’s campaign representing the end of the Clinton era. On Saturday, Fred Barnes had a Wall Street Journal item with a headline that read, “Clintonism Goes Down in Virginia.” The Hotline told readers last week, “McAuliffe Loss Wraps Clinton Era.” Ben Smith added, “The McAuliffe loss will be seen (rightly, mostly) as an echo of the Clinton loss and another blow to the Clinton brand.”

I tend to think this is all a bit much. Yes, McAuliffe was a close Clinton ally who enjoyed the former president’s support during the Virginia primary, and if one wanted to argue that Bill Clinton’s endorsement may not carry as much weight in 2009 as it did in 1999, there’s certainly a compelling case to be made.

But while some in the media are looking at Clinton and his former team as a thing of the past, I see ample evidence to the contrary. Hillary Clinton, for example, is the Secretary of State. Rahm Emanuel is the White House chief of staff. Larry Summers has a very large role helping shape the president’s economic agenda. The Center for American Progress is serving as something of a farm team for the Obama White House, and CAP is run by John Podesta (who, not incidentally, oversaw the transition).

Indeed, evaluating the relevance of the Clinton legacy through the McAuliffe campaign seems like a bad idea in the first place. Candidates win and lose for all kinds of reasons, most of which are completely unrelated to the administration they may have served in. Chris Christie is doing fairly well in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race, for example, but if he wins, it’s hardly evidence that the “Bush era” is thriving. Robert Gates is still at the Pentagon, but this doesn’t have any bearing on the “Bush brand.”