Now that the 2014 midterms are over, it is – of course – off to the races for 2016. I find myself amused by a lot of the advice that Hillary Clinton is getting about how to position herself for another presidential run.
For example, Dylan Scott suggests that Sec. Clinton faces a dilemma between distancing herself from President Obama or appealing to what has become known as “the Obama coalition.”
They are of course linked: If Obama is unpopular, a Clinton campaign will be tempted to present a sharp contrast. At the same time, the President will likely remain popular with the core Democratic base that she needs to harness. But the record tells us that, however the Obama presidency is faring like in its final months, it’s going to influence his aspiring successor’s White House ambitions.
Former Clinton staffers Douglas Schoen and Patrick Caddell make no bones about where they come down on that one. They weigh in with: Obama is Damaging Hillary’s Chances.
I am reminded of the fact that Vice President Al Gore faced the same dilemma when he decided to run in 2000. President Bill Clinton had actually been impeached by the House of Representatives and it was unclear whether his involvement in a Gore campaign would help or hurt. As we all know now, Gore chose to position himself by staying mum on the issue and left one of his most effective allies on the sidelines.
What I think Hillary Clinton could learn from all of this is to avoid the whole idea of positioning yourself based on how the electorate might react. An awful lot of us cringed at the lack of authenticity in Al Gore’s presidential campaign. That’s why – whether they were true or not – stories about advice he got from Naomi Wolf about being a “beta male” rang true. And when, in 2003, Gore let loose of all that and gave a barn-burner speech on how the Bush administration was trampling on civil liberties, we all wondered “Where was this guy in 2000?”
Of course running a presidential campaign requires positioning. But rather than catering to what someone thinks the electorate wants to hear, it has to be based on an answer to the question “Who is this candidate?” Looking back on how she ran in 2008, I’m not sure that Hillary Clinton has answered that question. That was highlighted by the fact that some people even thought that the tears she shed on the trail in New Hampshire were contrived.
If Hillary Clinton can find her core and speak to us from that place, she can toss out all the advice she’s getting from folks about how to position herself vis a vis President Obama and his coalition. Whether or not she can do that…we’ll see.