Today on ABC’s This Week, Republican consultant Alex Castellanos made a frighteningly good point in Republican nominee Donald Trump’s favor: two thirds of people say the country is on the wrong track – and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is the candidate of status quo.
The Democrats on the panel mostly argued: yeah, but Trump is so extreme that he’s not a legitimate vessel for that anger.
Conversely, the assumption is that Clinton can’t possibly be the candidate of change because she is and must be largely supportive of President Obama.
No one responded with a depiction of reality: that Congress has been the obstacle to change for six years. That’s not even a partisan statement. That’s been the self-described role of Congressional Republicans.
Despite all the attention that Harry Truman got for running against a do-nothing Congress, it’s not an easy thing to do. People tend to think the President is responsible for everything so blaming Congress sounds like excuse-making. Obama tried it a bit in 2014 with little success.
But if it could ever work, it’s now. The most recent Economist/YouGov poll reported a 9% approval for Congress among registered voters. It is literally the most unpopular Congress in the history of polling. Clinton can make the attack more effectively than Obama, because it won’t sound as much like blame-shifting.
In addition, she can focus on specific elements of change that Congress blocked – infrastructure spending, ending tax breaks for corporate off-shoring, rehiring teachers, police officers and firefighters.
The temptation will be to focus on the unusually noxious personality and character of Donald Trump. Hard to argue with that as a strategy. But if the election becomes about change vs. more of the same, Clinton is highly vulnerable if she’s the status quo candidate.