Hillary inevitability vs. GOP intransigence: Who wins?

We’ve reached the T-minus-19-months point in the 2016 presidential election cycle, so it’s inevitable that we have some declared candidates. On the GOP side so far, there’s:

  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose behavior when being interviewed seems to get stranger by the day. When he wasn’t shushing or interrupting female reporters, he was literally walking out of an interview with The Guardian when he was asked for specifics on a question. Pundits inside the Washington Beltway think no one outside of the nation’s capital is paying attention to these antics, but they are, and Americans seldom vote for someone for president who comes across like a jerk.
  • Speaking of coming across like a jerk, there’s Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whose sole accomplishment in his time in elective office has been to lead the charge to shut down the government in an attempt to repeal and defund the Affordable Care Act. Good thing he was eligible to sign up for Obamacare now that his wife is taking a leave of absence from her job and thus lost the family’s health insurance.
  • Today we have a new entrant: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who famously let his thirst get ahead of his political ambition when he gave the GOP response to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union message. The first-term Republican senator says he’s “uniquely qualified” to discuss the future. Maybe it’s unique when you once fully supported comprehensive immigration reform, even co-sponsoring a bill that passed the Senate by a wide majority, until you flip-flopped when you noticed that GOP primary voters hate that position. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz claimed that he “folded like a house of cards.”

Others are waiting in the clown-car wings: Presumed heavyweights like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Scott Walker. Also-rans like former Texas Gov. Rick Perry; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who seems to be ignoring every sign that voters just don’t like him any more; and Dr. Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon who told the National Rifle Association Convention that a gunshot wound to the head was “not nearly as horrible” as an abstract threat to gun rights. Oh, and Donald Trump, who claims he’s hired people in Iowa and must be looking for more money from NBC in a TV contract. What they all have in common is that, to them and their hard-core supporters, “compromise” is a dirty word.

On the Democratic side, we have Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Sure, there are some token opposition candidates, like former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who served as a Republican senator but is running as a Democrat. (It had to stick in his craw that Chafee had formed an exploratory committee and launched a website — and no one noticed.) Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vt.) also is considering a run on the Democratic side. Diehard liberals are still begging Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to get into the race. They can’t seem to take her repeated “No” for an answer.

Nope. Clinton, the former first lady, New York senator, and secretary of state, is it. At this time in 2007, she was called the inevitable candidate. Except when she wasn’t.

In February 2007, when the Obama campaign broke the news that he would announce his candidacy on a cold Saturday morning in Springfield, Ill., to evoke images of Abraham Lincoln, Clinton and her people released an ill-advised, hurried-looking video beforehand of Hillary announcing that she was “in it to win it.” No doubt her staff of highly paid advisers told her that was the best way to go. The contrast between Obama’s cheering crowds and Hillary’s living room was startling.

This time around, the video released on social media and at the campaign website shows a cross section of America — old, young, gay, straight, white, black, Hispanic. And the majority of those in the video — all real people, unlike the actors in some campaign ads — are women. It’s all about “getting ready” to do something new. When Clinton finally makes an appearance 90 seconds into the video, she’s already shown you the kind of people she cares about. She delivers a populist message about income inequality, saying she wants to help folks get ahead. Republicans really can’t make that claim; up until now, they say they want to help people but they’ve mostly just been ranting.

Which Hillary Clinton will run this election cycle? She’s dumped the high-priced Mark Penn model of campaign adviser and instead gone with some old and new faces: John Podesta, who served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, and several people from the successful Obama campaigns.

In an opinion piece on Talking Points Memo, Amanda Marcotte wonders if we’ll get the badass Hillary or the soccer mom Hillary. She’s hoping for the former, the image of Hillary wearing dark sunglasses sending snarky tweets. A Tumblr site from 2012 called Texts from Hillary gave us multiple examples of a secretary of state with serious attitude. Marcotte says the Hillary of 2008 failed because she was trying to be too “nice” in pastel pantsuits.

The campaign roll-out so far is neither. A candidate who says “Everyday Americans need a champion. I want to be that champion” is neither a badass nor an out-of-date soccer mom. She says she wants to earn our votes.

Some pundits say she will be a weaker candidate because of the lack of a tough primary. Personally, I think she got plenty toughened last time around.

The coming months will bring endless loops about email accounts, Benghazi, and who can be toughest in foreign policy. The media seem to delight in calling Clinton a “polarizing” figure. (A question: Who’s doing the polarizing, with repeated reporting like that?) There certainly are Hillary-haters out there, but how is she more polarizing to the country than a slew of GOP candidates on the less-popular side of nearly every issue?

Polls are meaningless right now. Let’s see all the candidates try to earn our votes and speak to the future.

 

 

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