Democrats in all circles assure the media that Hillary Clinton is the odds on favorite for the Democrat presidential nomination in 2016. Yet, enthusiasm from the grassroots left is awfully hard to come by.
That’s exactly what they would have said ahead of 2008, though it was not to be. A summer 2006 blog post by Daily Kos didn’t even mention Barack Obama as a potentially serious challenger, but he won the long fight.
CNN has a rundown of her advantages and pitfalls in 2016, starting with Iowa. Is it her turn now? The Gods seem to favor her, but certain potential obstacles are clear.
Here are a few:
“You’re likable enough, Hillary.”
Though Senator Obama faced a backlash for the sexist dismissal among women, he articulated a real drawback to Clinton’s former candidacy. She was feared, even respected, but rarely liked. Supporters lauded her as capable, tough, a fighter. But not likeable. Obama surely was that, and voters preferred to hang out with him over Hillary.
2008 highlighted the Clinton penchant for fearing potential allies into toeing the line, but only for a finite time. As Obama proved he could win races, supporters began to waver. The trickle turned into a flood by March and that was match, set, game.
No more surprises
The Clinton campaign made mind boggling mistakes, Chief among them ignoring the Caucus states and presuming all of California’s delegates would be for Hillary (the California primary was not, as Mark Penn thought, winner-take-all). The Clinton campaign had neither money nor ground operations sufficient for post-Super Tuesday races and it showed. She went on to lose 12 straight primaries, tipping the race forever in Obama’s favor. Clinton can’t make those mistakes this time.
Brian Schweitzer has to go
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer could out-Clinton the Clintons by cracking Hillary’s left flank while at the same time appearing as the pragmatic outsider that red state voters love. Schweitzer is a real in-Party threat in Iowa and across the Heartland if he can get them to hear his message. While an awful candidate on paper, he is symptomatic of Hillary’s problems on the grassroots left and populist center-left.
Save Jeanne Shaheen & Maggie Hassan at all costs
New Hampshire saved both Bill and Hillary’s hides before (1992 and 2008), and if things go as poorly in January again this time, she will count on old friend Jeanne Shaheen and state Party Brass to throw a life preserver yet again.
Jeanne Shaheen and Governor Maggie Hassan were big Hillary Clinton supporters back when. Hillary and Bill both returned the favor by campaigning for their Democrat friends in their own tough election fights. That might not matter if they all get swept out of office and replaced by up and comers who don’t owe the Clintons any favors. Or, worse (for Hillary) yet, get replaced by Republicans. Hillary needs behind-the-scenes support and angling for her candidacy as much as she did 6 years ago.
It’s not over yet
If Hillary Clinton can thread a very delicate needle by shoring up her left-wing bona fides without turning off swing voters, she has a real shot at the nomination in 2016. If not, another Obama may be rapidly approaching in the left rear view mirror.
Even if Hillary comes out and falters early, don’t rule out a comeback. After all, Hillary won 9 of the final 15 races in the 2008 primary. Finding her populist voice, Clinton cobbled together a base of working class whites, Hispanics and women that Obama iced out with his cool rhetoric and questionable background.
It was enough to breathe a second life into the 2008 campaign, but that life came too late. Hillary can’t afford a Weekend-at-Bernie’s campaign this time around.