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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Hillary Clinton Seasoned and Ready for 2016

The American Prospect’s Paul Waldman mulls over the impact of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy on both Democrats and Republicans and comes up with some interesting insights:

…Hillary Clinton was the candidate of liberals’ heads, while Barack Obama became the candidate of their hearts. He may not have had a résumé as lengthy as hers or quite the stamina for endless policy discussion that she had, but he could stir voters’ souls and offer them the promise of transformation. She, on the other hand, offered something much more grounded, even a little grim. “Making change is not about what you believe,” she said during one debate. “It’s not about a speech you make. It’s about working hard.” It was a realistic and accurate assessment, but not exactly one to make you flush with excitement.
And as she moves toward another presidential candidacy, Clinton’s appeal for Democrats is still to the head. She won’t be an ideological warrior and she may not put a catch in your throat with soaring rhetoric, but she’s smart, competent, and experienced. You don’t have to love her, you just have to hire her.

No doubt there are plenty of Democrats and some swing voters who are thrilled and inspired by the possibility of Clinton’s candidacy, while acknowledging that speech delivery is not her strong card. But Waldman’s point about Clinton’s work ethic is a good one. No Republican is going to out-work Hillary Clinton. She is a battle-tested warhorse who has taken the worst her adversaries have thrown at her and emerged stronger and more appealing than ever. And she drives the Republicans nuts, as Waldman explains:

For Republicans, on the other hand, Clinton is most emphatically a candidate of the heart. They may be able to come up with more than enough rational reasons to oppose her, but their feelings are powerful and primal. It took a while for Republicans to work up an intense dislike of Barack Obama; in fact, when he first emerged, conservatives were falling all over themselves to praise him. But Hillary Clinton comes pre-loathed.
The hatred (and that isn’t too strong a word to use) many conservatives feel toward Clinton could be one of her greatest assets should she become the Democratic nominee. As far as they’re concerned, her record as a center-left Democrat–the very thing that gives so many liberals pause–is but a ruse concealing a radical agenda, to be revealed when she takes office and casts aside the cloak of moderation she has worn for two decades. As is so often the case when we truly detest a political figure, they are convinced that nothing she says is sincere, and no position, no matter how long-held, is the product of anything but the most cynical political calculation.

The conservative ideologues hate President Obama on a visceral level, and after the briefest of honeymoons, openly declared all-out war on everything he did. He wasn’t quite ready for the level of unprecedented abuse he had to endure. But he has handled himself with impressive grace, even though he was naive about prospects for bipartisanship for too long. You could also argue that he has played his hand about as well as he could.
Clinton will have a unique advantage if she runs and gets elected, because she has already taken an incredible amount of abuse and vilification, and she is as tough as any Democrat. The ascending bigots in the Republican Party will fight ugly, as many of them did with Obama. But she will have the seasoning to handle whatever they hurl at her, plus she will know her opposition better after watching their antics throughout the Obama Administration. As Waldman concludes,

As for Clinton, she may be a better candidate than she was in 2008, but she can’t be a wholly different one. She’ll demonstrate her deep knowledge of policy both foreign and domestic. She’ll be a tireless campaigner. Her speeches will be thoughtful and thorough, delivered well enough to make you say, “That was good,” even if you don’t have to wipe away any tears…Like every other candidate, Hillary Clinton is who she is, for both better and worse. She may not make your spirit soar. But she probably won’t have to.

Clinton still bristles under media scrutiny occasionally, though she handles criticism with more grace and humor nowadays. No doubt her temperament will gain further polish and wisdom in the months ahead. Democrats haven’t had a better-prepared candidate since FDR’s third campaign. The Republicans know it, and they have good reason to be worried. Her nomination and election are not a sure thing, contrary to prevailing media wisdom. Much depends on the economic recovery leading up to November, 2016 and other wild cards. But she is looking stronger every day.

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