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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

There is No Common “Clinton Strategy” For 1992 and 2016

I’m not sure I can recall a major Newspaper of Record piece of political analysis that was shot down more quickly and more overwhelmingly than last weekend’s New York Times piece by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman giving vent to red-state Democratic complaints that Hillary Clinton had spurned the family tradition by focusing on Obama Coalition voters. The fact that these complaints were echoed by Ron Fournier and David Brooks undermined them even more.
I added my two cents at the Washington Monthly after a lot of other critiques had appeared:

Unlike some bashers, I didn’t spend the Clinton years arguing that a “middle-out” strategy of the sort Joe Manchin wants HRC to pursue was a treasonous alternative to the “base-in” strategy that Obama more or less adopted in 2012. What Bill Clinton did made perfect sense for 1992 and 1996. It might have even worked for Al Gore in 2000 had he chosen one approach instead of alternating back-and-forth between defending the Clinton-Gore record and championing “the people versus the powerful.”
That was then and this is now, and as Nancy LeTourneau pointed out yesterday, the idea that the “Clinton strategy” puts more electoral votes in play than the “Obama strategy” is dubious to begin with. What do you think is a safer electoral vote strategy: one that concedes Kentucky and West Virginia, or one in which California has to be defended?
As for downballot support, I hate to be cynical about it, but by election day 2016 the only thing surer than red-state Democratic demands for more national money will be red-state demands that HRC keep the hell away from the campaigns of red-state Democrats.
Candidates hunt where the ducks are. The planted axiom of the Times piece is that somehow “America” should be identified with swing voters, no matter how scarce or numerous they are. That’s based in part on the entirely erroneous impression that a candidate who “reaches out” to voters beyond her or his “base” is going to face a more reasonable opposition. The experience of Barack Obama in the first two years of his first term is proof positive against that proposition, for the time being. The only thing that is going to produce a more reasonable opposition is another couple of general election beatings.
Truth is we wouldn’t be having this argument if HRC had a different last name. We’re supposed to believe there is some sort of “Clinton strategy” to which she should be loyal whether it makes any sense or not, 20 years after the last time Bill Clinton appeared on any ballot. I’m tempted to say it would be nice if the Big Dog himself took to the Times op-ed pages and knocked this down for good. But that would just perpetuate the notion HRC’s campaign belongs to her husband, and is best run as a wayback machine.

Even Jeb Bush knows that re-running an old campaign doesn’t work, now that his emulation of his brother’s steamroller Invisible Primary campaign of 1999 has not made him a strong, or even a weak, front-runner.

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