What’s next for Hillary Clinton in 2014 and beyond

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. This is the year of the midterm elections in the U.S. It is clear that Clintons will be part of the campaign. How important is this year for Hillary to build even further a solid base for her presumably presidential ambitions?

2. What is the chance that it might be Hillary against VPOTUS Joe Biden in primaries? Could Biden be her biggest competitor or she should be afraid also of the others Democrats, maybe a younger generation as with Hillary and Biden for Dems it would be step back from Obama’s generation to older generation?

Answers:

Diana Carlin, Associate Vice President for Graduate Education & International Initiatives, Professor of Communication, Saint Louis University

1. If Hillary runs again, the efforts she makes to raise funds and campaign for potential members of Congress will help her in several ways. First, it will maintain her visibility without having to officially campaign for president. Second, she will help ensure the loyalty of those who are elected  to help with her campaign and for working with her if she is elected. Third, if she can help deliver a Democrat majority to Obama, it helps her chances of winning in a general election. If Obama ends his tenure with several positive major accomplishments by virtue of having Democrat control of both houses of Congress, Democrats will have better control of the narrative coming out of DC and the public may be less inclined to switch parties at the top. Fourth, it’s been 8 years since she started her last campaign and this will give her an opportunity to meet the new generation of state party leaders and journalists. Finally, she can test some messages about what is happening in Washington to see how they would play for her own campaign.

2. The Iowa caucuses are 2 years away and that is multiple political lifetimes. No one knows what the economy will do in the next 12 months, what foreign policy crises will occur, or if Obamacare will be declared a great success. The uncertainties are numerous and all have potential to derail or help any candidate or suggest a distinct advantage for one party over the other. So anyone who has a prediction for which he or she is confident, is probably a little crazy. That said, if Biden were to run, he has several things working against him. One is that current polling shows Clinton ahead of Biden 5-1. That gap is hard to make up and makes it difficult to raise money. Second is his age–he would be 74 at general election time and that is likely to be perceived as stepping back a generation. Finally, if the Obama administration is in a weak position after the mid-terms, he would spend most of his time defending the Obama administration and not proposing what the Biden administration would look like. While Clinton was part of the Obama administration, she has the advantage of not being part of the second term and could more easily distance herself.

As for a “wild card” opponent who could have the appeal of freshness and campaign savvy similar to Obama in 2008, anything is possible. Some are suggesting that Elizabeth Warren, the freshman Senator from Massachusetts is potentially that person, but her experience will be even less than that of Obama’s and is likely to be difficult to sell. The bottom line is that the voters and not people such as me will make the decisions.

Matthew Eshbaugh-SohaAssistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Texas

1. You  hit on a very important point here.  The campaign for a presidential nomination, one might say, is divided into three parts.  First, and most obviously, are the primaries and caucuses that candidates formally campaign and vie for votes in.  This begins the year of the presidential election, usually in early to mid-January.  Second, is what we call the invisible primary, the efforts by candidates to raise money, generate news coverage, and participate in debates the year before the presidential election.  But third is a more behind the scenes stage, what you identify as the midterm elections year, and where candidates might attempt to build support for their candidacy.  I am not aware of potential nominees campaigning for midterm candidates, so I would not expect Hillary Clinton to be out there stumping for different candidates.  But it is not unheard of for a candidate to headline a fundraiser, associated with other midterm candidates, to bolster support, draw more interest and, therefore, raise more money.  Ted Cruz (a possible Republican candidate) is headlining a fundraiser here in Denton County Texas.  It’s a big draw and would be very similar to something that we’d see H Clinton do.  It’s not as out in the open, but everyone knows that this is to help build support, raise money (for the party, themselves, others), and test the waters.  Indeed, candidates have to begin cultivating all of these ties earlier than a midterm elections year if they expect to be competitive during the invisible and actual presidential primaries.

2. Right now, it certainly appears as if Biden and Clinton will run.  Biden gets the sitting veep nod, which has helped others; but Clinton has done better in previous contests.  Biden has the resources of the White House and we might just see him stumping more formally for candidates in the fall, much as Obama will in a smattering of races.    I am not sure that I would make an older v younger generational divide here in terms of the differences between Clinton and Biden.  I think Biden has a lot to make up for, and given previously poor showings in primaries, he certainly does not have the expected vote share that Clinton will have.  If Clinton is the presumptive front runner (still too early), remember that she was also the front runner in 2008.  This time, the question may very well be whether she can be knocked from that pillar.  She was on the wrong side of “change” in 2008.  Is there something else that might dislodge her?  If it is change (which is unlikely), it is not going to be Biden.

It should be a competitive contest and perhaps, Biden is like Bush in 1988.  I still give the edge to Clinton, mainly because there are a number of Dems who voted for her in 2008 and many Obama supporters likely would have also supported her in 2008 if Obama were not in the race.

David McCuanAssistant Professor of Political Science, Sonoma State University

Let’s begin with some fundamentals rules first as we head into the 2014-2016 election period.  First, the second midterm of a president is historically the largest loss for the incumbent party.  In typical elections of the past, 2014 should be a year where Democrats get clobbered as is usually the case in midterm elections.  This is especially the case in a President’s SECOND midterm election.  However, in 1998, President Bill Clinton, in the midst of the Lewinsky scandal, Democrats actually gained House seats though not enough to re-take the House which the GOP won in 1994.  In 2002, the first midterm election after the tragedy of 9/11, the incumbent presidential party, under President Bush, also won seats in that midterm election.

In general, though, midterms are all about in-party loss as a function of economic prosperity – the pocketbook – and presidential popularity.  What can affect this includes the “map” of geography and demographics where the GOP faces some structural advantages in US Senate races and the basic status quo in US House races.

However, IF Democrats can nationalize the race – this is where the Clintons come in – and the Obama presidential campaign machine can muster up that emerging electorate that typically shows up in presidential elections, Democrats might be able to blunt GOP gains.  The usual momentum though is with the out-party.

The other general rule in modern electoral American politics is that it is really, really hard for a party to win the presidency three times in a row.  But the Clintons, like Obama, are a brand that may transcend partisanship in our politics today.

So, the Clinton team of Hillary and Bill can build together that brand so critical to 2016.  She’ll stay largely out of the fray during primaries while she completes her memoir but by late summer into the early fall – during the height of the November 2014 elections – she’ll be out on the trail and peddling the book…while also appearing for candidates in close races and re-building the team of alliances, resources, and endorsements that could be helpful for momentum in 2016.  And, oh yes…she’ll have a secret weapon with her at times and at other times not – former President Bill Clinton.

2. The other key macro event in American politics is the broader change among the electorate.  The “emerging electorate” is battling against the “exclusive electorate.”  This newer electorate is much different from the traditional electorate and this divide is reflected in how each party reaches out to a newer, younger generation of voters.  At base, the Vice-President and former Secretary/Senator/First Lady Clinton will NOT match up one to one.  Any threat to Hillary Clinton will come from the left or the wing of the party that sees her as representative of a Democratic Establishment – but that threat is not likely to derail her this time out.

What will be interesting to watch is the degree to which she takes positions on key issues of the day – Syria, Iran, engagement with China and Russia, and so on, over the next 12 to 14 months.  She has been largely silent on many recent issues of the day…what does she say and do about income inequality for example?  All of these public pronouncements will be made with an eye towards testing themes and messages related to a 2016 run for the White House – a run that she has not formally said she is doing yet.  Keep an eye out on these developments over the course of 2014.

William Benoit, Professor, School of Communication Studies, Ohio University

I don’t know if you follow American college football.  In August, the top two teams in preseason polls were Alabama and Ohio State.  If I had been asked then who was likely to play for the national title, I would have guessed them.  As it turns out, neither team was in the championship game (Florida State, Auburn).  I say this because it is very early days.  Unexpected things could happen.  But, if I had to guess who would be the leading Democratic candidates during the 2016 presidential primary, I would guess Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

1. The presidential campaign has already started (although it consists mostly of fund-raising and low-key support building).  It is important for every candidate (including Hillary and Joe) to build the most solid base possible.  I do not think it is possible (or that politicians would think it was possible) to have a base that is too solid, even at this point in time.

2. As I suggested above, the best wager I could make would be that Hillary and Joe would be the front-runners.  Hillary has a great base of support.  Biden has some support and I think he’s done fairly well as a VP so far, which can’t hurt him.  But unexpected things happen — scandals arise, gaffes are made, and so forth — so if I made a bet on Hillary and Joe I wouldn’t wager more than I could easily afford to lose.  He is probably the other eligible Democrat (Bill Clinton can’t run again, for example) with the most potential, but he is not perfect (being blunt, which Biden is, is probably less a problem for a VP than a P) and as you suggest neither Hillary nor Joe is as young as some other Democrats.

Mark RozellProfessor of Public Policy, George Mason University

1. The midterms are an important time for aspiring presidential candidates to provide campaign assistance to party candidates and collect political IOUs. Hilary Clinton will be the most in demand of any Democrat this year by the party’s congressional candidates. Except perhaps the president, no one can match her ability to draw attention to the campaign and hold successful fund-raisers. The more she gets out and helps her party’s candidates in this year’s elections, the harder it will be for any Democrat to challenge her in 2016.

2. Biden may not run if Hilary Clinton enters the nomination race. He may conclude it is futile to try to defeat her.

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