There are two conclusions to be drawn from this week’s rollout of Hillary Clinton’s latest memoir, Hard Choices, and the muscular media blitz surrounding it. The first is--of course she is running for president in 2016--and the second is that she has to run.
“I’m going to decide when it feels right for me to decide,” Clinton told ABC’s Diane Sawyer. It’s “probably likely” that an announcement won’t come until next year, she said.
Still, she shrugged off the notion that she is freezing out the rest of the prospective Democratic field. “People can do whatever they choose to do on whatever timetable they decide,” she said.
Yet those others don’t have an army of strategists and Super PACs at the ready. They can’t get an $8 million book advance and weeks of big media interviews. They aren’t invited to private lunches with President Obama.
Whining about Clinton’s unprecedented advantage isn’t going to help – and at least one of those thinking about the 2016 race despite Clinton’s lopsided advantage says she has a point.
“I think this is silly,” former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer said in an interview. “The election is well off into the future. I can see why one would organize a few months in advance in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Beyond that, what you’re doing if you’re raising money right now is just spending money on staff so they can send emails to each other.”
When it comes to Hillaryland, money is no object. The question is what would it take for her to stop running? Even late-night TV hosts are in on the secret that isn’t secret.
“Hillary Clinton wants to put off presidential plans so she can travel,” Jimmy Fallon said in a playful tweet. “When asked where, she said: ‘New Hampshire, Iowa, Florida.’”
Pro-Hillary Super PACs are already standing by, waiting for her official announcement. “Ready for Hillary” is one of them. Its website reads, “We need to show Hillary that if she decides to run, she'll have a grassroots army behind her.” Another pro-Clinton group, “Correct the Record,” was launched by Democratic Super PAC American Bridge. While not yet collecting money directly in her name, these PACs are undoubtedly waiting to funnel big bucks in her direction.
The former New York senator and top diplomat also has favorability in her arsenal, at least right now. A new Washington Post-ABC poll shows 7 in 10 Democrats want Hillary to be their candidate. So unless lightning strikes, any Democratic challenger to Clinton has to know the chances of winning are slim, at best.
Of course, Hillary was the “inevitable” candidate in 2008 before the little-known Barack Obama stole the show – which must be a thought running through the minds of potential Hillary competitors. But so far, no credible challenger has emerged.
Last fall, all Senate Democratic women signed a letter encouraging Hillary to run. Even Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren signed on. “All of the women – Democratic women of the Senate, I should say – urged Hillary Clinton to run,” Warren said in a recent interview on ABC’s “This Week.” “And I hope she does.”
The reality is, she has to.
The Republican prospects are everywhere, but non-Hillary prospective Democratic visits to key presidential primary battlegrounds are few.
If her answer to the ongoing question about whether or not she’s running were a definitive NO, Democrats would be going out to Iowa tomorrow, raising money, making friends and taking numbers.
Republican potentials are already busy testing the waters. Among them: Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and Tea Party favorite Senator Ted Cruz.
The issue many of them are counting on is anti-Washington passion – and for good reason. Washington’s approval rating has plummeted in recent years. According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans’ approval of Congress is just 13 percent. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s recent loss to Tea Party challenger Dave Brat tells that story loud and clear.
Brian Schweitzer thinks this is an ongoing trend. “You’ve watched for years as the opinion of Washington, D.C., has gone down… What happened with Eric Cantor is a subset of America just showing up and said, ‘All right, we’ll just show you. We are going to start throwing these rascals out and we are going to start today.’ … I’m not saying that all of the rascals are going to get thrown out. But I would say that the mood has finally gotten to a point.” A boiling point.
Schweitzer predicts, “There will be an increasing number of people who say, ‘I don’t really have any idea who the guy or gal is that’s running against the incumbent, but I know I’m not voting for the incumbent.’”
Voters are sick and tired of Washington, plain and simple. “I think what this country needs is a healthy dose of someone from outside. If you’ve been sleeping in a chicken coup and there are a lot of skunks in there, it takes a while to get the smell out,” he said.
This certain je ne sais quoi in the water might not bode well for Hillary Clinton. First, a credible challenger would have to emerge and prove that he or she could tap into that – and turn the anti-establishment mood against her.
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