POLITICS: Campaigns

Will a Hillary Clinton presidency be a third Obama term?

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Michael Barone,Barack Obama,Hillary Clinton,Bill Clinton,2016 Elections,Campaigns

I noted in a March Washington Examiner column that in 2016 presidential pairings, Hillary Clinton, unlike 2014 Democratic Senate and House candidates, runs far ahead of President Obama's job approval numbers. In an interesting column today, the pro-Obama, pro-Clinton E. J. Dionne provides some interesting data on that, with help from some previously unpublished figures from a Washington Post poll.

He looks at those who rate Obama negatively but say they would vote for Clinton and finds that such voters are disproportionately whites without college degrees, especially women, and that one-quarter of these Clinton voters say they would vote for Republicans in congressional elections this year.

The Clinton coalition this looks more like the coalition that re-elected Bill Clinton in 1992 (with 43 percent of the popular vote) than the coalition that re-elected Obama in 2012. Hillary Clinton is effectively benefiting from the retrospective popularity of the Bill Clinton presidency while not being as handicapped as current Democratic congressional candidates by the current unpopularity of the Obama presidency.

This suggests a dynamic for the 2016 presidential campaign, assuming that Clinton is a candidate and the Democratic nominee. Clinton needs to be seen as running for the third Clinton term, not the third Obama term. And Republicans need to convince voters that she is running for the third Obama term, not the third Clinton term. They need to argue that she doesn't differ from Obama's policies and priorities.

So far, she hasn’t signaled much in the way of disagreement, and in Democratic primaries — assuming she runs and has some significant opposition — it will be in her interest not to signal any such disagreements: the Democratic primary electorate is solidly pro-Obama. The press can legitimately try to press Clinton on how she differs from the incumbent. But there’s not likely to be much appetite among the mainstream media in doing anything that would injure Clinton’s chances. That leaves room for Republicans to argue, in this pre-nomination period, that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be a third Obama term.

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