NYT: A Republican Congress Will Totally Help Hillary

Matt Vespa

8/25/2014 6:50:00 AM - Matt Vespa

It’s been reported that Republicans have a very good shot at retaking the Senate this year. Right now, they have a 65 percent chance in accomplishing that feat and killing what’s left of the Obama agenda. Republicans already have the House majority locked for this year. But have no fear, liberals; a Republican takeover could benefit Hillary Clinton, according to the New York Times (via NYT):

A Republican takeover of the Senate this fall would hurt Mr. Obama for the final two years of his presidency, but it might help Mrs. Clinton if she runs to succeed him.

Republican control of both the House and Senate would provide Mrs. Clinton a clearer target to run against in courting voters fatigued by Washington dysfunction. The longer an unpopular president and his more-unpopular partisan adversaries battle to a standstill, the easier it is to offer herself as a fresh start.

If she were the 2016 Democratic nominee, Mrs. Clinton would have a similar opening to deride Tea Party Republicans in the House even if Democrats keep the Senate this November. But all-Republican control of Congress would magnify it.

But this angle could be effective if Hillary was a good campaigner; she’s not. Remember, an inexperienced U.S. Senator from Illinois that had only served two-thirds of his first term defeated the Clinton machine, one of the mightiest forces in American politics, back in 2008.

She’s still a polarizing figure, who has had a precipitous decline since the launch of her book tour. Her approval ratings are sinking–and those less than stellar campaign skills were again displayed with her “dead broke” gaffe.

Even the NYT’s Upshot compared her to Sen. John McCain last June:

Hillary Clinton’s artificially inflated poll numbers have made her seem like an especially strong presidential candidate, but the Clinton bubble is quickly coming to an end.

The most relevant comparison for Hillary Clinton might be Senator John McCain. In the post-2004 period, Mr. McCain seemed like a formidable general election candidate who could help Republicans hold on to the White House despite President Bush’s declining approval ratings. Writing for Slate in 2005, Mickey Kaus joked half-seriously that “in a general election, it seems like Mr. McCain would come close to being elected by acclamation!”

Ron Fournier of The Associated Press also emphasized Mr. McCain’s widespread support among Democrats and independents. Those numbers, however, reflected the fact that Democrats so frequently praised Mr. McCain and used him as a foil for the rest of the G.O.P. — a pattern that dates to his underdog 2000 Republican presidential primary campaign against George W. Bush.

Predictably, once Mr. McCain ran for president again in 2008 and Democrats started sending negative messages about him, the public quickly came to see him as a conventional partisan.

When opposition elites withhold criticism during, say, a presidential honeymoon or a foreign policy crisis, politicians can seem unstoppable, but when normal politics resume, their images — and their poll numbers — quickly return to earth. The same will be true for Ms. Clinton.

2016 is two years away; that’s an eternity in politics. The "elites" have yet to fully get back to business as usual, so it’s a bit premature to say that a GOP-controlled Congress will automatically benefit Clinton. Then again, the New York Times has to spin what’s looking to be a very good year for Republicans into something that keeps their liberal readers blood pressure from spiking too high. Clinton is the only option since Obama is semi-retired.