Schism: Team Hillary Arguing When To Make 2016 Announcement

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jan 30, 2015 2:00 PM
Schism: Team Hillary Arguing When To Make 2016 Announcement

There’s a bit of internal strife within the Team Hillary camp. When should they launch her expected 2016 bid? Some say this spring; others say as late as possible, like this summer. Right now, the spring wing of Team Hillary seem to be broadcasting that this will be the likely course of action (via CNN):

Several Democrats have told CNN that there is a desire on the part of Clinton and her innermost circle to go as late as possible. But the potential for a summer start to the official Clinton 2016 campaign, first reported this morning by Politico, is only one of the options on the table. The spring launch plan is still seen by most Clinton watchers as the most likely timing scenario. Under the spring scenario, Clinton could form an exploratory committee or other official vehicle, which has FEC-regulated restrictions for potential candidates, but would enable Clinton to publicly indicate her intentions and begin a new phase of the process without formally launching a full blown campaign until later in 2015.

There is some concern among Clinton loyalists that as the increasingly crowded Republican race heats up, the attacks on Clinton could begin to stick without an apparatus in place to answer them.

The liberal superPAC American Bridge has been countering Republican attacks on Clinton's behalf but the cover has not necessarily been to the satisfaction of all in Clinton's orbit. The Democratic National Committee is beginning to take on a larger role in an effort to protect Clinton and the party brand but many Democrats are concerned even that won't be enough.

Politico reported that a “delay until summer, from the original April target, would give her more time to develop her message, policy and organization, outside the chaos and spotlight of a public campaign.”

The fact that no one is standing in her way presents another host of problems for Democrats; they have a dearth of new blood to replace the party heavyweights - most of which are on their way to the Home of The Merciful Rest. Who else is there that could pose a threat to her coronation?

You have former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose 2012 DNC performance wasn’t all that impressive. Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer pretty much torpedoed his 2016 chances when he implied that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was a prostitute. There’s also some “baggage” revolving a nonprofit that had ties to two of then-Gov. Schweitzer’s appointees. Former Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia has announced an exploratory committee, but has since dropped off the face of the earth. He could gain traction with the rural, white Democratic voters, but he fares poorly with the culture of the Democratic Party. Nevertheless, Team Hillary is “keeping an eye” on him. There’s possibly Elizabeth Warren, who despite reports that she will not run, could toss her hat in the ring. David Frum argues that the U.S. Senate is not an institution built for her progressive sensibilities. Oh, and don’t forget about Joe Biden.

With this crew, Democrats should worry about life after the Clinton-era has come to an end; some could argue that it has already. Yet, given her lead in the polls, she could easily avoid debating any of these possible contenders, suffocating them quickly from what would be a joke of a Democratic field, and prevent any gaffes on a national debate stage for the entire country to witness. On the other hand, if Vice President Biden runs, she has to agree to a debate; you can’t avoid the Vice President of the United States, regardless of the polls. By the way, that debate would be wildly entertaining.

The more Clinton stays in the spotlight, the faster her approvals sink. She’s a highly polarizing figure, a poor campaigner, and what would be the start of her road to 1600 began with dismal books sales. The revelation that she was “dead broke” upon leaving the White House didn’t help. It stupefied the nation, even her most ardent supporters; everyone knows the earning potential of an ex-president is amazing.

Regardless, Iowa is where she could turn things around, sharpen her skills, and avoid the mistakes of 2008. Despite Iowa Democrats hoping for a challenge to Hillary, they seem prepared to throw their support behind her (of course), Salena Zito noted (via Pittsbugh Tribune-Review):

Linda Nelson, chairwoman of the Pottawattamie County Democrats and former state teachers union president, said she, too, is comfortable with the pace of the race. A former Obama supporter, she said former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia and Martin O'Malley, who just stepped down as Maryland's governor, visited the county during the midterm elections; the Run Warren Run folks — supporters of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — will meet with her shortly.

“But when Hillary announces, everything will change around here,” she said.

John Dickerson, CBS News Political Director, noted that ignoring Iowa would be a mistake; it’s a battleground state. He added that Hillary is at risk of being pegged as a limousine liberal, and this is a great time to test her skills as a retail politician with no one within miles of her in the polls:

The argument for Clinton to play hard in Iowa is rooted in the general election to come. In my time in Iowa, a few Democrats compared Clinton to Bruce Braley, the failed Democratic Senate candidate. The consensus view is that Braley waited too long to present himself, and as a result he was defined by his opponent.

Republicans are already running against her like she’s an announced candidate anyway. Why let them define her first?

If Clinton looks like she’s willing to fight for the vote now and give Iowans the attention that they have come to expect, they will remember that when she’s fighting for those six electoral votes.

Finally, Iowa is well-designed for the precise kind of personal campaigning Clinton needs to do. The knocks against Clinton are that she thinks she’s owed the presidency and that she has no message other than her inevitability. If she campaigned hard in Iowa, it would show that despite her Olympian position in the polls, she’s willing to fight hard and take no vote for granted.

At the moment, Clinton’s image conjures visions of wealth and black SUVs. The frequent fundraising trips she will take will add photos and datelines like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to this storyline. If the general election turns on a conversation about which candidate cares most about the life of the regular voter and the challenges he faces, Clinton needs to show she can participate in that conversation.

Then again, while running against Obama in 2008, the then-Illinois Senator clinched more net delegates in the Idaho Caucuses with 21,000 participants, than Hillary’s New Jersey Primary win with over 1 million voters. She’s still beatable, even without a strong Democratic challenger. Whether she’ll succeed in the sharpening her campaign skills in Iowa remains to be seen.