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Rob Horowitz: President Hillary Clinton? Not So Fast

Friday, February 08, 2013


To read or watch the national pundits is to think that Hillary Clinton can start working on her January 2017 inaugural address right now—because the 2016 President election will be more of a coronation than a real contest. While Hillary Clinton leaves the position of Secretary of State with high approval numbers and is a solid early favorite in what can best be described as premature Presidential handicapping, the road ahead is far from certain.

One only has to go back four years or so to remember that before the 2008 Presidential election began much like now the early national Democratic primary preference polls showed Clinton with an overwhelming lead and the pundits were predicting confidently that she was going to be the nominee. Those mistaken predictions collided with the reality of Barack Obama who much better than Clinton embodied the "change mood’ of the 2008 primary and general electorate.

Now, it is hard to see any of Clinton’s potential opponents for the Democratic nomination matching Obama’s skills as a candidate or fundraising prowess, but neither the political environment of 2016 nor the ultimate composition and relative strength of the primary field are knowable today. For example, Vice-President Joe Biden runs far behind Hillary Clinton right now in polling. However, if Biden---who will remain very much in the public eye--garners several more high profile policy wins on issues such as gun control, this margin will close. Further, assuming the nomination calendar stays roughly the same, the first contest is the Iowa Caucus—where Biden’s well-publicized support of more rapid draw downs of American troops is likely to play better than Clinton’s more expansive vision of the uses of American military power

By 2016, a new generation Governor, such as Andrew Cuomo of New York, who has a proven executive track record and can tout big accomplishments including reducing debt, adopting same sex marriage and passing comprehensive gun legislation may better fit the mood of the electorate than Clinton.

And if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, the general election is unlikely to be a walk in the park. The Republican Party appears to finally have gotten the message on their suicidal immigration positions and potential Republican 2016 standard-bearers such as Chris Christie or Jeb Bush are much more formidable candidates than Mitt Romney. Also, if the nation continues to experience economic difficulties and President Obama’s second term doesn’t go well, a majority of 2016 voters may be predisposed to vote Republican.

Hillary Clinton is a formidable candidate for President who brings an excellent performance as Secretary of State, keen intelligence, political skill, the proven capacity to raise the money required, and invaluable experience in running a national campaign to the task. But as she knows from hard experience, if she decides to run, no matter what the peanut gallery is saying today, it will be a long, hard road without a guaranteed result.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


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