The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Insiders: Clinton’s peg as 2016 front-runner

Two of the best political bookmakers in the business have set the early odds on Hillary Clinton’s chances for the presidency in 2016, and the early line is murky for the front-runner.

Dan Balz, who is the nation’s best political reporter, points out that Clinton’s 2008 campaign was plagued by a lack of cohesion in leadership and message and that her 2016 front-runner status could trick her into running a cautious and plodding campaign once again. Maureen Dowd, the Clintons’ Boswell, identifies a central tension in the potential Clinton candidacy (as does Balz): Is it an insurgency built on the passion of putting the first woman in the White House or is it the restoration of the golden Clinton era? I empathize with those who say this kind of speculation is way too early. Can’t we give ourselves and Clinton a rest from all this 2016 chatter? The answer is, of course, no. The combination of the August doldrums and the becalmed Obama second-term make this story impossible to ignore. Balz and Dowd have short-handed Clinton’s challenges and I think if we read their stories three years from now, they will stand as prescient.

Clinton would be wise to avoid the choice poised in these early lines. The direct appeal of her candidacy should be based neither on being a woman or a Clinton. She will get all that those powerful assets offer without having to make them central. Rather, she should spend time now doing what she and her husband did in the late 1980’s: figure out an economic agenda with new ideas so she is ready to appeal to enough swing voters to win three years from now.  A competent, experienced woman, who reminds voters of when the country worked better, but who also has some new energy and approaches to raise the standard of living for the middle-class will be nearly unbeatable. A Clinton candidacy that relies solely on her gender and her last name will be vulnerable.