So what are Team Clinton’s options on how to manage the campaign politics? Some problems are solved and others are managed. The scandals currently in the public view won’t be solved, so the Clinton brain trust will have to find a way to manage them. Doesn’t the constant drip, drip, drip of damaging revelations deflate her supporters? Maybe the Clinton managers’ hope is that voters will just become numb to all of the questionable dealings that swirl around her universe. But I don’t see how Clinton’s supporters can be both numb and enthusiastic at the same time. Enthusiasm drives turnout. Numbness has got to suppress it.
The way I see it, Clinton has three realistic strategies to manage the reality of her circumstances.
First, she can employ a “whack-a-mole” strategy. The Clinton forces could have a team that tackles every new ugly mole as it pops up, whacking it down with talking points, surrogates and whatever other tactics they have at their disposal so it doesn’t distract the rest of the campaign.
Next, she can deploy a strategy of permanent stonewalling. But this is untenable. As the campaign moves forward, she will have to have regular encounters with the media. Clinton will need to get to a place where she can take on all questions, not be intimidated, not tell whoppers that will dig the scandal hole deeper and actually impress people with her command of her story and the facts.
Clinton’s third option is a scorched earth policy. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows that Clinton is viewed as untrustworthy by 54 percent of the population, which makes her strategy simple. She will just need to make sure her opponent — whoever it is — is viewed as untrustworthy by 60 percent of the electorate. So the Clinton campaign has to start now by attacking the Republican brand. They will need to load the kitchen sink and get ready to launch it at their Republican opponent as soon as that person emerges. This means the 2016 campaign will get down in the gutter faster than in most previous campaigns.
None of this bodes well for the next president. The 2016 campaign needs to establish a credible case for governing, if not a mandate. Having a campaign that goes negative in the spring of 2015 will make that almost impossible. Call me a cynic, but I don’t think Clinton has much of a choice in the matter.
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were both elected when voters were upbeat and enthusiastic. Bill Clinton was the man from Hope who didn’t want you to stop thinking about tomorrow. Barack Obama was full of hope and change. What is it Hillary Clinton will realistically expect voters to affirmatively hope for in 2016?