Hillary Clinton has had a pretty rotten year considering where she began. In late January, a softball interview on CBS and gushing praise from President Obama for her tenure as Secretary of State suggested she might begin measuring the Oval Office drapes. Sure, there was that “What difference does it make?” moment a few days earlier, but liberals convinced themselves it was fine to brush off an inquiry about the rationale of the killers of four Americans and to skip over her series of misleading statements. Everything was fine, perfectly fine. But it really isn’t, and here is why:
1. Obamacare is as much her brainchild as Obama’s. She ran on the individual mandate in 2008 and has cheered Obamacare at every stage in the game. Rather than only ask Republicans, maybe the press should start asking her what her alternative to Obamacare is. She doesn’t think it’s working, does she?
2. More importantly, it is hard to see that there is a general election constituency for Obama/Hillary style healthcare reform. Even the uninsured are now skeptical, the New York Times reports:
Fifty-three percent of the uninsured disapprove of the law, the poll found, compared with 51 percent of those who have health coverage. A third of the uninsured say the law will help them personally, but about the same number think it will hurt them, with cost a leading concern.
The widespread skepticism, even among people who are supposed to benefit from the law, underscores the political challenge facing the Obama administration as it tries to persuade millions of Americans to enroll in coverage through new online marketplaces, a crucial element of making the new law financially viable for insurers.
Think about that. Not only do the people who weren’t supposed to be affected now hollering about being lied to, but the people who never had insurance don’t like what they are getting. Where are the “Yippee, Obamacare!” voters who are going to carry her to the White House? Three cheers for the status quo! (Sometimes “change” isn’t for the better, the Obama-swooning voters of 2008 now learn.)
3. Each Obama foreign policy debacle, most especially Iran, sends reporters scurrying back to consider what it was she was doing for four years. If things are such a mess now, maybe she was a bad Secretary of State. Just a thought.
4. Hillary Clinton in the abstract is always better than Hillary Clinton in reality. Since she left the White House, and the prospect of her run has neared, her approval has fallen from the mid-60’s to less than 50 percent.
5. Early polls don’t mean much, but the notion that a Republican like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie could beat her in places like New Jersey, Virginia and Iowa puts a dent in her cakewalk-to-the-White-House narrative.
6. There are plausible contenders. The Los Angeles Times reports that California Gov. Jerry Brown won’t rule out a run, and why should he? (“a household name, an impressive list of accomplishments in the country’s most populous state — a state some once deemed ungovernable — glowing national media coverage and a deep familiarity with the pitfalls and rigors of a White House bid, having run three times before”). Sure he is 75 years old, but 75 is the new 65 and besides Hillary is 66. What is nine years between bitter rivals? Former New Hampshire Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — or one of the nineteen other women senators, or a current Democratic governor like Andrew Cuomo could step in if she stumbles. The notion that she is the only woman out there for Dems to pick is rather silly.
7. The media already is desperate for a contested race and will pronounce just about any recognizable Democrat who shows interest in a run to be “formidable” and “not to be taken lightly.”
8. She is in a precarious spot now, open to attack but loathe to respond personally (or through Bill) for fear of elevating the issue and/or legitimizing the attacker. There is a lot of groundwork that can be laid while she collects big speaking from corporations.
9. The big speaking fees from corporations, yes, are also a reminder to the left that the Clintons have always been pro-business, middle-of-the-roaders. Do they really have to settle yet again for someone cozy with investment bankers and lobbyists?
10. Running for the “third Obama term” may not be an option. Obama’s collapse may only encourage someone with no connection to his troubled presidency to step forward.
Make no mistake: Hillary is the frontrunner. But it’s fair to say she’s more vulnerable than a year ago with many more potential, serious liabilities.