Hillary Clinton, almost certain to run for president, will have a series of hoops to jump through. Here are just 10:
1. Does she defend Obamacare, which is hitting a new low in polling, or does she propose concrete changes, thereby undercutting the claim that it has been a historic and successful achievement? If she chooses the latter, she will actually need to spell out those changes, which is problematic given that its fundamental design (individual mandate, eliminating “crappy” plans, subsidizing overspending rather than cost reduction and a bevy of taxes to pay for it) are the source of many complaints. Alternatively, she can play to her base in reverting to a public option, a quick route to a single-payer system. She will then have to defend against an onslaught from Republicans who will attack on her embrace of nationalized medicine.
2. Does she repudiate the interim Iran deal and return to sanctions? This would be a reversal of her praise for the deal and her own engagement strategy, but with no sign Iran is willing to give up its nukes, she may have no choice.
3. Does she applaud the president’s upcoming, post-election move to unilaterally impose new immigration rules? That unites Republicans, who can rally around opposition to Democratic lawlessness and risk the ire of independents who are increasingly concerned about border security. It also opens up the charge of imperialism, which is problematic inside the party and more broadly.
4. Does she adopt the sequester budgeting (which cuts domestic spending and defense), drop it and propose more spending and higher taxes or take on entitlement reform? Despite the efficacy of the sequester straitjacket in reducing the deficit, we do have a long-term debt problem. Simply ignoring it will cast her as another moldy tax-and-spend Democrat defending the status quo.
5. Does she run as the partisan progressive to jazz up the base or the gal who gets along so swimmingly with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)? If she attracts any challengers, they are to run as partisan scrappers, but she will need to show a different face to attract moderates.
6. Does she stay in the center or go left on gay marriage? Republicans can say, “I support what states decide” on gay marriage. But liberals want recognition of gay marriage to be mandatory, forcing all states to adopt gay marriage. What does Clinton do?
7. Does she give back the corporate dough and repudiate her big-business friends? She is unlikely to disgorge her mammoth speaking fees or big corporations’ donations to the Clinton Foundation, so now rhetorically attacking them seems hypocritical. Still, she risks being outflanked by a more populist candidate in her own party or even in the general election.
8. Does she defend the retrenchment policy and pullback of troops in the Middle East that allowed the Islamic State to flourish? Like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), she can try to blame George W. Bush, but the public might not like that, nor forget that Bush handed off a relatively stable Middle East to his successor. The great scandal in Libya was the administration’s failure to keep an eye on jihadists and premature celebration of the demise of al-Qaeda. How is Clinton going to duck responsibility for that?
9. Does she run as a 2-for-the-price-of-1, relying on Bill Clinton, the most popular Democrat around, or keep him in the shadows? He may refuse to do the latter and the former may irritate the base, which doesn’t want another “third way” president. Running as in essence a co-president also puts front and center the Clinton Foundation and the myriad conflicts of interest and foreign donors. (How much have the Hamas supporters in Qatar given?)
10. Does she have anything new to offer? She has not been a cutting-edge liberal for some time nor a creative triangulator like her husband. It isn’t clear what she stands for domestically other than defense of the liberal welfare state.