If you want to know why Democrats should be worried after Hillary Clinton’s first week on the campaign trail, ask yourself this question: Can you imagine Marco Rubio, Scott Walker or Jeb Bush walking into a Chipotle wearing big, dark sunglasses, trying not to be recognized?
Can you imagine Barack Obama doing it?
Maybe Clinton’s future’s so bright she has to wear shades, but the grainy security camera pictures of the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination hiding from voters presents a troubling contrast with the growing Republican field.
Clinton planned to launch her presidential campaign with an intimate “listening tour” where she could meet and interact with everyday Americans. But when she had the chance to meet and interact with some actual everyday Americans eating their burritos, she avoided them. Then her campaign staged a visit to an Iowa coffee shop, recruiting “fake” everyday Americans for her to meet and talk with.
Who stages a visit to a coffee shop?
The whole purpose of Clinton’s road trip was to counter the image of her as a creature of Washington who can’t relate to regular folks. Instead, she highlighted that fact by planting party insiders posing as regular folks.
Clinton made a big deal about driving across the country in a van, just as regular Americans do. But even that simple idea backfired. First, she picked an ominous black van with tinted windows as dark as her shades. And second, by her own admission, she hasn’t been behind the wheel since 1994. She wasn’t driving across country; she was being driven across country. Big difference.
Meanwhile, Scott Walker announced in Nashua this weekend that he plans to visit all of New Hampshire’s 10 counties on his Harley. Word is that he will actually be driving himself. In Concord, Jeb Bush said at a GOP event that when he goes to Chipotle, “Drive my own car. Park my own car. Get out of my own car.” The former Florida governor (who lived in Mexico and whose wife is from Mexico) added, “We normally cook our own Mexican food at home — it’s pretty good.”
Clinton’s campaign launch video also used Democratic strategists posing as ordinary Americans. One of them (who posed as a grandma growing tomatoes in her garden) is an abortion rights lobbyist who was a campaign manager for Texas state senator Wendy Davis, who ran for governor in 2014. Another was a staffer for former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack (D).
Even in the carefully controlled bubble her campaign created for her last week, Clinton stumbled. In Norwalk, Iowa, Clinton told an carefully chosen audience in a produce store that all four of her grandparents were immigrants: “All my grandparents, you know, came over here. So I sit here and I think, well you’re talking about the second, third generation. That’s me, that’s you.” Except for one problem: It wasn’t true. Only one grandparent, Hugh Rodham Sr., was an immigrant. Her campaign quickly put out a statement declaring that “Her grandparents always spoke about the immigrant experience and, as a result, she has always thought of them as immigrants.”
Democrats ought to be worried about this. The Democratic Party is betting everything on Clinton. But the problem with betting on one horse is that if your horse stumbles, you’re in big trouble. Republicans have a plethora of credible choices. If Scott Walker falters, they have Marco Rubio. If Rubio falters, they have Jeb Bush. If Bush falters, they have a half dozen other choices.
But if Clinton falters, Democrats have . . . who? Martin O’Malley (whose claim to fame is handing Maryland to a Republican)? Lincoln Chafee (who, as the liberal magazine Mother Jones put it, is the “candidate for people who think Jeb Bush isn’t WASPy enough”)? Bernie Sanders (who, unlike Barack Obama, actually embraces being called a “socialist”)? Not exactly the Democratic “A-list.”
Democrats are hoping for the old Clinton magic. But Hillary is no Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton wore shades, not to avoid voters, but to play the sax on “The Arsenio Hall Show.” He didn’t need to stage a coffee-shop visit. He’s a naturally charming guy who can talk to almost anyone. Hillary has none of the natural ease or political talent of her husband.
Since the National Hockey league playoffs just started, think of it this way. One of the best players in the NHL is Marian Hossa of Hillary’s hometown Chicago Blackhawks. He’s a superstar. He has a younger brother, Marcel, who played a few seasons in the NHL but didn’t make it and is playing in Europe. Same last name, but not the same talent.
Hillary Clinton is the Marcel Hossa of the Democratic Party. Same last name, but not the same talent. The Democrats are betting their presidential hopes on that famous name. And they have no backup plan.