Monday, March 24, 2014

Road to the White House 2016: Manilow, Mistakes and Mandates

Déjà Vu
Could you be the dream that I once knew
Is it you
Déjà Vu
Could you be the dream that might come true
Shining through
I keep remembering me
I keep remembering you
Déjà Vu

            - Lyrics by Isaac Hayes and Adrienne Anderson. Performed by Dionne Warwick. Produced by B. Manilow

What concerns me most about the most recent, incarnation of the Hillary Clinton for President movement is captured succinctly by the name of the highly visible Super PAC extolling her virtues, Ready for Hillary.

It all feels oddly familiar.  A campaign, or in this case, a proto-campaign, that seems more focused on the candidate than on what she or he might deliver.

Of course this is a grotesquely unfair criticism.  Hillary Clinton is not a candidate, at least not yet. 

The problem is her past.  In 2007 - 2008, she ran largely on a solid resume and the perceived strength of her brand.  She trusted that those elements, along with a top-flight campaign team and oodles of ready money, would be sufficient to clinch a first ballot nomination.

Depending on your perspective, a tragic or a fortunate (and possibly hilarious) thing happened next.  Some member or members of her quite well-paid campaign team - reportedly - forgot how delegates are allocated in Democratic primaries and caucuses.  This is important as delegates ultimately determine who receives the nomination.  They were playing for high stakes and some key person or people (who shall not be named here) couldn't be bothered to thumb through a rulebook.  Figuratively speaking, of course. At least that is how the story was covered.  In the fog of the fight, who knows where the truth resides?

She did catch a run of bad luck.  The American electorate was looking for a clean break from the Bush years…and her candidacy represented not so much a fresh start but a risorgimento of the previous Administration, one that still elicited mixed emotions, even from a fair number of Democrats.

Enter then-Senator Barack Obama and the Politics of Change.  He seized a moment, in part because he had a theme larger than himself – while still amplifying his biography – and because voters trusted that he would deliver on that promise.

Even then-Governor Clinton knew, in 1992, that he needed something beyond his record.  His campaign famously employed a compelling messaging troika: “Change versus more of the same,” “It’s the economy stupid,” and “Don’t forget health care.”

Fast forward to the present day.   Some heavy-hitting Clinton backers decide to launch a vehicle promoting Hillary Clinton as a potential presidential candidate.   Instead of linking it something actual voters care about or even a broad theme that suggests the outlines of a vision, they opt for “Ready for Hillary.”

When I first head that name, I thought: Are they criticizing voters for, presumably, not being ready for Hillary in 2008? Are they saying, in so many words, you were children but now it’s time to grow up?  Are they mocking us?  Hardly the inspirational stuff of “Yes We Can.”  More akin to “Why Didn’t You Before?”

I know, I know.  A Super PAC is not a presidential campaign.  But if you look at the roster of folks associated with Ready for Hillary, it is enough to give one pause.  If she runs, will she be a better candidate this time around?  Will she make the campaign about something larger than her admittedly impressive credentials?  How will she Connect?     

Or will we see an imitation of Clinton 2008?  She could probably get away with it, minus the ridiculous unforced errors, at least in the Democratic nominating process.  Democrats are so concerned about locking in the accomplishments of the Obama Administration, they want as close to a sure-fire winner as possible.  There is a measure of risk aversion and, on paper, Hillary Clinton offers the best path to 270 electoral votes…. possibly even a mandate in 2016, depending on how the next two years shape up.

In any event, I hope that the brain trust advising Team Hillary is smart enough to learn from the past, but not dwell in it.  

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

No comments:

Post a Comment