Thursday, August 20, 2015
5 Reasons Why Hillary is Still Likely to Be President
However, based on all of this, if you asked me tomorrow, gun-to-my-head, who was most likely to be the next president of the United States, I would say, "please put away the gun, and clearly Hillary Clinton." The reality is that despite all of these hiccups for Mrs. Clinton's campaign, her candidacy remains the most likely to result in success and to make her the 45th president of the United States. More than Bernie Sanders, more than Jeb Bush, more than Marco Rubio, and certainly more than Donald Trump. I'll illustrate the five most important reasons for this belief below.
The reality is that quite often in politics the biggest race for the White House is not winning the general, but winning the primary. The general relies on a variety of factors if you're not running for reelection (the economy, the incumbent president's approval ratings, and if we're at war are the three biggest components in who wins). As a result, if you're the nominee you're 90% to the finish line, with about 3% skill and 7% luck left for the remainder of the contest. Hillary Clinton remains on-top. Sen. Bernie Sanders has run an aggressively good campaign, and if he were someone like Amy Klobuchar or Mark Warner with those kinds of approval ratings and crowds, the Clinton camp would and should be worried. However, Sanders baggage is too much-the age issue, the Socialist issue, the New England issue, and the inexperienced issue all weigh too heavily on him. I'm not saying he won't win a primary (it's rare that a non-incumbent pulls an Al Gore in 2000 and sweeps every state), but he won't win the primaries. Without Sanders, Clinton just has the looming specter of Joe Biden and Al Gore, but every day they aren't in the race trying to make up lost ground is a day that Clinton gets closer to the nomination.
As I pointed out above, the president's popularity is a huge factor. There's no telling what sorts of wars or economy we will be in in a year (though one can expect it would be similar to today, in which case Clinton would be in pretty decent shape), but the president's approval is holding relatively steadily, and certainly is better than where George W. Bush was at this time in his presidency. The number 48 is stated a lot about Obama's approvals (much lower and it's likely the Republicans lose, much higher and it's likely the Democrats win), and with Obama right around 48 it seems more-than-likely that Clinton will not be hurt nor helped by the president, but one of the best trump cards the Republicans have is if President Obama were unpopular. Not having it hurts their chances tremendously.
Yes, I know that the polls show Donald Trump is in the lead, but do you really want to argue Trump has a better shot against Clinton than Jeb? That's what I thought. You may wonder why I'm saying this is a detriment to the Republicans, considering Bush is a pretty formidable general election candidate, but the reality is that Jeb Bush negates a lot of Hillary Clinton's biggest flaws. He's also closely associated with another president (dynasty politics, and it's pretty much indisputable that Hillary has the more popular association). He's younger than Clinton, but only by six years and it's hardly noticeable. He's a bit awkward on the stoop and while he's perhaps more policy-focused and learned, he's not the natural politician that his brother is (much in the same way that Hillary is not the politician that Bill is). And he's incredibly wealthy, taking that option off the table.
I have said for a long time that the candidate I would least want to go up against would be Marco Rubio. He grew up modestly, has a noticeable age gap with Clinton, and is a self-made man. Yes, he's not as awesome as a politician as he could be (he's not as polished as Barack Obama, and invites comparisons to him pretty quickly that may hurt moderates who would be open to Hillary but not to more Obama), but he's definitely the best in this field. However, the longer that Donald Trump stays at the top, the more likely it is that Marco Rubio's window starts to evaporate. Rubio needs to either grab the establishment, which is getting further behind Bush (and theoretically John Kasich) at the moment, or the right-wing which is splitting its love for Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz. If he doesn't pop soon he might risk Jeb Bush totally overpowering him, in which case Hillary Clinton has a better shot at the nomination.
Gender is not a good predictor of how a person will vote for a specific candidate, as Republicans who have run women like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann nationally have found out already. However, there will be something to it if Hillary Clinton is the nominee and runs a competitive campaign. Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin were candidates that no one thought had a shot, but if Clinton looks good headed into the Election Night (and no Democrat since Michael Dukakis hasn't looked at least good if not great on-paper headed into Election Night), I suspect that moderate women, and particularly older moderate women will be casting critical ballots for Clinton to be part of a moment they didn't expect to happen in their lifetimes. There will, theoretically, be a Wilder Effect, but I suspect it will be overcome pretty universally in the same way that it was when President Obama got enormous numbers of African-Americans in the country to vote for his ticket. Even if the GOP picks someone like Susana Martinez or Kelly Ayotte as the running mate, it seems doubtful that will gain much support in comparison to a woman finally taking the top office.
Remember those Quinnipiac polls showing Hillary Clinton down in Colorado, Virginia, and Iowa? While those will be dustbin liner by the time we vote next year, the reality is that even if they were accurate, Hillary Clinton doesn't need those states like the GOP does. The truth is that the Democrats start the race for the White House considerably closer to the finish line. Assuming that the Democrats hold all of the states they've won the last six elections in a row (admittedly a tougher assumption in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but not an unreasonable one), they start out with 242 electoral college votes. Assuming the Republicans were to do the same with the last four elections only, they've only got 180 electoral votes, a 62-vote deficit, and Hillary Clinton is just 28 votes away from winning the White House. Throw New Mexico to Clinton (it's pretty solidly Democratic now) and Indiana to the GOP (the 2008 election seemingly a fluke), and the race is 247-191. That means all Hillary Clinton has to do is win Florida and she'll take the White House, or some combination of Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia. 100 electoral votes will likely decide the election in 2016 again like they did in 2008 and 2012, but the Democrats only need 23 of those electoral votes while the GOP needs 79. Those states start to add up to 23 pretty damn fast, especially when you consider the strong Latino-holds that Clinton will be able to tap into in Colorado, Florida, and Nevada, the blue-collar roots her husband has in states like Ohio, North Carolina, and Iowa, and the increasingly Democratic nature of states like New Hampshire and Virginia. Provided she doesn't falter dramatically and can hold together the Obama coalition with a little bit of the Bill Clinton coalition, Hillary would be the most formidable opponent in 2016, and the likely next occupant of the Oval Office.
And those are the five reasons why I still think it's most likely that Hillary Clinton is the next president, even if the gap between she and Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio has gotten smaller in that prediction since March. If you have thoughts on Hillary's chances, share them in the comments!