Tonawanda News

March 23, 2014

DUVALL: Is President Hillary an inevitability? History says no

By Eric DuVall
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Reading the AP story on page two of today’s edition got me to thinking: Is a Hillary Clinton presidency inevitable?

Possible, even likely? Yes. Inevitable? Hardly.

Just like it seemed eight years ago when she was eyeing her first White House campaign, polls and pundits had her as a strong front-runner with an air of inevitability about her. She had the resume, the fundraising base and universal name recognition. The nation was ready for its first female president.

As it turns out, the nation was also ready for its first black president, too.

But lots of things have changed in the years since the historic Clinton-Obama primary in 2008. First of all, fundraising rules have been totally rewritten thanks to the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, opening the floodgates to virtually unlimited campaign contributions.

Though she presently enjoys some of the highest favorability ratings of her life right now no one will be able to maintain that in the glare of a national campaign and an unending loop of devastating attack ads in swing states. And it isn’t as if there’s any shortage of fodder for conservative criticism of the Clinton brand.

There are also substantive criticisms to be leveled by foes Democratic and Republican alike. Hillary continues to be dogged by the Benghazi attack on her State Department’s ambassador. Though she’s undergone withering criticism and survived relatively unscathed, the fact remains a U.S. ambassador whose request for additional security went unanswered was subsequently killed on her watch. 

There’s also her record as New York’s junior senator, remarkable largely for its lack of anything truly remarkable. She came down on the wrong side of history in the only truly difficult vote of her term, the Iraq war authorization, which she supported and would become her Achilles’ heel in the 2008 primary.

Apart from that, she didn’t really do very much. Her still-remembered-around-here pledge to create 250,000 jobs with an upstate economic revitalization went nowhere even though her party controlled the Senate at the time. Bills that would have created greater broadband Internet access and other business-friendly initiatives languished in committee. 

If you think a governor like, say Andrew Cuomo, wouldn’t bring up this kind of stuff in a Democratic primary, you’re kidding yourself.

She never really faced that line of attack in 2008 because all the focus was on Obama’s thin resume, which made Hillary look like the veteran lawmaker by contrast. A closer examination of those six years in office from a non-Washington foe like Cuomo or Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley could prove a powerful tool should the anybody-but-Hillary wing of the party decide to unite behind another candidate.

Then there’s Bill. He’s a remarkably effective surrogate when he’s on message — see his 2012 convention speech that all but sealed Obama’s re-election — but as her 2008 campaign  showed, he can be trouble when he starts freelancing. 

There’s also the motivation factor. If you thought conservatives hated Barack Obama, imagine the lather the right will work itself into if there’s a Clinton on the general election ballot. Republicans shut out of the Oval Office for eight years would have an incredible incentive, even with a fairly weak nominee, to defeat Hillary. Her presence could be the single greatest get-out-the-vote factor for a Republican party that’s struggled to unite amid an establishment-versus-Tea Party feud.

All of this ignores the political reality of the moment. Hillary is a well-liked, veteran Washington power broker who’s got an unparalleled resume. She is a virtual lock to get the Democratic nomination if she seeks it and would be able to make a convincing argument to Americans, particularly women, she’s earned the right to lead the country.

But as Hillary herself can attest, being the front-runner is very different from sealing the deal. 

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at eric.duvall@tonawanda-news.com or follow him on Twitter, @EricRDuVall.