WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – National discourse regarding the 2016 presidential campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has already begun, even though she has not yet formally announced her plans to run for office a second time.
Despite her lengthy resume and years of political experience, however – which also includes her time as senator from New York and first lady to former President Bill Clinton – some recent discussion of Hillary herself has centered around whether or not Anthony Weiner’s latest faux pas could, by way of political dominoes, affect her candidacy in the eyes of the American electorate.
The degrees of connection are not hard for some to make, given that Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, has served for years as Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, both during her 2008 bid for presidency and beyond. Abedin’s present marital issues are also all too familiar to – and evocative of – the scandal that plagued the Clintons themselves in 1998, when news of Monica Lewinsky’s involvement in their lives came to light.
The connection between the two families was further forged by Weiner himself when, during an interview with BuzzFeed Brews earlier this week, he insisted that Abedin would be taking part in her presidential campaign – a claim representatives of Clinton have already refuted.
“We have absolutely no clue what he was talking about,” spokesman Nick Merrill told Politico on the matter. “Maybe his campaign does. Doubt it though.”
While the issue is a popular one for headlines this month, will it continue to follow Clinton if she opts to make a second attempt for the Oval Office? Not likely, according to the experts.
“First of all, presidential nominations and elections are about big things – that’s how we make … choices in the end. This is a small thing,” Larry Sabato, a professor of politics and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told CBSDC. “It’s simply not going to be the decisive factor in the 2016 primaries or general [election].”
He added, “Having said that, is it interesting and revealing in some ways? Sure. Is it something the Clintons wish would go away? Sure. It brings up some old, nasty subjects about Bill. Campaigns are full of irritations though, and this is one of them.”
Ruth Mandel, director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics and a Board of Governors professor of politics at Rutgers University, saw even less import in the matter, going so far as to say that the scandal will have ”less than zero impact” on a potential Clinton 2016 campaign.
“This is August of 2013. By August of 2016, if she is indeed running … [i]t’s hard to picture that he will be in any way a major force in presidential campaign politics,” she noted, adding that focus granted to issues in this vein amount to little more than “chatter” or “debris, free-floating in the environment of any national campaign.”
Mandel added to CBSDC, “Hillary Clinton is the former secretary of state, she’s a former senator, and a former presidential candidate. [Yet] she’ll have to face questions … from the chatter column.”
“I seriously doubt that in 2016 anybody’s going to be talking about Weiner and Clinton, but right now it’s kind of an unfortunate reminder,” Jane Hall, an associate professor at the School of Communication at American University and a long-time media analyst, noted. “My guess is this is not something people are going to be talking about, except right now while he’s running for mayor.”
Arnie Arnesen, host of The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen on WNHN and a television commentator who describes herself as a “politician in recovery,” told CBSDC that the scandal does highlight some interesting talking points about the nature of marital relationships in politics – in particular, regarding the perceptions and motivations of the women swept into the spotlight by their husbands’ indiscretions.
“[These women] acknowledged that they married flawed men. It’s really important for people to remember that. I don’t think this was shocking to Hillary about Bill, and I don’t think this was shocking to Huma about Anthony,” she said. “Marriages aren’t only about love. They are about power, about access, about relationship, about future, about money. The idea that somehow it’s about someone being victimized [is wrong].”
In regards to Clinton’s potential presidential campaign, however, the question remains: which policy issues and themes could play recurring roles, if this particular issue is not among them in the eyes of experts?
Sabato noted that the length of time between now and the height of anyone’s 2016 presidential campaign leaves the opportunity for new issues to work their way to prevalence.
“We’re three years away,” he said. “Who knows what will happen between now and then? God forbid war? Recession? Scandal?”
As for what could possibly follow Clinton to the campaign trail, though, Mandel mentioned a host of talking points with such potential – for example, the economy, voter laws and foreign policy, as well as health care and the Affordable Care Act.
Hall cited the finances of Clinton Foundation as a possible hot topic drawn from recent headlines, as well as her foreign policy stances and overall record as secretary of state, with likely emphasis being placed upon the attack on an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the deaths of four people, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Arnesen agreed that health care would figure big for Clinton as a second-time presidential candidate, and added privacy issues brought forth by former CIA employee Edward Snowden’s disclosures regarding the National Security Agency, unemployment and energy independence to the mix.
She also mentioned former President Clinton himself as an issue, but not in regards to his past.
“Where are you going to tuck Bill Clinton?” she said. “[H]e ran with you as two for the price of one. Now that you have run once and been secretary of state, what is his future role?”
“No doubt Hillary will have to answer the question about Bill better than she did in 2008,” he said. “Exactly what roles will the former president fill in a Hillary Clinton White House? Does he maintain his foundation? Is he a senior adviser? Does he continue to give speeches to interest groups for a quarter million dollars a pop?”
He added, “There is territory no one has explored before.”
Some noted that being a woman on the road to the White House could also be fraught with some of the same issues of misogyny observed in 2008 through the treatment of both her and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
“We’ll revisit matters having to do with hairstyle or appearance, personal relationships, sexist comments about her personal history,” Mandel stated.
Hall added that she may have to grapple with what she termed as “ghost questions” – unspoken queries found in the gaps between what is actually said – regarding whether she’s tough enough for the job because of her gender. She noted however that, countering those insinuations are people, women in particular, who look up to Hillary.
She said to CBSDC, “I’ve heard so many women say they really admire her, [and] that’s a huge plus for her. She might pull in voters from around the country simply based on that.”