WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – After the Republicans took back the Senate from Democrats during the midterm elections, all of the focus is now beginning to shift on who will launch a campaign to run for president in 2016. Since her loss for the Democratic nomination in 2007, many have speculated whether or not former first lady Hillary Clinton will try again. Experts explained that if Clinton does take another shot at the White House, that it will be difficult for her to distance herself from President Barack Obama.
“That won’t be easy. A nominee of the incumbent president’s party is always held accountable, to a considerable degree, for the White House’s performance,” political expert Larry Sabato told CBSDC. “It doesn’t matter that much that Hillary will try to link herself more to the Clinton administration since she ran against Obama. That didn’t work for John McCain, George W. Bush’s 2000 opponent, when McCain wanted to keep Bush’s unpopularity from hurting him in 2008.”
In recent months, Obama’s approval rating has decreased. In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll that was released Wednesday, only 40 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance. That is the lowest score the poll has recorded since he took office in 2008. Sabato, who is the Director at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, explained that Obama’s popularity can’t be controlled and that there’s not much Clinton can do about it in regards to how it could affect her.
“A lot of it is out of the candidates’ hands,” Sabato said. “She can’t control how popular or unpopular Obama is, or what the economy looks like in 2016. You play with the cards you are dealt. All she can do is raise the money and build the organization, and hope conditions are favorable for the election of the Democratic nominee.”
Dr. Jeffrey Hill, a professor and chair of the Political Science Department at Northeastern Illinois University, explained to CBSDC that the results of the midterm elections won’t hurt Clinton or other Democratic candidates for the 2016 elections.
“The 2014 election should not harm any of the Democratic candidates in 2016,” Hill said. “As many analysts pointed out on election night, the makeup of voters in the midterm elections is very different from the makeup of voters in the presidential elections. The turnout is lower in the midterm elections, and those who stay home tend more often to be people of color, working class people, and the young. This means that the midterm electorate is older and whiter than the presidential electorate, and they tend to be more conservative.”
Hill added that during presidential election years, the Democratic turnout has actually done well in comparison to the poor turnout in midterm election years.
“I would not use the 2014 midterm to predict the 2016 election. In addition, the Senate candidates will be very different in 2016,” Hill stated. “This year, there were more Democratic seats that were up for election than there were Republican seats. In 2016, that will be reversed.”
Dr. Michael Smith, an associate professor of political science at Emporia State University, agreed with Hill’s analysis of the make-up of voter turnout for midterm elections. Smith thinks that Clinton should use the Democrats’ loss of the Senate to her advantage if she does launch a 2016 presidential campaign.
“I would tell Hillary to use the Democrats loss to her advantage and channel President Harry Truman,” Smith said. “She could campaign on the ‘do nothing Congress’ routine and have a clean sweep at the White House. It would make sense for her to differentiate herself from Obama so she could cut her own path and not seem like an Obama clone. Clinton should take a few issues with which she disagrees with against Obama that are symbolically important and go with it.”
Sabato also agreed with Hill’s perspective on how Clinton should run in 2016.
“She’ll try to run against the Republican Congress” Sabato said. “She can say, ‘You need a Democratic president to check the GOP Congress.’ So that could actually be a plus for Hillary.”
Hill advised that if Clinton does indeed plan on running again, that there are a few areas in which she can change from her last campaign.
“Much of the criticism she received [previously] focused on a perception that she was not connecting with people,” Hill said. “This is what is meant when you hear people asking if you would like to have a beer with a candidate. Towards the end of her campaign, she seemed to be overcoming this criticism, in some cases by visiting a bar and having a beer with people. Some of her recent comments, on being broke for example, suggest that she still needs to work on making connections.”
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