OAKLAND, August 26, 2013—Election 2016 has already begun, and Hillary Clinton is already playing the inside baseball game of campaigning while appearing to not campaign. She remains a polarizing figure, with many Democrats anointing her the next president and many Republicans determined to stop her.
Yet when all is said and done, Hillary is probably not going to be president.
This is not about her pluses or minuses. It comes down to mathematics that have little to nothing to do with her. It is simply difficult for the party in power to win three straight elections.
Most Americans are loyal to the America flag. If it is a close call, they are willing to give their current president a second term. This was the case with President George W. Bush in 2004 and President Barack Obama in 2012. Yet after eight years, even popular presidents leave the people fatigued. The desire for “change” is the natural ebb and flow of American politics.
A good example of this is the 2000 election. Liberals can scream to the heavens about pregnant chads and stolen votes, and conservatives can point out that Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee. Yet the real issue is that Gore was delivered a gift, and he failed to accept it. With an economy that was slowing but still seen by many as strong, and with a world at peace, Gore should have won by twenty points. People had Clinton fatigue, and Gore paid the price. Despite giving Clinton a decisive reelection victory in 1996, by 2000 even Democrats effectively said “enough is enough.”
This shows how effective President Ronald Reagan was. He was reelected in 1984 under the slogan “leadership that’s working.” It was “Morning in America.” He won by twenty points, and even a second term scandal failed to dent his personal likability.
Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush was a decent man, but a weak and uninspiring nominee. The affection people had for Reagan was enough to get his vice president over the hump. Bush won by only eight points over an even weaker Michael Dukakis. That was less than half of Reagan’s 1984 victory margin.
People did turn away from the GOP and desire change, but Reagan left Bush enough cushion to survive. By 1992, the Reagan coalition had collapsed under the weight of a strong third party challenger and the difficulty of winning four straight elections, much less three.
Hillary can win. She brings formidable assets to the race, including tons of money, fiercely loyal supporters, and a globally known name. Yet winning three straight elections is difficult under ideal conditions for any party. Hillary will most likely have terrible circumstances. A stagnant economy and a world at war will make it difficult to justify giving Hillary Obama’s third term.
Hillary will try to carve out her own identity but will face the same problem as Gore. It is tough to run from the party in power and the party out of power. Reagan’s presidency was so successful that Bush did not seek daylight. Republicans still latch on to Reagan.
Obama is not popular. He has fiercely loyal supporters and detractors, but even people who like him personally have difficulty defending his policies. Hillary will try to straddle being for everything that worked and against everything that failed. Triangulation is now seen less as clever repositioning and more like craven opportunism.
Additionally, Hillary does have negatives. She can come across as cold and unlikable. Her detractors see her as corrupt, Lady MacBeth without the ethics. Her scandals are numerous, and Benghazi is not going away. “What difference does it make?” will be with her forever.
She could get lucky and draw a terrible GOP opponent. Yet a party out of power for eight years tends to be more reasonable. The desire to “just win” trumps ideology. In general, Republicans choose mainstream nominees.
Hillary’s resume is light. Her State Department tenure was mediocre at best, lacking any significant accomplishment. Benghazi was a debacle.
Unexpected events often play a role. Obama benefited from a financial crisis two months before his first election and a hurricane one week before his sequel. If Hillary needs wild luck to win, she is in trouble.
Hillary can run, but the numbers are what they are. People have had enough of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and Hillary may pay the price. Far from making her unique, this normal cycle of politics is why she will probably lose if she runs.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
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