March 28, 2013

Hillary’s Shift and Way-Too-Early Speculation for 2013

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Why did she do it? After publicly announcing her reformulated stance on marriage for same-sex couples, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is once again back in the spotlight as the national media begins to pick way-too-early favorites for the 2016 presidential primaries.

Despite the prematurity, the signs are hard to ignore. In a March PPP 2016 Florida Democratic presidential primary survey, Clinton topped the list of preferred Democratic candidates with a whopping 62% of the vote, followed by Vice President Joe Biden with 12%, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (5%), and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (3%). One would be hard pressed to assemble an early “power rankings” list of the top-10 likely candidates without those first two names on the board.

Clinton’s popularity is not simply a question of name recognition, either. According to the same survey, Clinton holds an 82% favorability rating compared to only 14% unfavorability in Florida. Political commentator and former Bill Clinton political strategist James Carville speculated Tuesday that the pressure on Hillary to run in 2016 will be  “unimaginable.”

“I mean,” continued Carville, “if — I just go around the country and if there’s a Democrat that does not want her to run, I have not met them. Now she is her own person and seems perfectly willing to resist that kind of pressure, but in terms of encouragement, I don’t think there’s ever been anybody that is a prohibitive front-runner for a party’s nomination as former Secretary of State Clinton is right now. You can feel it out there wherever I go and whenever people talk to me, it’s the same thing.”

On Monday, Clinton came out in support of same-sex marriage in the former Secretary of State’s first publicized appearance since the Benghazi hearings in January. Clinton remarked that the “speed with which more and more people have come to embrace the dignity and equality of LGBT Americans has been breathtaking and inspiring,” and that “[l]ike so many others, my personal views have been shaped over time by people I have known and have loved.” One of Clinton’s connections has been pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign, which hosted the former Secretary of State’s announcement. The HRC’s President, Chad Griffin, has a history of working with the Clinton family.

With Clinton explicitly wanting to make an announcement before the Supreme Court oral arguments that took place this week, the National Journal’s Jill Lawrence attempted to uncover non-campaign motives for a Clinton announcement. Among them included a revision of her 2008 views — at the time in support of civil unions — and waiting until after her husband and former President Bill Clinton changed his own opinion on the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Additionally, coming out in support of same-sex marriage during her tenure as Secretary of State could have damaged Clinton’s standing in socially conservative countries abroad.

If Clinton is posturing for 2016, however, she’s put herself in a good position. There’s a steady drumbeat among voters and pundits that Clinton could be the strong favorite not just for Party nomination, but also for outright presidency, in 2016. There are some still some minor concerns. Buzzfeed’s Ruby Cramer ponders “Can the Democratic Party’s next presidential nominee be a candidate who favors the death penalty, opposes marijuana decriminalization, objects to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, calls for a pathway to legal status over citizenship, and gets beat on a marriage-equality endorsement by Republican Senator Rob Portman?” Tack on some of the overlooked foreign policy blunders of the previous administration — including the former Secretary of State’s implication in March 2011 that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was “a reformer” — and it becomes apparent that primary opponents will have plenty of talking points if Clinton decides she wants to run. Regardless, fond memories of the Clinton 90s and Hillary’s strong base from the 2008 campaign may be enough to quell those doubts.

Why did Clinton come out in support of same-sex marriage in 2013? Ties with pro-LGBT organizations and helping to unite public opinion and the Democratic base on a pressing issue are likely reasons, but there’s no smoking gun. Still, coincidence or not, Clinton is slowly but surely shifting ideologically toward this generation’s Democratic Party — justifying a smidge of wishful thinking for those hoping for a Hillary 2016 campaign.

Original Author: Chris Mills