Some Democrats are so concerned that the end of the Obama era means a return to Clinton party rule that they are going on the record attacking Hillary Clinton’s nascent presidential campaign. A number of veterans from Obama’s 2008 campaign told Buzzfeed that Clinton is starting up her fundraising efforts too early and threatens to hurt the party’s 2016 efforts.
A number of figures pivotal to the success of the Obama campaign against Clinton eight years ago tell the publication that Clinton is “repeating the mistakes she made in 2008,” this time in a way that makes her vulnerable not only to potential Democratic primary candidates but also to a strong Republican nominee.
Among those speaking on the record are the president’s former chief campaign pollster, Joel Benenson, who warned that consolidating Democratic fundraising groups and PACs to give the appearance of inevitability could significantly backfire on the candidate once more. It could bring attention to the campaign and to follies on her record too early before the 2016 primaries and weaken a campaign that has barely had time to be constructed. “She doesn’t need this,” Benenson said, suggesting that there is no rush to create a fundraising infrastructure two years in advance. He said those pushing forward the message that she is the inevitable nominee do not “help her, and I think she should make that clear.”
Ben LaBolt, a communications strategist who became a familiar face in 2012 as the president’s campaign press secretary, echoed these sentiments: “Activists, donors, and voters like to see candidates fighting for every vote. If they start to feel like their power and influence is diminished it could have unforeseen consequences,” he told Buzzfeed, adding that opponents will have a higher incentive to attack or pick apart her platform early if the inevitability narrative gathers strength.
The most significant comment in the article, however, did not come from anyone on the record. It was one former top Obama aide that laid bare the real reason Team Obama appears so concerned about what happens in an election their candidate is barred from running in. “People are getting really worried about it,” said the anonymous source, adding that Clinton appears to not “have a compelling rational for her candidacy.”
While two years away from election season, the threat of having a candidate with no platform and only money and influence is a real one for the Democrat Party. Unlike most of the potential 2016 candidates on the Republican side, Clinton has no signature issue: on national security, she has the Benghazi scandal around her neck; on health care, she has two botched reforms under two different presidents. Even the most flawed Republican candidate has an issue they can run on: Rick Santorum is respected for ideological consistency, Chris Christie has teachers’ union reform under his belt, and Mitt Romney the bragging rights of having predicted a number of President Obama’s second term failures.
Clinton has nothing but the ability to raise money and get ducks in a row, and logistical expertise simply doesn’t get out the vote.
No one knows that more than the people who won two campaigns for President Obama. The Obama campaign may not have been heavy on policy, but it never felt like a power grab the way Clinton’s did in 2008 and the way it is beginning to feel already. It was a feel-good movement of people who wanted someone to tell them everything was going to be alright after the post-9/11 years. Obama swept the vote by making people feel good through a series of well-thought-out speeches and appearances and an attack campaign too smooth to be obvious against McCain. Nothing could be more anathema to the ethos of the Obama campaign than a Clinton run based solely on the fact that she can win, but with no obvious idea of what she will do once she does.
The tension between the retiring victors and returning challengers of the Democrat Party will define the 2016 race as much as the ideological diversity that defines the individualism of the American right. It was a fight many saw coming, though perhaps not this soon. The fact that the Clinton backlash is already on her doorstep two years away cannot be a good omen for the former Secretary of State.