14 March 2016

The Clinton campaign’s risky election strategy


When Hillary Clinton ran for a Senate seat in New York State, many accused the former First Lady of “carpetbagging,” a term for when an outsider comes into a new area seeking private gain through business or, in Hillary’s case, politics. Despite large amounts of dissatisfaction with the practice, Clinton won the seat anyway and was able to enjoy some of the highest levels of satisfaction of her career. Clinton was able to win New Yorkers over by championing their causes: farming in Upstate New York and finance in New York City and its environs. Clinton is now taking that strategy nation-wide in her bid for the presidency.

In the Washington Post this week James Hohmann lauds the Democrat’s strategy, declaring it a decisive part of her increasing number of primary victories against socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont. By focusing on local issues, like voter ID in the South or lead in the water supply in Michigan, Clinton hopes to bypass the national news-cycle, which includes a list of scandals so long it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all.

While this strategy is helping Clinton increase her lead over Sanders, it isn’t guaranteeing victory. Despite campaigning on the Flint water scandal in Michigan, Clinton still experienced a surprising loss to Sanders in the state this week. As we’ve seen elsewhere in the country, Clinton underperformed with non-white voters in Michigan, who she had been depending on to deliver a victory.

Because of the way the Democratic party chooses its nominee (many call the process involving super delegates unDemocratic), Clinton is all but certain to be on the Democratic ticket. Sanders repeated victories and close second finishes, however, indicate a high level of voter dissatisfaction. While she was able to move past accusations of carpetbagging while in the Senate due to her hyper-local approach, Clinton’s high levels of unfavorability on important traits like “trustworthiness” don’t look good for the 68-year old candidate.

Given what will likely be a tough campaign for the former First Lady, Secretary of State and Senator, Donald Trump, with astronomically high unfavorables of his own, seems like an ideal candidate. The Clinton campaign has already devised their strategy against the entertainer-turned-Republican candidate, and it’s a pretty obvious one: he’s a misogynist and a terrible businessman (both verifiably true).

The Clintons might be the worst possible individuals in American politics to deliver this message. Given the many sex scandals and their subsequent cover ups, which include victim blaming and shaming, made against Bill over the course of his career, Trump will rightfully hit back (and in true form, in an incredibly blunt fashion) that the Clintons are calling the kettle black if they broach women’s issues. As career politicians who have never run a business in their lives, the Clintons are hardly ones to talk when it comes to Trump’s many failures in business. Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz already tried to level these attacks during previous debates and were immediately shut down by Trump, who yelled about the Senators’ lack of business experience. Trump’s comebacks along those lines immediately deflated many of Rubio and Cruz’s attacks, as evidenced by Trump’s continued success in the Republican primary.

Donald Trump is increasingly looking poised to take the Republican nomination. An examination of Hillary’s campaign and strategy seems to indicate that the Democrats may be as unable to stop the Trump train as the Republicans running against Trump in the primaries.

Bethany Mandel writes on politics and culture.