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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hillary Clinton in 2016?

The late Lee Atwater used to talk about "the invisible circle," the very small number of political figures that the public knows and can accept as potential presidents. That is, if voters woke up and found that one of these people was in the White House, they could go back to sleep knowing that he or she could do the job. In their day, Nelson Rockefeller and Hubert Humphrey were in the invisible circle.

Among Democrats not named Obama, who's there today? Hillary Clinton, full stop. She has universal name recognition, and with her experience as a senator and secretary of state, she has all the requisite qualifications. Nobody else comes close. Joe Biden? Quit laughing. Andrew Cuomo? Brian Schweitzer? Martin O'Malley? Maybe in the future, but they're all unknown outside their home states.

 But as the Humphrey and Rockefeller examples suggest, residence in the invisible circle does not guarantee success. They had liabilities, and so does Secretary Clinton. First, she will be 69 at the time of the 2016 election, which would make her the second-oldest person ever to take the oath for the first time.  (Reagan was a few months older when he became president in 1981.)  Unfair as the perception may be, some people will think she's too old. Second, if voters are in the mood for a change, her credentials will work against her. After her many years at the center of Washington, the icon for "change" would be a picture of her with a red slash through it. Third, all the Clinton-era litter would blow back onto her front lawn. Remember her mysterious success at commoditytrading? Don't worry: oppo guys will remember it for you.

Most of all, she's been at the heart of foreign policy for the past four years. If 2016 is a time of international peace and prosperity, then she'll be able to claim some credit. But current events in the MiddleEast suggest a darker future. If things don't look so good on the world stage, she'll have to take a lot of the blame.