Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be dispensing with the nationwide electoral strategy that won her husband two terms in the White House and brought white working-class voters and great stretches of what is now red-state America back to Democrats.
Instead, she is poised to retrace Barack Obama’s far narrower path to the presidency: a campaign focused more on mobilizing supporters in the Great Lakes states and in parts of the West and South than on persuading undecided voters.
Mrs. Clinton’s aides say it is the only way to win in an era of heightened polarization, when a declining pool of voters is truly up for grabs. Her liberal policy positions, they say, will fire up Democrats, a less difficult task than trying to win over independents in more hostile territory — even though a broader strategy could help lift the party with her.
House Democrats, while realistic about the difficulty of retaking control, are also counting on Mrs. Clinton to drive turnout for their candidates. There will be contested races in some presidential swing states, but Democratic strategists say Mrs. Clinton could also help the party unseat House Republicans in deep-blue states like New York and California.
So to Democrats in states where Mrs. Clinton is unlikely to compete, her relying on Mr. Obama’s map would be worrisome. It would not only further diminish beleaguered state parties, but also leave Mrs. Clinton with a narrower margin for error.
“Go ask Al Gore,” Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, said about the risk of writing off states such as his, where Democratic presidential candidates prospered until 2000. “He’d be president with five electoral votes from West Virginia. So it is big, and it can make a difference.”
“The highest-premium voter in ’92 was a voter who would vote for one party some and for another party some,” said James Carville, Mr. Clinton’s chief strategist in 1992. “Now the highest-premium voter is somebody with a high probability to vote for you and low probability to turn out. That’s the golden list. And that’s a humongous change in basic strategic doctrine.”