Political Animal


April 01, 2013 1:22 PM Hillary Clinton Is No Mitt Romney

By Ed Kilgore

David Frum has generally become an interesting writer offering fresh perspectives—not least on the GOP to which he remains tenuously connected—but his CNN column on why Democrats should not “settle” for Hillary Clinton in 2016 via some “next-in-line” psychology is really flawed.

Democrats seem poised to choose their next presidential nominee the way Republicans often choose theirs: according to the principle of “next in line.”
Hillary Clinton came second in the nomination fight of 2008. If she were a Republican, that would make her a near-certainty to be nominated in 2016. Five of the past six Republican nominees had finished second in the previous round of primaries. (The sixth was George W. Bush, son of the most recent Republican president.)
Democrats, by contrast, prefer newcomers. Six of their eight nominees since 1972 had never sought national office before.
Obviously, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Democrats chose the next guy in line in 2000 — Vice President Al Gore — and they may well do so again. But speaking from across the aisle, it’s just this one observer’s opinion that Democrats would be poorly served by following the Republican example when President Obama’s term ends.

I’ve always thought the “next-in-line” explanation for Republican presidential politics was a considerable over-simplification, and actually wrong if it was used to suggest ideology matters less to conservatives than we’ve been led to believe. But even if you buy it entirely, comparing HRC to such next-in-line Republican pols as Poppy Bush in 1988, John McCain in 2008, and Mitt Romney in 2012 just doesn’t pass the smell test.

The three Republicans just mentioned never had overwhelming grassroots support in their own party and eventually prevailed over weak fields after relentlessly repositioning themselves to the Right. Both McCain and Romney, in particular, survived what can only be described as demolition derbies, and had to spend precious general-election resources pandering to the party “base.”

HRC’s immensely popular among grass-roots Democrats, not just because she is the last candidate not named Barack Obama who ran an effective presidential nomination contest, but because of the personal capital she’s built up over the years, her performance as a very popular Secretary of State, and the widely shared belief among progressives that it’s far past time for a woman to serve as president. Plus she is crushing every named Republican in early general-election trial heats.

Frum argues that an HRC nomination will inhibit the rise of fresh talent in the Donkey Party, and inhibit helpful intra-party debates. I’m all for fresh talent and helpful intra-party debates, but I’d say what Democrats probably want and need most is a 2016 victory to consolidate the policy achievements of the Obama administration while perhaps convincing Republicans the vicious obstructionism they’ve been exhibiting since 2009 is a dead end. Any way you slice it, though, treating HRC as another Mitt Romney is just laughable.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Mark_NC on April 01, 2013 1:35 PM:

    "Frum argues that an HRC nomination will inhibit the rise of fresh talent"

    And Mr. Republican lover cares - why? It's more likely that he knows she'll win and that will keep his beloved Republicans away from the power button for years to come.

    Just because he occasionally calls out the new insanity of the right doesn't mean he's changed his stripes!

  • Peter C on April 01, 2013 1:57 PM:

    "Democrats seem poised to choose their next presidential nominee the way Republicans often choose theirs: according to the principle of “next in line.”"

    This is the sort of thing that people write when they have nothing useful to say. The nominating process has not started yet, and will not start for a couple of years. We're not 'poised' to do anything. Saying that we are is just drivel.

  • c u n d gulag on April 01, 2013 1:59 PM:

    Hillary as Gore/McCain, and Mitt?

    Though I'm pretty sure that will now become the next meme that they'll try to get the cowardly, compliant, and complicit MSM to digest, before they keep spewing it out to the public.

    Mr. Frum,
    If she does decide to run, remember, in the years before she'll run, she'll have been FLOTUS, a respected US Senator, a viable Presidential candidate, and the SoS - where Hillary was out trying to help other countries in the world.
    In other words, not at all like Mitt - who, prior to last year, was out trying to buy-up ailing companies, laying-off the workers, and taking their pension funds. Then choosing to go into politics, and losing a Senatorial race before he became a mediocre Governor, a candidate who failed in his first Presidential primary, and then finally became his parties Presidential candidate, in a near landslide election loss.

    Yeah - they're practically feckin' twins, seperated at birth!

  • Ron Byers on April 01, 2013 2:02 PM:

    Hillary Clinton is not just the next guy in line. She is probably the best qualified person in America to be the next President. The only problem she has is her age. She will be in her late 60s in 2016. I am not sure we don't need a younger nominee, but Frum's take is FOS.

  • gdb on April 01, 2013 2:32 PM:

    Hillary's problem ain't her age,sex, or health. It's her policies and big-money baggage. Not that Progressive on health care, stimulus, and other issues.[BHO's economic advisor's WERE Hillary's.] And her "good ol' boy (or girl)baggage.. remember that from 2008?? If the Dems can do no better, it's depressing. Another case of better than Mittens.. but that ain't sayin' much.

  • martin on April 01, 2013 3:09 PM:

    Should have just titled the post "Concern Troll".

  • Peter C on April 01, 2013 3:15 PM:

    The best way to promote 'fresh talent' is to retain the Presidency and cycle new people into cabinet positions and under-secretaryships. The executive branch is a terrific place to give people valuable political and government experience for their campaign resumes. If Hilary could walk into office in 2016, it would be much better for 'fresh talent' than a 'close but losing' run by some other candidate. Frum's advice sounds a lot like Bre'r Rabbit's plea "please don't throw me in the briar patch!".

    We'll have debate within the Democratic Party even without a long Primary campaign. We have plenty of qualified candidates for 2016; we don't have to jockey for position just yet.

  • mb on April 01, 2013 3:17 PM:

    The "next in line" is Joe Biden. If Dems acted like the GOP, Hillary would have zero chance in 2016 -- barring Joe Biden stepping aside. If Joe takes himself out -- or is removed by circumstance -- then Hillary is the "next in line." But only then.

    Personally, I'd like to see the country give Joe a shot. I think he'd be a humdinger of a president -- fun, funny, and deeply compassionate. I've been watching him for a lot of years -- he's the real deal. He could be just the tonic this country needs to counter the toxic atmosphere. I love Hillary and will, no doubt, vote for her, but I dread the nastiness that will be inevitable. I do not want to relive the 90s.

  • wihntr on April 01, 2013 3:36 PM:

    I am not real crazy about another Clinton candidacy or presidency. I don't think dynaties belong in American government (though we have and have had many over the years) and I too dread the thought of re-living the nonsense of the '90's. But as crazy as the GOP is these days, I don't think it really would matter who ran for the Dems. They would be just as crazoly against him or her no matter who it was. And frankly, given a choice between a President Clinton II and a President Santorum...well, there really isn't a choice.

  • smartalek on April 01, 2013 3:55 PM:

    mb, I mean no disrespect at all (really, no snark) when I ask if you can really forgive everything that Joe did for the banks / credit-card issuers, especially (but hardly limited to) the last devastation of the Bankruptcy laws?
    They didn't used to call him "D-MBNA" for nothing...

  • skeptonomist on April 01, 2013 4:11 PM:

    Hillary is OK and certainly not another Mitt, but for what reasons other than being the wife of Bill is she considered such a great progressive candidate? Is she going to repudiate Bill's economic-advisor gang? Will she choose war again when the opportunity offers? Of course Obama did not repudiate the gang, although he promised to (while he kept them on staff). Why can't we hope for a real progressive, charismatic candidate?

  • Sisyphus on April 01, 2013 4:39 PM:

    Here's the ticket I'd love: Biden/Brown (as in Sherrod). Despite his occasional foot-in-mouthism, Biden's often the smartest guy at the table from a policy stand point, and Sherrod's one of the last, truly decent, progressive politician left in America.

  • gdb on April 01, 2013 4:42 PM:

    skepto. right on. Can no one not named Bush or Clinton have major party support? Personally, I'd pick Brian Schweitzer (former Gov of Montana) as better than Hillary on policies and politikking -- and MORE likely to beat Santorum (or Jeb Bush if ya'll want to keep your choices b/w a Bush and a Clinton).

  • Mimikatz on April 01, 2013 5:23 PM:

    Since people keep floating Hillary, I'll ake the same points one more time. Hillary is going to be almost my age in 2016 and running for and being Pres requires an extraordinary amount of energy. Biden will be even older. Please, folks! We need someone who is actually going to have to live through a good chunk of the future and thus has a real stake in it. If Hillary insists on running, she should use the primary season to audition the next generation of Dem leaders and pick someone like Jeff Merkley of OR as VP who then runs in 2020.

  • gdb on April 01, 2013 6:21 PM:

    Hilary is part of the old guard of Dems who are basically reluctant to confront Repub right wing ideology. Dems need a new generation of leaders with some fire in their bellies and convictions they stand up for. They may be nuts, but at least the Repubs have such a new generation in the Santorum's, Ryan's, Cruz's, Paul's etc.. [And no-- you don't have to be nuts to be an FDR or HHH or Schweitzer or Sherrod Brown]

  • gocart mozart on April 01, 2013 7:20 PM:

    The next in line on the Republican side is Rick Santorum! Hahahahah.

    But anyways, Hillary is a lock, she will run, and no, she is not too old (She will be younger than Reagan, Dole and McCain and only a couple of years older than Romney fer chrisakes.

    The V.P. is for new talent. Schwietzer would be a perfect compliment (Castro from Texas needs a statewide gig first) anyone have other V.P. suggestions?

  • gocart mozart on April 01, 2013 7:23 PM:

    "And no-- you don't have to be nuts to be an FDR or HHH or Schweitzer or Sherrod Brown]"

    Sherrod Brown should be Senate Majority leader IMHO.

  • gyrfalcon on April 02, 2013 1:39 AM:

    Frum (and some of you commenters) don't get Hillary Clinton, and you totally don't get the passionate hunger of American women for political equality. Wait for it. If she decides to run, she will win.

  • Gov't Mule on April 02, 2013 9:25 AM:

    Frum, who is one of the more candid conservative pundits, is missing a point. New talent is often better utilized in races for Senate, House and the governor's office. Also, there is not a lot of young talent in the Democratic Party besides Martin O'Malley. Many of the new faces are older like Elizabeth Warren.

  • Gov't Mule on April 02, 2013 9:29 AM:

    Santos-McGarry in 2016!

  • Michael Tracy on April 02, 2013 2:08 PM:

    HRC in 2016 reminds me more of Richard Nixon in 1968.