Hillary Clinton Tries To Sound Like Sanders & O’Malley While Avoiding Specifics

hillary_clinton_economic_speech

Hillary Clinton’s big economic speech has mostly been greeted with yawns. Previously the conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton was one of Wall Street’s favorite candidates, and her speech has not changed this. She did include a number of points which sounded good, but lacked any specifics to make a convincing case that she would really bring about any changes.

Politico summed up the reaction in an article entitled Clinton speech react: ‘Is that it?’ The Democratic front-runner manages to underwhelm both Wall Street and its reformers in her signature economic policy speech:

Clinton laid out the soft contours of a “growth and fairness economy” in a speech designed to appeal to struggling middle-class workers with promises of higher pay and more generous federal policies.

But she left out many hard specifics on tougher tax policy toward the rich and corporate America. And she offered limited pledges to crack down on big Wall Street banks while hitting her strongest notes promising to toss rogue bankers in prison while ripping recent worker-productivity comments from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Despite those few moments, this was hardly Thomas Piketty invading the land of Wall Street titans and flipping over tables piled high with gold. And there were no radical new proposals aimed at reversing America’s long slide into wage stagnation.

“She appears to have taken a page out of the Elizabeth Warren book on going after bankers and brokers and fat cats and people who may have broken the law,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment office at BMO Private bank. “I’m sure a lot of polling went into that. But in terms of inequality and profit-sharing and general economic redistribution, she was a lot longer on problems than she was on solutions.”

And Clinton sounded some of her by now very familiar themes, invoking her love of being a grandmother and arguing that middle-class wage stagnation since the end of the Great Recession was exacerbating income inequality while pledging that something must be done. But that something, according to Clinton, mainly consists of boosting the minimum wage and increasing overtime pay, something President Barack Obama has been pushing for some time…

Financial reformers gave her mixed grades. “It’s a good start, but after all this listening, planning and thinking by the runaway leading candidate, I expected more,” said Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets, a pro-reform group. “The American people deserve a concrete, specific, comprehensive plan that really protects them from Wall Street recklessness and that she as president can be held accountable for once in office.”

Another financial reformer said the anti-Wall Street crowd was waiting to see whether Clinton will “put in place a team of advisers who have a demonstrated history of supporting meaningful reform and tough enforcement, or chooses instead to surround herself with the same crowd of revolving door insiders.”

The real test for Clinton on Wall Street will come when and if she turns this rhetoric into actual policy prescriptions. Big Wall Street titans heavily funding Clinton’s campaign and other business interests fully expect to take some heavy rhetorical hits as the Democratic front-runner fights off the Sanders surge. But they do not expect Clinton to try and fully reshape their industry.

She did correctly criticize Jeb Bush for his recent comment that Americans should “work longer hours” and Marco Rubio’s tax cut for millionaires. She did sound like she might be more willing than President Obama has to prosecute bankers who violate the law. She fell far short of Bernie Sanders’ support for breaking up the big banks, as well as short of the specific economic proposals recently released by Martin O’Malley. She basically seems to desire to use the rhetoric of Sanders and O’Malley, as well as Elizebeth Warren, while keeping the big corporations and banks confident in continuing to bankroll her campaign.

Clinton did call for paid family leave. She supported an increase in the minimum wage without any indication as to whether she will match Sanders and O’Malley on the size of an increase supported. Earlier in the campaign, Clinton was to the right of Sanders and O’Malley when they were calling for increasing Social Security benefits. She now gave vague support for enhancing Social Security without clarifying what this means. About the biggest surprise of the speech was her criticism of the gig economy:

In a note that struck some as odd given the popularity of the services, Clinton specifically criticized “gig economy” companies, a group that includes upstarts such as Airbnb and Uber. These types of scrappy young companies have often provided corporate homes for former Obama administration officials. Former top Obama adviser David Plouffe is now a senior executive at Uber.

Center-right sources such as Politico above indicate no real fear of Clinton from Wall Street. Salon summed up the response to Clinton’s speech from the left:
Hillary Clinton gave her big economic speech this morning, proposing a whole array of policies that she argues will “build a ‘growth and fairness’ economy.” She wasn’t especially forthcoming on details, which is a shame, but she had some interesting and ideas and made some promises that she should be held to going forward.
The full transcript is available here.
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Meaningless But Hopeful News For Sanders And O’Malley

Favorability Fictional Characters And Politicians

This week has a lot of somewhat encouraging news, even if it all has zero predictive value. Bernie Sanders came unexpectedly close to Clinton in the Wisconsin straw poll. While straw polls are pretty much meaningless, as we saw with all those straw poll victories by fringe candidates like Ron Paul, it could be a sign of the enthusiasm for Sanders, which has also been seen elsewhere, and Sanders has far more upside potential than Paul ever had. The first Daily Kos Democratic Straw Poll shows Sanders leading Clinton by more than two to one at the time I am writing. Then there is the survey pictured above.

The data is based upon the favorability of politicians from the latest Quinnipiac poll along with Google Consumer Survey questions on famous movie villains. The Terminator, Darth Vader, and the Shark from Jaws beat all politicians. No surprise there. It is also not surprising that Donald Trump has the lowest favorability of all.

It is also interesting to look at the non-fictional candidates. Of the potential 2016 candidates, Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio both beat Hillary Clinton,  and Martin O’Malley, who has barely started his campaign is not far behind Clinton. The latest polls show a sharp drop for Clinton and if this continues she might even wind up below Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Voldemort.

At the moment, it looks like Bernie Sanders is the most electable based upon this chart.

Of course the more meaningful numbers are in the recent polling results showing that support for Clinton is falling among Democrats.

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Clinton Resumes Fall In Polls And Having Problems With Liberal Donors

CNN Clinton Poll

Yesterday’s polling results out of Iowa were somewhat negative for Clinton with 66 percent of Democratic caucus goers concerned that the Clinton scandals could affect her in the general election. It gets far worse in two additional polls released today. After her temporary bounce after declaring her candidacy, Clinton’s favorability rating is again falling and more people consider her to be dishonest.

First the CNN/ORC Poll:

More people have an unfavorable view of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton now than at any time since 2001, according to a new CNN/ORC poll on the 2016 race.

While Clinton remains strikingly dominant in the Democratic field, the poll shows that her numbers have dropped significantly across several key indicators since she launched her campaign in April.

A growing number of people say she is not honest and trustworthy (57%, up from 49% in March), less than half feel she cares about people like them (47%, down from 53% last July) and more now feel she does not inspire confidence (50%, up from 42% last March).

In head-to-head match-ups against top Republicans, her margin is tighter than it has been at any point in CNN/ORC’s polling on the contest…

In general election match-ups, Clinton now runs about even with Rand Paul, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, while she continues to top Bush and Ted Cruz by a significant margin.

As noted above, those shifts stem largely from a change among independents, though Republicans appear to be solidifying their support for GOP candidates while Democrats are slightly less certain about Clinton.

One feature of the race that has held even as the numbers shifted: These match-ups prompt enormous gender gaps. According to the poll, the gender gaps remain over 20 points in each of the five match-ups tested, including a whopping 34-point gender gap in Clinton’s match-up with Scott Walker.

Her declining support in those general election match-ups, alongside falling favorability ratings and worsening impressions of her, suggests recent news about her actions as secretary of state may have taken a toll.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll finds similar bad news for the Clinton campaign:

Meanwhile, Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to dominate the Democratic nomination contest. But her personal attributes continue to erode in the wake of stories about fundraising practices at the Clinton Foundation and her use of a personal e-mail server while at the State Department.

Clinton’s favorability ratings are the lowest in a Post-ABC poll since April 2008, when she was running for president the first time. Today, 41 percent of Americans say she is honest and trustworthy, compared with 52 percent who say she is not — a 22-point swing in the past year…

Clinton’s favorability rating has fallen steadily since she left the Obama administration in early 2013. Today, 45 percent see her positively while 49 percent see her negatively. That compares with ratings of 49 percent and 46 percent two months ago. Just 24 percent have a strongly favorable impression of her — down six points in the past two months — while 39 percent have a strongly unfavorable impression, up four points.

The decline in Clinton’s ratings as a candidate who is honest and trustworthy highlights a likely vulnerability as a general-election candidate. Half of all Americans disapprove of the way she has handled questions about the Clinton Foundation, and 55 percent disapprove of how she has handled questions about her personal e-mails as secretary of state.

Meanwhile, half also disapprove of the way she has dealt with questions about the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Majorities see the issues of the Clinton Foundation and Benghazi as fair game in the presidential election, while almost half of Americans say the e-mail issue is a legitimate topic.

This poll looked more at Jeb Bush than the entire field but also showed Clinton’s support falling against Bush, especially among women:

Indeed, while Bush has lost ground in the contest for the GOP nomination, Clinton does less well against him in a head-to-head matchup. The gap between them has closed from 12 points to three – 47-44 percent, Clinton-Bush, among registered voters, vs. 53-41 percent two months ago…

The most striking change in the head-to-head matchup between Clinton and Bush is a decline in Clinton’s support among women, from 59-36 percent in March to 49-43 percent now. Men continue to split, now 44-46 percent, Clinton-Bush.

The shift among women is generational; it’s occurred almost exclusively among women younger than age 50 – from 72-22 percent two months ago to 48-43 percent now. It’s also happened to a lesser extent among college educated white women, a potentially important voting group: They supported Clinton 57-34 percent in March, but now divide evenly, 45-46 percent.

Among other groups, Clinton’s gone from a 61-point margin among nonwhites, 78-17 percent, to a 47-point split, 70-23 percent; whites still break for Bush. A 48-43 percent Clinton-Bush split among independents in March is now 46-40 percent Bush-Clinton. And while more moderates support Clinton than Bush, 51-42 percent, that gap has declined from 24 to 9 points.

Clinton continues to hold an enormous lead over Democratic challengers for the nomination, but there is still a long time until the Iowa caucus. With her favorability at a seven year low and Clinton no longer having a lead over the leading Republican candidates, it is looking increasingly foolish for Democrats to nominate a candidate who is both ethically unfit to be president and who is to the right of the party on most issues.

This all might be taking a toll on contributions for Clinton. Politco reports that efforts by David Brock, who has been campaigning for Clinton with his groups Media Matters and American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, are not going well among some liberals. Note again that Brock’s organization Media Matters is closely aligned with the Clinton campaign, which explains much of the false information they have been posting to defend Clinton from media reports. Some of the liberal donors are finding Brock’s organizations to be acting too much like the Koch Brothers.

Part of the reticence stems from liberal queasiness about the expanding role of big money in politics since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. But there’s also some discomfort with Hillary Clinton, the former New York Senator and Secretary of State, who is seen as too hawkish on foreign policy and insufficiently progressive on key issues like fighting climate change, income inequality and the role of big money in politics. Additionally, Democratic finance operatives say, efforts to rustle up seven-figure checks are suffering from a lack of a single, unifying enemy on the right.

It is certainly possible that David Brock could be successful in his attempts to win over more Democratic support for Clinton. His bogus talking points in response to the scandals have certainly been repeated by many Democrats, but fooling the big money donors might be more difficult than having his talking points spread on Facebook.

Polls can, and probably will, change a lot between now and November 2016. However Democrats should be alarmed by the magnitude of the downward trend for Clinton, along with the danger that Clinton’s unethical behavior will harm her more as more people start paying attention to the facts. Republicans have a number of negatives of their own, but there is the danger that whoever survives the Republican race will come out of it in a stronger position than they are in now, and today’s tie very well could mean a Republican lead over Clinton by next year. Gambling on winning with a candidate the voters do not trust is foolhardy.

It is time for Democrats who have been ignoring Clinton’s weaknesses and ethical transgressions to take their heads out of the sand if they want to prevent a President Rubio, Paul, or Walker from being inaugurated in 2017.

Update: The Hill looked at Hillary Clinton’s honesty problem:

Observers who follow every political twist and turn might imagine that opinions of Clinton would be hard to change, for good or bad, given that she has now been a top player on the national political stage for a quarter-century.

The polling figures do not bear that out, however.

In the past year, the former first lady’s polling numbers on the “honesty” question have flipped…

An April Quinnipiac poll in three swing states — Colorado, Iowa and Virginia — showed the same weakness for Clinton on the honesty question, most conspicuously in Colorado, where a startling 56 percent of voters viewed Clinton as dishonest versus only 38 percent who saw her as honest.

 

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Further Revelations On Payments Received By Clintons Raise Questions About Both Their Ethics And Judgment

Clinton Money

About two weeks ago  Bill Clinton said he would continue to give paid speeches, regardless of the conflicts of interest this entails, because “I gotta pay our bills.” This was despite having made $105 million dollars in speaking fees between 2001 and 2013. The latest financial disclosures continue to show that Bill and Hillary should be able to pay their bills without Bill continuing to get paid for speeches. From The New York Times:

Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband made at least $30 million over the last 16 months, mainly from giving paid speeches to corporations, banks and other organizations, according to financial disclosure forms filed with federal elections officials on Friday.

The sum, which makes Mrs. Clinton among the wealthiest of the 2016 presidential candidates, could create challenges for the former secretary of state as she tries to cast herself as a champion of everyday Americans in an era of income inequality.

The $25 million in speaking fees since the beginning of last year continue a lucrative trend for the Clintons: They have now earned more than $125 million on the circuit since leaving the White House in 2001.

In addition, the report shows, Mrs. Clinton reported income exceeding $5 million from her memoir of her time as secretary of state, “Hard Choices.”

The Clintons’ riches have already become a subject of political attacks, and her campaign has been eager to showcase Mrs. Clinton as a more down-to-earth figure. Her only declared Democratic opponent at this point, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is an avowed socialist, while Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin have considerably more modest means.

A major dimension of Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy is expected to be policy proposals to narrow the gap between the rich and poor and to address stagnant wages. Yet she is far from those problems; while she said she and President Clinton were “dead broke” when they left the White House in early 2001, they are now part of the American elite.

While many conservative Democrats who support Clinton are likely to ignore this along with all the other revelations to be reported in the past couple of months, many bloggers see serious problems in nominating Hillary Clinton. John Cole says, This Just Stinks:

You knew you were running for President. You knew this would put a bullseye around you. Why, for the love of FSM, why?

Let’s earn 25 mill real quick then pivot to speaking for the common man. No one will notice, amirite?

Ezra Klein explains why this is significant for the ethically-challenged Democrats who are still willing to support Clinton (emphasis mine):

Almost a decade ago, as Hillary Clinton ran for re-election to the Senate on her way to seeking the presidency for the first time, the New York Times reported on her unusually close relationship with Corning, Inc., an upstate glass titan. Clinton advanced the company’s interests, racking up a big assist by getting China to ease a trade barrier. And the firm’s mostly Republican executives opened up their wallets for her campaign.

During Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, Corning lobbied the department on a variety of trade issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The company has donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to her family’s foundation. And, last July, when it was clear that Clinton would again seek the presidency in 2016, Corning coughed up a $225,500 honorarium for Clinton to speak.

In the laundry-whirl of stories about Clinton buck-raking, it might be easy for that last part to get lost in the wash. But it’s the part that matters most. The $225,500 speaking fee didn’t go to help disease-stricken kids in an impoverished village on some long-forgotten patch of the planet. Nor did it go to a campaign account. It went to Hillary Clinton. Personally.

The latest episode in the Clinton money saga is different than the others because it involves the clear, direct personal enrichment of Hillary Clinton, presidential candidate, by people who have a lot of money at stake in the outcome of government decisions. Her federally required financial disclosure was released to media late Friday, a time government officials and political candidates have long reserved for dumping news they hope will have a short shelf life.

Together, Hillary and Bill Clinton cleared $25 million on the lecture circuit over the last 16 months, according to a Hillary Clinton’s personal financial disclosure required of presidential candidates. A lot of the focus will naturally go toward the political argument that Clinton’s wealth makes her out of touch. The US has had plenty of good rich presidents and bad rich presidents. What’s more important is whether they are able to listen to all of the various interests without being unduly influenced by any of them.

There’s a reason government officials can’t accept gifts: They tend to have a corrupting effect. True, Hillary Clinton wasn’t a government official at the time the money was given. But it is very, very, very hard to see six-figure speaking fees paid by longtime political boosters with interests before the government — to a woman who has been running for president since the last time she lost — as anything but a gift.

After further details he continued with a word for Democrats who are probably ignoring this, questioning not only Hillary Clinton’s ethics but her judgment:

By this point, most Clinton allies wish they had a button so they didn’t have to go to the trouble of rolling their eyes at each new Clinton money story. The knee-jerk eye-roll response to the latest disclosure will be that there’s nothing new to see here. But there’s something very important to see that is different than the past stories. This time, it’s about Hillary Clinton having her pockets lined by the very people who seek to influence her. Not in some metaphorical sense. She’s literally being paid by them.

That storyline should be no less shocking for the fact that it is no longer surprising. The skimpy fig leaf of timing, that the speeches were paid for when she was between government gigs, would leave Adam blushing. And while most Democrats will shrug it off — or at least pretend to — it’s the kind of behavior voters should take into account when considering whether they want to give a candidate the unparalleled power of the presidency. It goes to the most important, hardest-to-predict characteristic in a president: judgment.

Hopefully Democrats will wake up and choose a more ethical nominee, or we face the danger that scandals such as this will return a Republican to the White House in the general election. Besides, it hardly makes sense to compromise principles  and nominate Clinton when she has spent her career pursuing a socially conservative agenda along with her quasi-neoconservative foreign policy views. As Lawyers, Guns, & Money said earlier when these scandals were being revealed:

For progressives, all this is, to put it mildly, depressing. Working to get someone with Hillary Clinton’s political views elected would require a certain amount of nose-holding even if she and her husband were above reproach, ethically speaking.

Under the circumstances, a race between Clinton and, say, Scott Walker is going to be akin to trying to acquire a sprained ankle instead of a major heart attack.

Update: Clinton’s Unethical Behavior Has Already Been Well Established–And It Has Nothing To Do With The Right

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Hillary Clinton Begins Campaign Hiding From Press & Marco Rubio Jumps In

Clinton Announcement Video Screen Grab

Hillary Clinton has started her campaign, and is already hiding from the press. From The Los Angeles Times:

Hillary Rodham Clinton shocked nobody in the media when she announced that she was running for president on Sunday – but her next move took reporters by surprise.

Clinton didn’t get on a campaign plane and head to Iowa. Instead, she and a small group of staff piled into what the candidate calls the Scooby van. They are road-tripping it to Iowa. The press was not invited.

Peter Beinart at The Atlantic was far more impressed with Clinton’s video announcing her campaign than I was, but his article might not be doing her any favors. Beinart reminded readers of all the conservative imagery in previous Clinton announcements and her long history of cultural conservatism:

Here are some of the phrases that appeared in Hillary’s 2000 senate announcement: “voluntary uniform rating system for movies and films,” “welfare,” “more police on the streets,” “teacher testing in the face of boycotts,” “I don’t believe government is the solution to all our problems” and “parents, all parents, must be responsible.” The message was pure Clintonism, as developed when Bill ran the Democratic Leadership Council in the early 1990s: To deserve government help, people must be morally responsible. And it came naturally to a senate candidate who, although caricatured as a sixties radical, was better described, by a former White House aide, as “a very judgmental Methodist from the Midwest.”

In 1993, Hillary had declared herself “not comfortable” with distributing condoms in schools. In 1994, she had endorsed “three strikes and you’re out” laws that expanded prison sentences.

In 1996, she had backed Bill’s decision to sign the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. And in the 2000 senate campaign, she supported parental notification laws for children seeking abortions, a position that placed her to the right of her initial Republican challenger, Rudy Giuliani.

I agree with Beinart that this year’s video displayed more liberal imagery, but it was just imagery. Nothing was said about actual political positions or plans upon taking office. Until she shows evidence otherwise, and there is a long way to go, this video is not enough to believe that she has really changed. In many ways Hillary Clinton has remained the same Goldwater Girl she was in the 1960’s (except that Barry Goldwater was more socially liberal than Clinton, and not much more hawkish).

At Salon, (better known in the blogosphere as just Digby) warned about the Dangers of a Hillary Clinton campaign: The disastrous centrism she desperately needs to avoid.

Barack Obama says that he and Hillary are friends (she is likable enough after all) but he won’t automatically endorse her. After all, “there are other people who are friends of of the president” who still might run. This must make the Draft Biden movement happy. Joe Biden has never been my top choice for president, but I sure wouldn’t mind seeing him get into the race against Clinton. Biden spent the first four years of the Obama administration opposing Clinton’s hawkish views, and I would like to see this explored during the campaign. Plus Biden gets points for the manner in which he pushed Obama to “evolve” on gay marriage, and for coming to the rescue in the vice presidential debate in 2012 after Obama bombed in the first debate.

In addition to the conservatives already in the race from both major parties, another has joined them. The best thing about Marco Rubio entering the race is that he cannot run for reelection in Florida, increasing the chances the Democrats can pick up the seat. He is gambling everything on winning the presidency, and he might be optimistic over only trailing Clinton by three points in the latest Public Policy Polling survey.

Brian Beutler says that Marco Rubio Is the Most Disingenuous Republican Running for President. Considering who he is up against, that is quite an accomplishment. Rubio claims Hillary Clinton’s Ideas ‘Will Not Help Everyday Americans’. That can be debated, once Clinton says what her positions are, but it is a safe bet that at least Clinton’s ideas won’t screw everyday Americans as Rubio’s ideas would.

If the Republicans plan to continue to run against Obamacare, they got more bad news. Gallup has found that the uninsured rate has continued to drop since the Affordable Care Act was passed, now down to 11.9 percent. If you got insurance thanks to Obamacare, don’t forget to turn out to vote for whoever wins the Democratic nomination.

Many more candidates will still be entering the race. Bill Kristol asks, If They Get To Nominate Hillary Clinton, Why Don’t We Get To Nominate Dick Cheney? Ok Bill, go ahead and nominate Dick Cheney, and see how the Republicans do with that.

There are many more elections besides the presidential elections in 2016. A group of liberal donors is stepping up to counter all the money the Koch Brothers and other conservatives have been spending to help Republicans win in statehouses.

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Clinton Announces: One More Quasi-Neocon Enters Presidential Race

Hillary Clinton has officially entered the race, adding one more neocon, and still leaving a large hole for a liberal candidate. There’s no doubt she is better than the Republicans in the race (a very low bar to beat) but I am still hoping a true Democrat gets in oppose her. He announcement is exactly the type of video expected although, unlike former Clinton adviser Bill Curry, I’m not sure that the announcement itself matters. Curry wrote, based upon media reports prior to the actual announcement, Hillary Clinton just doesn’t get it: She’s already running a losing campaign:

For months Clinton has run a front-porch campaign — if by porch you mean Boo Radley’s. Getting her outdoors is hard enough; when she does get out it’s often to give paid speeches to people who look just like her: educated, prosperous and privileged.  Needing desperately to connect with the broader public, she opts for the virtual reality of a pre-taped video delivered via social media. Go figure.

Her leakers say she’ll head out on a listening tour like the one that kicked off her first Senate race. They say listening to real people talk about real stuff will make her seem more real. This too may be a good idea, but it made more sense when she was a rookie candidate seeking a lesser office in a state she barely knew. Running for president is different. So are the times. Voters are more desperate now, and in a far worse mood. If you invite their questions, you’d better have some answers. I’ll return to this point shortly.

Her leakers say she’ll avoid big events, rallies, stadiums, that sort of thing. This is about 2008, when she and her tone-deaf team seemed to be planning a coronation. This time they say she doesn’t want to come off as quite so presumptuous. Yet next week she keynotes a ‘Global Women’s Summit’ cohosted by Tina Brown and the New York Times, at which “world leaders, industry icons, movie stars and CEOs convene with artists, rebels, peacemakers and activists to tell their stories and share their plans of action.” Orchestra seats go for $300.

Clinton personifies the meritocracy that to an angry middle class looks increasingly like just another privileged caste. It’s the anger captured best by the old ‘Die Yuppie Scum’ posters and in case you haven’t noticed, it’s on the rise. Republicans love to paint Democrats as elitists. It’s how the first two Bushes took out Dukakis, Gore and Kerry — and how Jeb plans to take out Hillary. When she says she and Bill were broke when they left the White House; when she sets her own email rules and says it was only for her own convenience; when she hangs out with the Davos, Wall Street or Hollywood crowds, she makes herself a more inviting target…

There are three problems that go far deeper than Hillary’s image or her campaign’s operations. Each is endemic to our current politics; all are so deeply connected as to be inseparable. You already know them. The first is how they raise their money. The second is how they craft their message. The third pertains to policy…

On Friday, Clinton’s campaign began the quick, quiet buildup to her Sunday announcement by placing a new epilogue to her last memoir in the Huffington Post. It’s mostly about how being a grandmother gives her new energy and insight. At the end of the piece she says it also inspires her to work hard so every child has as good a chance in life as her new granddaughter has. Her recent speeches, even those her leakers tout as campaign previews, say little more than that.

Barring a Jeremiah Wright-level crisis, a presidential candidate gets just two or three chances to make her case to a big audience. Her announcement is often her best shot. That Hillary passed on hers is unsettling. If she thinks she doesn’t have to make her case real soon she’s wrong. If she thinks she can get by on the sort of mush Democratic consultants push on clients she’s finished. On Thursday the Q poll released three surveys. In two states, she now trails Rand Paul. In all three a plurality or majority said she is ‘not honest or trustworthy.’ You can bet the leak about her $2.5 billion campaign will push those negatives up a notch.

Clinton seems as disconnected from the public mood now as she did in 2008.  I think it’s a crisis. If she doesn’t right the ship it will be a disaster. In politics it’s always later than you think. Advisors who told her voters would forget the email scandals probably say this too will pass. If so, she should fire them…

Like Bill Clinton’s 1992 race, this election is about the economy. But this one’s about how to reform the economy, not just jumpstart it. Our political system isn’t set up to debate whether or not our economic system needs real reform. It will take a very different kind of politics, and leader, to spark that debate. We’ll soon know whether anyone is ready, willing and able to fight.

I agree with much of his criticism, but not that the announcement is her best shot. That might apply to a lesser known candidate, but people already know Clinton, and most have opinions about her. What matters in her case is not any single statement, even her announcement, but what she says throughout her campaign, and she can never escape her record. Pundits expect her to continue to triangulate, compromise liberal principles, and try to avoid saying anything meaningful. In other words, she is playing not to lose–and we see how that often turns out, from football games to her 2008 campaign. At some point she will need to come out of her comfort zone, and hopefully at some point she will truly answers from the press.

Clinton began the invisible primary portion of the race with a huge lead, and it is now withering away. She still has the edge due to name recognition, but she is already slipping seriously in the polls. The most recent national poll available, from Public Policy Polling, shows her lead over Republican challengers down from 7-10 points in February to a 3-9 point lead at present over various Republican challengers. Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul are all within four points of her, and Rand Paul leads Clinton among independents by 14 points. The latest battleground poll also shows her slipping in key states. Multiple polls show that voters do not find Clinton honest, trustworthy, or that she understands people like them. She probably will get a bounce after the announcement, but after that she cannot afford any further decrease in support.  She still looks most likely to win both the nomination and general election, but there is also a considerable risk that her campaign will be derailed by scandals along the way. Hopefully this will not happen in the fall of 2016, leaving us with a Republican president.

What Clinton can do at this stage of her career is somewhat limited. It is hard to overcome a career most notable for her poor judgment whenever facing the big issues. Stories about influence peddling are bound to continue. With all the connections between the two, it is worth remembering that the family business for the Clinton and Bush family is essentially the same. The email scandal would not by itself derail Clinton, but it will continue to hurt as it reinforces the view that the Clintons do not follow the rules, or tell the truth, along with her long-standing propensity towards secrecy.

There are many reasons why most Democrats want to see Clinton face a primary opponent, with a Bloomberg poll finding that the number of Democrats who say they would definitely vote for Clinton  down from 52 percent in June 2013  to 42 percent at present.  At this point, Martin O’Malley looks most likely to challenge Clinton from the left but there are many months to go before the first contests and other might still get in the race. Clinton should be challenged not only on her economic views, which O’Malley and others are now doing. This should include her foreign policy positions, from pushing for war with Iraq based upon non-existent connections between Saddam and al Qaeda, to advocating a more hawkish viewpoint in the Obama administration. (While Rand Paul initially was seen as a candidate opposing nonconservative foreign policy views, he has been quickly flip flopping to sound like every other Republican.) Environmentalists also question Clinton’s weak and vague record, along with her advocacy for fracking.  Many liberals are also dissatisfied with her record and views on civil liberties and on social issues, ranging from gay rights to feminism and reproductive rights. Clinton has entered the race as the lesser evil, but Democrats should be able to do better.

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Clinton’s Electability Now Being Questioned

Projected 2016 electoral map

While it is far too early to make many meaningful predictions about the 2016 election, there is one safe bet–the media will concentrate on the horse race, as opposed to the issues, even at this early state. Eric Ham argues at The Hill that Jeb Bush as the edge in the electoral college over Clinton. David Atkins disagrees at The Political Animal blog, arguing that even if the Republican candidate picks up Florida and Ohio (map above) this still leaves them two votes short of victory. Adam C. Smith, the political editor of The Tampa Bay Times, argues that Florida is not a lock for either Bush or Rubio:

Part of what makes Florida such a challenging state politically is its fast-changing and ever-growing nature. Statewide candidates must constantly introduce themselves. Bush, for instance, won his two gubernatorial races by huge margins — nearly 11 percentage points in 1998 and 13 points in 2002 — but Florida is vastly different now.

The Florida Democratic Party still has the voter files from those Bush elections and can pinpoint which voters are still around and which aren’t. Only 28 percent of currently active Florida voters participated in either of Bush’s past two elections and only 13 percent of today’s registered voters are Republicans who voted in those 2002 or 1998 gubernatorial races.

“There has been so much growth in Florida, that 13 years since his name was last on the ballot, only around 18 percent of registered voters in Florida ever could have voted for Jeb,” Joshua Karp of the Florida Democratic party extrapolated.

Nor have Bush or Rubio ever run in a presidential election year, when Democratic turnout is far higher than in off-year elections.

Barack Obama narrowly won Florida in 2008 and in 2012 after mounting the largest and best-funded campaigns ever seen in the state. That Obama barely eked out a win against Mitt Romney, who had antagonized many Hispanic voters with his clumsy talk of self-deportation, might suggest Bush or Rubio at the top of the ticket would all but ensure Florida’s 29 electoral votes for the GOP.

“Nothing in life is a lock. But Jeb Bush beats Hillary Clinton in Florida hands down. I don’t care what the polls say today,” said former House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, suggesting Rubio would be formidable, too, but has less broad appeal.

What the polls say today is that Clinton vs. Bush is a toss-up. A Quinnipiac University poll released this week showed Clinton leading 45 percent to 42 percent, while a Public Policy Polling survey released last week found Clinton leading 47 percent to 44 percent. She led Rubio by 2 percentage points in both polls.

The problem for the Democrats is that beyond inevitability Clinton has little else going for her, and like in 2008 once her inevitability becomes questioned there is the risk of her campaign self-destructing. If nothing else, this is making Republicans such as Joe Scarborough more optimistic:

 I think she has a glass jaw, and I’ll be really blunt. I don’t think she’s going to be the next president of the United States. Everybody acts like she’s inevitable. But I know a lot of people very close to Hillary Clinton that are very worried right now that she has what it takes to win a general election. They think she’s going to win a primary, the Democratic primary, but they’re very worried. And think about it, Hugh. Everybody’s been talking for four years about how the Democrats are stacked against the Republican Party, there’s no way we’re going to win nationally again. All we need is somebody to win all the states Mitt Romney won, which is a pretty low bar for the Republican Party. And then you win Florida, Virginia and Ohio, which I think any of these major candidates can beat Hillary, and then you just have to pick up four electoral votes. And there are about ten states that Republicans can win there. I’m actually feeling very bullish on 2016 right now if we nominate the right guy or woman.

Jeffry Frank discusses the key fact of the Democratic race so far at The New Yorker–Clinton is essentially running alone:

Democrats, meanwhile, seem ready to cede the whole thing to Clinton, who, for all her experience and intelligence, may be a less-than-ideal candidate. Even her e-mail problems, which polls at first suggested could be shrugged off, aren’t going away. It didn’t help when her lawyer, David Kendall, in response to a subpoena from a congressional committee looking into the 2012 attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi, told the Times, “There are no hdr22@clintonemail.com emails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorized.” That her personal e-mail server has been wiped clean of any records from her years at the State Department erases the chance of anyone ever making an independent study of their contents and is bound to encourage the suspicion that there was something worth hiding. The investigation community is like a perpetual scandal-seeking machine, quick to seize on any hint of inconsistency, and both Clintons, understandably, are weary of being pursued by those who don’t wish them well. But the public may be getting weary of seeing the words “Clinton” and “lawyers” juxtaposed yet again with any sort of frequency, which could explain her slippage in the polls in three battleground states.

Not long ago, Ryan Lizza wrote about Clinton’s aura of inevitability and the historic failure of most challenges to strong front-runners. At this point, though, any insurgencies are more notional than real. Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, has been gently critical of her as he shyly contemplates getting into the race. The former Virginia Senator James Webb, who began exploring a run last November, is still hinting that he intends to run. But when you look for signs of the Webb campaign, which promised a fresh view of income inequality, military commitments abroad, and the terrible waste of lives—mainly black lives—caused by mass incarceration, what you’re likely to find is the status of the James Webb space telescope, which will replace the Hubble. (That Webb ran NASA in the years of the Apollo program.) Clinton, meanwhile, has not exactly announced her intentions, but her campaign, without coyness, has reportedly leased two floors of office space in Brooklyn Heights, and that, as Politico notes, may be regarded by the Federal Election Commission as the beginning of a campaign.

Four years ago, Democrats were amused by the Republicans battling through the primaries, and by debates that even Republicans considered a “clown show.” This year, Republicans may be cheered by the absence of battle on the other side, by the sight of a major political party diminished by timidity and the uncertain candidacy of a single contender.

We are still months away from the first primary. Clinton has not even announced her candidacy yet but, now that she has signed the lease on election offices in Brooklyn, campaign finance laws require  her to announce, or at least open an exploratory committee, in the next two weeks. Democrats should be concerned about the major errors she has committed during her book tour and in response to the revelations about her email, and her fall in the polls,

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush scrapes past Clinton with a three-point lead, still within the margin of error, in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup in Florida, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday. Clinton had a one-point edge in the Florida dead heat Quinnipiac reported in early February.

The last two months have also erased Clinton’s previously double-digit lead over every other potential GOP contender for the presidency in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Sen. Rand Paul, the libertarian-leaning Republican from Kentucky, is now the man to beat in Ohio after he narrowed his margin against Clinton to just a five-point deficit, according to Tuesday’s poll. Paul, who is expected to announce his bid for the presidency next week, trailed Clinton by 12 points in Quinnipiac’s early February poll.

Every potential 2016 Republican contender included in the February survey has since gained on Clinton in Ohio — even if by just two points, like in Bush’s case.

Paul is also winning over Pennsylvanians, trimming his 9-point deficit to a virtual tie, landing 45% of support to Clinton’s 44% in the state.

Clinton remains a strong favorite — especially so early on — against virtually every other potential Republican contender for president in the three battleground states.

But it’s clear Clinton’s email scandal — first that she exclusively used private email housed on a private server as secretary of state, and then that she deleted all the emails on that server — has leveled a hit to Clinton’s public image and trustworthiness, according to the Quinnipiac poll.

About half of voters in all three states say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy — by a 5-to-4 margin in Florida and Pennsylvania, with a closer split in Pennsylvania.

And Clinton’s favorability rating has also slipped in Florida — to 49% from 53% — and Pennsylvania — now at 48% from 55% — though she still gets more favorable reviews than all of her would-be Republican opponents, except for Bush and Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio in that state.

Despite denials over the significance of the email scandal by Clinton supporters , the poll found that, “Clinton has provided satisfactory answers on the e-mail issue, 38 percent of voters say, while 55 percent say serious questions remain.” This is also the sort of matter which most people are not currently paying attention to at this stage,  and could be much more harmful in 2016. Despite the attempts of Clinton supporters to claim this is a trivial matter, this is actually an important matter which gets to the heart of Obama’s efforts to improve transparency in government in response to the abuses during the Bush years. With so much communication now being by email rather than written memos, it is also important to the historical record that these records be maintained. Hillary Clinton’s integrity is tarnished by her failure to follow the rules placed in effect in 2009, her false claims at her press conference of following the rules, and her debunked claims of having failed to use government servers in order to avoid needing to carry two email devices, even though she actually did use two different devices. Clinton’s attacks on Republicans for shredding the Constitution when they used a server from the Republican National Committee, and the citing of use of personal email as one reason for the firing of an ambassador under her, strengthen the view that the Clintons believe that the rules do not apply to them. How many voters are really going to believe that Clinton was not hiding something after she not only violated the rules but wiped the servers?

While many Democrats have been willing to back Clinton, despite being out of step with liberals on the issues, because of the feeling she had the best chance to win. Now that she is looking like a weaker candidate there has been increased discussion of the possibility of other candidates taking on Clinton for the Democratic nomination, but so far there has been little action by other Democrats. Martin O’Malley is currently the only one making serious moves towards a candidacy. While the Clintonistas have begun their inevitable campaign against  him, he is starting to get favorable coverage. Some Clinton supporters deny how Clinton is to the right of O’Malley and most other Democrats, using flawed rating systems which do not mean very much when most Senate votes are along party lines. (Republicans used such bogus arguments to claim in 2004 and 2008 that John Kerry and Barack Obama were the most liberal Democrats.) Clintonistas have an even more difficult task when pitting O’Malley against Clinton based upon competence. A. H. Goodman argues at The Huffington Post that O’Malley or Elizabeth Warren, along with other possible Democratic candidates, can beat the Republicans. In Iowa, which has not been a strong state for the Clintons, some are seeing O’Malley as the nation’s new JFK.

Joe Biden has the advantage over other potential challengers in terms of name recognition against other potential candidate, but  has made only very preliminary moves. While he has not taken any actions towards organizing a campaign, a Draft Joe Biden site has started. If Biden plans to run I think he bypassed an opportunity this week. Biden was often the voice of reason, in contrast to Clinton’s hawkishness, in the first four years of the Obama administration. If he was interested in taking on Clinton, I would think he should have reminded voters of Clinton’s opposition to Obama’s desire to engage in diplomacy with Iran. This issue might still come up, being yet another example of how long it often takes for Clinton to learn from her mistakes.

With many months to go before the first primary, there remains hope that other candidates will emerge once it no longer looks like resistance to Clinton is futile. Sources from Salon to The Christian Science Monitor have offered suggestions as to alternate candidates for the Democratic nomination.

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The Republicans Now Have A God Problem

If you listen to Republicans, they are running to uphold moral values based upon Christianity. Many Republican candidates in the past have even claimed that god wanted them to run, and have cited god to justify their policies. Suddenly it is no longer the case that the Republicans are running on god’s platform. Amy Davidson looked at God and the GOP at The New Yorker:

Indeed, other potential G.O.P. candidates are now having to recalculate how another religion figures into the equation. There has never been a Catholic Republican nominee for the White House (the Mormons, interestingly, got there first), although there may be one this year, with a field that includes Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush, who converted to Catholicism, his wife’s faith, some twenty years ago. For them, the issue is not one of religious bigotry, such as John F. Kennedy faced in his 1960 campaign, with insinuations of adherence to secret Papist instructions. In a way, it’s the opposite: the very public agenda of the all too authentic Pope Francis.

Early signs of trouble came in the summer of 2013, when the new Pope, speaking with reporters about gays in the Church, asked, “Who am I to judge?” The conservative wing of the Party had relied on his predecessors to do just that. Then he proved much less reticent about issuing a verdict on capitalism. In an apostolic exhortation issued at the end of 2013, he labelled trickle-down economic theories “crude and naïve.” The problems of the poor, he said, had to be “radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality.” That went quite a ways beyond the sort of tepid proposals for job creation and “family formation” that Romney made on the Midway, and the response from Republicans has involved a certain amount of rationalization. “The guy is from Argentina—they haven’t had real capitalism,” Paul Ryan, Romney’s former running mate, and a Catholic, said.

“It’s sometimes very difficult to listen to the Pope,” Santorum noted last month, after Francis, in remarks about “responsible parenting”—widely interpreted as an opening for a discussion on family planning—said that there was no need for Catholics to be “like rabbits.” Santorum echoed Ryan’s suggestion that Argentine exceptionalism might be at work: “I don’t know what the Pope was referring to there. Maybe he’s speaking to people in the Third World.” On that front, when it emerged that Francis had been instrumental in the diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba, Jeb Bush criticized the deal, and Senator Marco Rubio, also a Catholic, said that he’d like the Pope to “take up the cause of freedom and democracy.”

As if all that weren’t enough, His Holiness is preparing an encyclical on climate change, to be released in advance of his visit to the United States later this year. In January, he said of global warming, “For the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature.” Stephen Moore, of the Heritage Foundation, has written, “On the environment, the pope has allied himself with the far left.” Actually, Francis is very much in the center in terms of scientific opinion, but the leading potential G.O.P. contenders, with the possible exception of Christie, sit somewhere on the climate-change-denial-passivity spectrum—Jeb Bush has said that he is a “skeptic” as to whether the problem is man-made.

In recent decades, liberal Catholic politicians were the ones with a papal problem; both Mario Cuomo and John Kerry had to reckon with the prospect of excommunication for their support of abortion-rights laws. John Paul II, meanwhile, was a favorite of conservatives; despite his often subtle views, he became at times little more than a symbol of anti-Communism and a certain set of social strictures. He cemented an alliance, in the political realm, between conservative Catholics and evangelicals. (Rubio also attends an evangelical church.) Abortion was a significant part of that story. By contrast, the Franciscan moment will push some Republican candidates to make decisions and to have conversations that they would rather avoid.

It will also offer a chance to address the knotty American idea that faith is an incontrovertible component of political authenticity. (Why is the Romney who thinks about God the “real” one?) The corollary should be that nothing is as inauthentic as faith that is only opportunistically professed, something that this Pope, who has extended a hand to atheists, seems to know. Still, the campaign will be defined not by theological questions but by political ones, prominent among them inequality and climate change. Both can have spiritual dimensions and speak to moral issues, such as our obligations to one another. But neither can be solved by faith alone.

For those who buy the false claims which have come from some Republicans in the past that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, it might conceivably cause some problems to see Republican candidates at odds with the Pope’s views on religion. While this could be amusing, most likely it won’t matter. The Republican base, which never allows facts to get in the way of their beliefs, sure aren’t going to alter their view based upon what the Pope says. We have seen how willing they are to ignore science when it conflicts with their views on evolution, climate change, or abortion. Republicans also don’t allow economic data which shows that their beliefs (essentially held as a religion) on economics are total hogwash interfere with this religion, no matter how often the economy performs better under Democrats than Republicans. Still, Republicans who could never justify their policies based upon facts, might lose even more legitimacy when they also lose religious justification for their policies.

While most people, or at least those who respect the desire of the founding fathers to establish a secular state, would not use religious views as justification for public policy decisions, there will at least be a bit of satisfaction in seeing Republicans lose even this basis to justify their absurd positions.

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Clinton v. Bush, Again?

Clinton Bush

A lot can change between now and when the two major political parties pick their nominees, but it is looking increasingly like we might face another Clinton v. Bush campaign. Larry Sabato, while acknowledging that there are factors which could cause him to lose, has placed Jeb Bush alone in his top tier of Republican nominees:

So for the first time in a while, we elevate a candidate to the First Tier of the Crystal Ball’s GOP rankings for president. Jeb Bush fills a long-established vacuum. Our decision is tentative; his poll ratings are still underwhelming, and Bush is a shaky frontrunner. Yet Bush is No. 1 on a giant roster as we begin the long roller-coaster process of picking the party nominees over the next year and a half.

We are amazed that Republicans could nominate their third Bush for a fifth run at the White House since 1988. Such family dominance of either major party is unprecedented in American history, unless you want to link Republican Teddy Roosevelt’s one nomination (1904) with Democrat Franklin Roosevelt’s four nominations (1932-1944). The Roosevelt presidencies were separated by party labels and 24 years. The Bush presidencies, should Jeb win it all, will have been separated by just eight-year intervals.

By no means is Bush a sure thing — far from it. The path to the nomination will likely be tougher for this Bush than it was for his father in 1988 and brother in 2000. The party establishment is still a force to be reckoned with, but nowhere near as dominant in the GOP of 2015 as it was in those earlier times.

Currently, more than three-quarters of Republicans want someone other than Bush. The frontrunner depends on a split in conservative ranks — which appears to be happening — as well as a concerted push by the party’s establishment leaders and donors to freeze out Bush alternatives (including Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and John Kasich). We’ve always doubted Romney would run unless the pragmatists in the leadership and donor class deemed a rescue mission essential; right now, they do not. The remaining Bush alternatives are still in the game, though.

After Bush, Sabato has Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Chris Christie in the second tier, with other candidates ranked down to a seventh tier. Mike Huckabee, who has also taken recent action towards a possible campaign, is in the third tier along with Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. My Governor, Rick Snyder of Michigan is in the fourth tier. He is likely the least bat-shit crazy of the bunch, but I fear that even if he was president he would acquiesce to far too much from a Republican Congress, as he sometimes does with the bat-shit crazy Michigan legislature. Snyder originally won the Republican nomination for Governor because of support from Democrats in 2010 when he looked like the lesser evil when it was apparent that a Republican was going to win.

With three-quarters of Republicans wanting someone other than Bush, it certainly seems possible that another candidate could emerge. While there is some sentiment among Democrats for someone other than Clinton, there do not appear to be any serious challengers at this point.

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Red State Republicans Are A Minority Of Population Despite Senate Gains

Congress

The Senate is probably the strongest example of how our political system is (small-d) non-democratic. Each state receives two Senators, regardless of size, and the District of Columbia, with a population greater than several states, receives zero. The difference in size between the smallest and largest states has also increased significantly since this compromise was reached in the writing of the Constitution. A combination of factors including Senate races primarily in red states, the usual problems faced by either party in the sixth year of a presidency (with Republicans even losing control of the Senate under Ronald Reagan), and several tactical errors by Democratic candidates, led to the Republicans taking control. However, Vox has an interesting calculation:

But here’s a crazy fact: those 46 Democrats got more votes than the 54 Republicans across the 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections. According to Nathan Nicholson, a researcher at the voting reform advocacy group FairVote, “the 46 Democratic caucus members in the 114th Congress received a total of 67.8 million votes in winning their seats, while the 54 Republican caucus members received 47.1 million votes.”

Republicans also receive an advantage in the House due to a combination of gerrymandering and the fact that Democratic votes are more concentrated in cities, leading to Democrats winning a smaller number of districts by higher margins, and in some years allowing Republicans to control the House with a minority of the vote.

Republicans will be forced to defend more seats in blue states in 2016 but the magnitude of the Republican pick up in 2014 will make it much harder for Democrats to actually regain control. The Atlantic looked at key election races, pointing out:

Democrats will be benefiting from a favorable landscape, with Republicans defending 24 seats (many of them in blue territory) while Democrats will be defending only 10. To leverage that advantage into control of the Senate, however, Democrats need to net at least four seats (five, if Republicans win the presidency). That requires sweeping out blue-state freshman Republicans in states such as Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin while also defeating a couple of brand-name senators, such as Rob Portman or Marco Rubio, in perennial swing states.

Other factors could help Democrats in 2016 beyond the geography. The economy will hopefully be even stronger, unless the Republican-controlled Congress, or even factors beyond political control, create further problems. The Affordable Care Act will be even more established, assuming Republicans aren’t successful in dismantling it in Congress or the courts, and might be less of a divisive political issue. Perhaps most importantly, the Democrats will be running a more national campaign behind a presidential candidate as opposed to running as Republican-lite and hiding from Obama.

The Los Angeles Times reports, Obama to hit the road, selling economic progress:

Eager to stay on the offensive as new Republican majorities are seated in Congress, the president plans to take a more bullish economic message on the road next week in something of an early test drive of his State of the Union message.

During stops in Michigan, Arizona and Tennessee, Obama plans to draw a connection between actions his administration took early in his presidency and increasingly positive economic trends in sectors such as manufacturing and housing.

Officials say he’ll also offer specific new proposals — some that he’ll pursue with Congress and others he’ll advance with his own authority — that are intended to build on that progress, particularly for the middle class.

It’s an approach that upends the traditional White House script to start the year, when new policy rollouts are usually reserved for the president’s annual address to Congress.

But the White House is eager to sustain momentum  it says started to build after November with major actions on immigration and Cuba as Obama began what he calls the “fourth quarter” of his presidency.

Obama, and other Democrats, should have been made the successes of Democratic policies the major point of the campaign, as opposed to running away from their successes. They might have still lost in deep red states, but Democratic turnout would have been better and they would have done better in less red areas. Besides the benefits of running on Obama’s previous record, as a result of Obama’s post-election actions his approval has shot up in the Gallup and other polls.

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