Talib I. Karim
The Facebook page for Rand Paul—the 51 year-old, anti-war, pro-marijuana decriminalization Republican Senator and apparent front-runner to nab his party’s nomination for President—features several unflattering pictures of Hillary Clinton, the presumptive leading Democratic candidate.
On Paul’s FB page, titled #HillarysLosers, viewers find Clinton, 67, in photos alongside a list of 2014 Senate candidates: Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes, Iowa’s Bruce Braley, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, Colorado’s Mark Udall, Georgia’s Michelle Nunn and Arkansas’ Mark Pryor. As the label hints, all lost Senate elections in November, and all were backed by Clinton.
Was Clinton’s inability to help the Democrats hold onto the Senate just another indication that her star has faded? Is the increasingly younger, browner electorate looking for a President who looks like them and uses technology just like them?
Not necessarily, said Cornell Belcher, one of the nation’s top political pollsters. Belcher, who advised both Obama Presidential campaigns, admitted that “Campaigns are increasingly migrating towards social media and the technology space.” Belcher credits the 2008 Obama campaign for taking cues from Howard Dean 2004 campaign, which energized thousands of young voters and tens of millions of donations through online marketing. These lessons helped the Obama team develop sophisticated online tools to mobilize more than a million youth and raise hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Anyone serious about winning is going to have to do what we did in the Obama campaign and do more,” said Belcher.
However, Belcher added that ideas win elections and, if she runs, Clinton’s campaign will likely match up her ideas with those of the younger electorate.
“I don’t care if the Republicans run a 31-year old from the tech community…if that person is…opposed to climate control and immigration reform, I like Hillary Clintons’ chances versus that person all day,” Belcher said.
In addition to her age, Clinton has also been criticized for being out of touch with average American families, given the financial wealth that she and former President Bill Clinton have amassed since leaving the White House. According to Time magazine, even when President Clinton was mired in debt related to the Lewinsky affair, the former first family was still wealthy enough to purchase two homes estimated at more than $12 million. Since then, Bill has earned more than $100 million in speaking and other fees, and Hillary has generated tens of millions, including a $14 million advance on her memoir, “Hard Choices,” which underperformed expectations.
The question is not whether Hillary Clinton should run, but rather, what if she doesn’t, according to Democratic operatives such as Paul Begala. When asked in a recent CNN interview what candidate the Democrats might offer other than Clinton to hang onto the White House, Begala responded, “No one… it’s not fair, there are impressive people, that I think could be good presidents, but don’t have, I think, the electoral prospects that Hillary does.”
Republicans, on the other hand, have a long list of Presidential hopefuls in addition to Paul, including legendary neurosurgeon and Maryland resident, Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Add to that list other potential candidates such as New Jersey’s Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and it is clear that the Republicans have a much deeper bench.
Only a few Democrats have ventured to identify who’s on the Democrat’s presidential bench. CNN commentator and former Obama environmental advisor Van Jones said he sees only one viable Democratic Presidential contender who, while a woman, is not named Clinton.
“We have to have a nominee that can excite our base and I don’t know if Hillary Clinton can do that,” Jones said in a CNN interview. “I know one person can, it’s Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).”
Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vermont), Al Franken (Minnesota), former Navy Secretary and Senator from Virginia Jim Webb, and Vice President Joe Biden are also potential Democratic candidates who could challenge Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination in 2016.
While younger leaders such as Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, an African-American, are also potential Democratic contenders, some predict the White House ambitions of the pair may have suffered major setbacks with the recent losses of their chosen successors to succeed them as governors in both traditionally Democratic states.