Hillary Clinton is perfectly positioned to step into the breach created by an unpopular Joe Biden and a shaky Kamala Harris in 2024, according to a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by pollster Doug Schoen and former New York City Council president Andrew Stein.
“Several circumstances—President Biden’s low approval rating, doubts over his capacity to run for re-election at 82, Vice President Kamala Harris’s unpopularity, and the absence of another strong Democrat to lead the ticket in 2024—have created a leadership vacuum in the party, which Mrs. Clinton viably could fill,” the two write. “She is already in an advantageous position to become the 2024 Democratic nominee.”
Before we go any further, it’s worth noting that neither Schoen nor Stein have sterling credentials as Democrats. Schoen worked for former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg while Stein endorsed none other than Donald Trump in the 2016 election against, wait for it, Hillary Clinton.
Their backgrounds should give you pause about a) their intentions and b) their analysis of the state of the Democratic Party and the 2024 field.
But, let’s put that aside and, for the sake of argument consider their case on the merits. The core of their argument is that:
a) Clinton is an experienced hand in government and national politics.
b) She could run as the change candidate.
c) She is dropping hints that she wants to run again.
Let’s break down – and debunk – these ideas one by one.
1. Clinton has the right experience to be president. Yes, this is true! Clinton’s resume – Secretary of State, New York Senator, First Lady – is, without question, one of the most impressive of any politician in either party. Here’s the problem: That was true when she ran for president in 2016 and even in 2008 when she hadn’t been secretary of state yet! And, breaking news, she lost both of those campaigns. What’s changed between then and now? Schoen and Stein would argue that the moment – Covid-19 continuing to rage in the country, supply chain issues, the disastrous pullout of American troops from Afghanistan – all point to the need for a steady hand at the top. But, isn’t that what voters chose the current president for? Yes, yes it is. And while Clinton and Biden are not carbon copies of one another, their relevant experience is remarkably similar – long careers in the public policy space in Washington.
2. Clinton is the change candidate. Here’s the Schoen/Stein argument; “If Democrats lose control of Congress in 2022, Mrs. Clinton can use the party’s loss as a basis to run for president again, enabling her to claim the title of ‘change candidate.’” Uh, what? Republicans winning the House (and maybe the Senate) will allow Clinton – who spent three-plus decades as a pillar of the Washington establishment – to position herself as the change candidate? How, exactly? There’s absolutely no scenario I can imagine in which Clinton would be able to be the change candidate. Her background is simply too Washington (and politics) heavy. Plus, Schoen and Stein just got done arguing that Clinton has the right experience for the job. So, how could she run as the experience candidate and the change agent? I simply do not think that Republicans winning control of Congress in 2022 suddenly transforms Clinton into a change candidate along the lines of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. (Worth noting again: Clinton lost that primary to Obama.)
3. Clinton is offering some signals that she wants to run. The evidence that Schoen and Stein cite for this claim is an interview Clinton gave NBC’s Willie Geist at the end of last year. Speaking about the state of the Democratic Party, she said this: “I think that it is a time for some careful thinking about what wins elections, and not just in deep-blue districts where a Democrat and a liberal Democrat, or so-called progressive Democrat, is going to win.” Which is interesting! But feels like pretty thin gruel to hang the idea that Clinton, as Schoen and Stein write, “would seize the opportunity to run for president again if an opening presents itself.” It’s also worth noting here that Clinton said in 2017 that her career as an “active politician” is now over.
Look, the election of Trump in 2016 has taught me to never dismiss any idea – no matter how seemingly outlandish – as impossible. Which means that I am not willing to say that there is a 0.0% chance that Clinton thinks about running in 2024.
What I can say is that this Schoen/Stein op-ed does little to convince me that:
a) She will run.
b) Her running would be a good idea.
c) She would be well positioned to win.