Perhaps it is time to drop the pretenses and accept that Hillary Clinton is an all-in, touching every base, dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” candidate for president.
The formal announcement swing will have to be scheduled for some appropriate day—or week—next year. Before it comes, there will, of course, be the final round of “will she?” speculation in the media. But that’s just the dance that is done before the inevitable moment when Clinton makes her move.
The best confirmation of Clinton’s candidacy—short of an actual announcement—came with the detailing (via Politico, the gossip gazette of insider positioning) of the presumed Democratic front-runner’s exceptionally busy schedule for the month leading up to the November 4 midterm elections. Anyone who is serious about running for the presidency in 2016 has to hit the trail in 2014. It’s not just expected, it’s necessary—as it is on the midterm trail that presidential candidates rally the base, test-drive messages and collect commitments from appreciative governors and members of Congress.
Clinton plans to do all of that, and more—maintaining an intense schedule that will have her campaigning in every region of the country, jetting from fund-raising events in California and Florida to rallies in Iowa and New Hampshire.
As someone who has been around presidential politics since her high-school days as a self-described “active young Republican” and “Goldwater girl” and her college days as a New Hampshire volunteer for Eugene McCarthy’s antiwar bid, she well understands the art of midterm campaigning by an all-but-unannounced presidential contender.
By hitting the trail hard and grabbing the spotlight as the midterm voting approaches, even in what could be a tough year for the party, a prospective presidential candidate positions as the great partisan hope. If the party does better than expected, Clinton shares in the credit. If the party does worse than expected, Clinton offers a road back.
There are few risks and many potential rewards, as savvy presidential contenders have long recognized. Even as he was campaigning for re-election to his Massachusetts US Senate seat in 1958, John Kennedy showed up for for Democrats in Iowa, Oregon and even Alaska during the midterm elections preceding his 1960 presidential run. Richard Nixon used a hyperactive midterm campaign schedule in 1966—“Mr. Nixon specifically stumped for eighty-six republican candidates for governor, senator and representative.”—to renew his damaged reputation (after losses for president in 1960 and governor of California in 1962) and to position himself as the Republican front-runner for 1968. Ronald Reagan kept his profile high with campaigning in 1978 that put him at the head of the Republican pack for 1980.
Clinton knows all this history. Yet, for much of 2014, she seemed far less engaged with the midterms than other potential 2016 Democratic contenders, especially Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. The former secretary of state spent most of 2014 hawking a book (a subtler signal of presidential intentions), commenting on foreign affairs and talking about the arrival of her first grandchild.
Now, however, she is going all in. With this full October campaign schedule, she is pushing her profile and seeking to promote the sense of inevitability that has already been fostered by early polls and “Ready for Hillary” campaigning.
Clinton will face opposition as she bids for the 2016 Democratic nomination, very probably from O’Malley, very possibly from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and maybe from former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and others. There will continue to be plenty of speculation about a run by Massacusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, despite Warren’s denials of candidacy.
Clinton learned in 2008 that nothing is guaranteed in presidential politics. But the former senator’s 2014 moves are part of a deliberate and determined strategy to secure her front-runner status.
Clinton will be in Iowa to appear with US Senate candidate Bruce Braley. Yes, that would be the first caucus state of Iowa, where she has already delivered for retiring Senator Tom Harkin by appearing at the senior Democrat’s annual steak fry in September. Clinton will go deep in Iowa this month, campaigning not just for Braley but for Staci Appel, a US House candidate running in the critical contest to fill the seat representing Des Moines and southwest Iowa.
She will be in New Hampshire, campaigning with the state’s two most prominent Democrats, US Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Governor Maggie Hassan. Yes, that would be the first primary state of New Hampshire, where Clinton’s 2008 presidential run was briefly renewed with a primary win over upstart challenger Barack Obama, but where Clinton has no intention of stumbling again.
Clinton will also tour the states with the highest-profile Senate contests, including Colorado with Democratic Senator Mark Udall, Georgia with Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn, Kentucky with Democrat candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes and North Carolina with Democratic Senator Kay Hagan.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told Politico he “couldn’t be happier” to have Clinton, the former senator from New York, on the trail for his candidates—and his imperiled majority.
But Clinton is looking well beyond the Senate races. She will also be doing the gubernatorial circuit. That’s because she knows well, from her own 2008 campaign and from Bill Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 campaigns, that governors are critical allies in primary and general election campaigns for the presidency.
So look for Clinton in Pennsylvania, with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf, a likely winner. And in Illinois, with Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, who is in a critical “toss-up” race. And in Massachusetts, where Democratic nominee Martha Coakley is in another tight contest. And to Florida, where she will campaign with Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, who campaigned against Bill Clinton’s presidential runs in the 1990s but who could be an essential ally for a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016.
The Clinton camp cannot have minded the headline in The Palm Beach Post over the weekend, which read: “Crist: Hillary Clinton would be ‘great president.’”
Throw in some appearances with congressional candidates and huge fundraising events in California for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and you are looking at a fall schedule of an all-in presidential candidate.
To suggest differently would be to deny political history, political reality and the rapidly-evolving dynamics of a 2016 presidential race that has already begun and that will be fully engaged on the morning of November 5, 2014.