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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hillary Clinton "Third Term'?

There is a lot of noise about Hillary Clinton's election as president being either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama's "third term" as president.

The New York Times even ran an article headlined "Hillary Clinton Tamps Down ‘Third Term’ Chatter."

The argument is that if you can accuse her of not being her own self and just a third term for the policies of her husband or president Obama voters will ignore her and not support Clinton for president.

I've talked to several of my former students who are now political professionals in both the Democratic and Republican parties and asked them for their assessment of the Republican strategy to paint Clinton as a tag-along.

"Steffen, Bill Clinton left the White House with pretty high approval ratings," said Michaela Rantz who works as a campaign strategist for the GOP. Indeed, in 2001 his approval rating was 67% among "Independents" and an amazing 93% among Democrats (but only 39% among Republicans). Rants said "Bill Clinton could have easily been reelected for a third term so I worry that Republicans are actually stopking the wrong fire when they say Hillary would be a third Clinton term."

I checked the latest polls and found that in the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll " ... 56 percent of people have a positive view of the former president while just 26 percent hold a negative one." Clinton beat George Bush and Barack Obama and was clearly the most popular political figure in the United States. Counterintuitive though it seems, Bill Clinton's approval ratings shot up with the impeachment effort by Republicans and has stayed up.

Sam Stinten, my former honors student who now works for a Democratic think tank thinks that President Obama's approval ratings will rise over time. He currently has approval of 45% of Americans polled by Gallup. "The trend line for Obama has been slow but steady up from a low of 41% in July of 2011," Stinten noted. " we are hardly hearing a word from Republicans about "Killing Obama Care" anymore since the insurance industry and hospitals are dead set against another disruption of healthcare." 

By contract George W. Bush's approval rating as compiled by Real Clear Politics from six independent polls is a miserable 29% with 65.2% disapproving of the former president.

The point being that Republicans may want to rethink their strategy of saying that Hillary Clinton would be a third term of the Clinton or Obama presidency. It could be more of a positive than a negative for her. On the other hand it's clear why Jeb Bush wants to distance himself from his brother's eight years at the helm.

(Names of my students in this column are pseudonyms)

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