Every advantage Hillary has in 2016, she had in 2008… and she lost. To make things worse, her circumstances for a presidential run have grown worse since 2008. Rather than incredulously wondering how Hillary could lose in two years, the more credible question is why so many people now believe she can win.
In 2008, Hillary had everything. She had the résumé, name recognition, money, and party establishment support. As a result, she was the prohibitive favorite — to win not just the nomination, but the presidency itself. She won neither.
Six years later, her run-up to 2016 looks remarkably similar. Yet, examined more closely, her current advantages ring hollow.
Hillary has had name recognition from the beginning of her electoral political career. However, much of it has been for dubious reasons. Certainly there is some power in publicity. However, there is also the real risk of overexposure. There is a reason why two-term presidents often leave office unpopular. In many ways — and to many people — Hillary already feels like a two-term president, even without being elected.
Hillary will be able to raise enormous sums of money. However, she also raised a lot in 2008. It did not buy her the nomination, and it did not stop Obama from raising enormous amounts himself. There will certainly be ample money available for whomever Republicans nominate — if not also for another Democrat challenger to Hillary.
Even more concerning should be the question as to how much a lot of money actually helps Hillary. For most candidates, money helps introduce them to voters. Hillary needs no introduction. The real question is whether there is enough money to change the minds of people who do not support her.
Hillary has an impressive résumé. However, she had one last time too — and she lost to someone who had a less impressive one. She has added to hers since 2008, but look at how she has done so. Her biggest job was as Secretary of State. Impressive — until considering that foreign affairs has arguably been the weakest part of this weak administration. In four years, she had no accomplishments to speak of and, since her departure, U.S. foreign policy has gone to hell in a handbasket — hardly a testament to how she left things.
Her work since leaving the administration is even more a political liability to some. Her ties to Wall Street and her substantial wealth make her personify the “1 percent” Occupy Wall Streeters detest.
Hillary also has two large disadvantages compared to 2008.
First, Hillary is less in step with party now than then. This is significant, because the Democrats’ liberal wing, with which she is out of step today, cost her 2008’s nomination.
Hillary is unquestionably not the favorite of today’s Democratic liberals. To understand how little she is, look at the response Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren elicits from them. There is also no question that the Democrat party has moved to the left since 2008.
Hillary faces a double-whammy with her party’s liberals. This group is more powerful than in 2008, and Hillary is more distant from it. Even if it does not back another challenger in 2016’s primaries, there is no guarantee it will work as hard for Hillary as it has for Obama.
To understand this problem’s seriousness, look at the Democrats’ performance in the last two congressional midterms without Obama on the ballot. And if Democrat liberals rejected her in 2008, why would they be so eager to support her in 2016?
Hillary’s second major disadvantage from 2008 is that the unpopular administration influencing this election will be her own party’s. In 2008, Bush’s unpopularity meant any Republican would run in the track’s outside lane and any Democrat would run in the inside one. This time, positions will be reversed. And Hillary will already be carrying considerable political baggage in the race.
Despite talk about her presidency’s predestination, Hillary faces formidable obstacles that her high name recognition now papers over. The advantages she has today she had in 2008 — when she had them to greater degrees and even then they were insufficient to secure the nomination let alone the presidency.
Additionally, she has two new serious disadvantages. She is out of step with her party’s driving force — the force that Democrats cannot win without. And she will not be running against an unpopular administration; she will have to defend one and simultaneously separate herself from it.
Hillary is not so much well positioned as she is well known. However, fame will not increase her advantages nor decrease her hurdles when the race begins. At the moment, it simply obscures our ability to see her in all her vulnerability.