That Old Car Feel

Clinton Numbers

Harry Enten spells out why Clinton “no longer looks quite so invincible, and early indicators point toward a Republican-leaning political environment”:

In four polls conducted over the past month, YouGov asked more than 2,500 registered voters whether they would vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate for president in 2016. The Republican candidate led, on average, 39.2 percent to 36.7 percent. …The current environment suggests Clinton would need to be stronger than a generic Democratic candidate to be considered the favorite. Instead, her standing has deteriorated.

Furthermore, he finds that any “lead Clinton does have is almost entirely attributable to being better known”

Among the seven Republican candidates listed by Quinnipiac, the correlation between Clinton’s lead (or lack thereof) over each Republican and that Republican’s name recognition was 0.94. In other words, other Republicans should gain ground as they become better known. In fact, a simple regression between name recognition and a Republican’s standing against Clinton in the Quinnipiac poll suggests that she isn’t performing much better than a generic Democrat.

I don’t think you can measure how well or poorly Clinton will do without knowing what on earth she is proposing to address the country’s problems. And there’s an obvious likelihood that she could easily run without ever feeling the need to spell that out in detail, as is her wont. Or that her 1990s-style triangulating neo-liberalism simply won’t cut it in the Democratic party of 2015. Vinik puts his hope in a better economy to improve Clinton’s chances:

Economic forecasters are expecting those green shoots to lead to stronger growth over the next two years. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the economy will grow nearly 4 percent in both 2015 and 2016. The Federal Reserve’s most recent forecast put growth a bit lower, at 2.6-3.0 percent over the next two years. For comparison, growth hovered around 2 percent in 2013 and 2012. …

“If the incumbent president isn’t running, the effect of the economy would be a little bit smaller, but it’s still important,” George Washington political scientist John Sides told me earlier this year. “The logic there being that a new candidate for the party would not get as much credit or blame as the actual president who was presiding over the economy.” In other words, an improving economy benefits the candidate of the incumbent party: The more the economy improves over the next 24 months, the better Clinton’s chances are of winning the presidency.

Sabato, meanwhile, worries about the impact of winning the White House on the president’s party:

The surest price the winning party will pay is defeat of hundreds of their most promising candidates and officeholders for Senate, House, governorships, and state legislative posts. Every eight-year presidency has emptied the benches for the triumphant party, and recently it has gotten even worse. (By the way, the two recent one-term presidents, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, also cost their parties many lower-level offices, but in both cases this didn’t happen until they were defeated for reelection.)

Since World War II there have been eight two-term presidencies: Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, plus the reasonable succession combos of Franklin Roosevelt-Harry Truman, John Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon-Gerald Ford. Not a one has left his party in better shape that he found it, at least in terms of lower elected offices.

Which reminds me of that Enoch Powell quip that all successful political careers end in failure.