Over the last two years I have engaged in countless discussions with Republican friends and colleagues about whether Hillary Clinton would run for president in 2016. What I discovered were two distinct schools of thought: Republicans who were hopeful that she would not run, and Republicans who were confident that she would not run.
Both camps believed that Clinton would bow out or not win her party’s nomination for one or more of the following reasons:
She has secret health problems.
She is too old and unattractive.
An “unknown” Democrat would rise up and defeat her for the nomination, a la 2008.
Her priorities will change once she becomes a grandmother.
Benghazi revelations will take her down.
As someone who since early 2013 was confident that Clinton would run for president in 2016, I believed that the “Clinton deniers” among my fellow Republicans were engaging in the political equivalent of sticking their heads in the sand.
Now, because of five news items that have unfolded during this month of September, Republican deniers must face the fact that not only is Clinton running, but that she will be a formidable opponent against any of the current potential GOP candidates. This, despite her many flaws and heavy baggage.
Here are September’s five important pieces of Hillary news that fit together like a puzzle—and the last two, without political precedent.
First, on September 5, in a speech at a charity event in Mexico, Clinton stated that she will announce her presidential intentions “after the first of the year.”
Why would a presidential candidate mention a specific time frame five months away unless the news was extremely positive for her supporters?
Second, on September 14, Hillary Clinton teased and winked-winked her way through retiring Iowa Senator Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry saying, "Hello Iowa. I'm back!" Just those four words unleashed thousands of headlines like this one from the AP, “Hillary Clinton in Iowa Stirs 2016 Speculation.”
Third, the ever-shy potential “First Dude,” speaking at this same Iowa steak fry, sung the praises of Ready for Hillary, his wife’s “campaign-in-waiting,” which was out in force. “Amazing. They are amazing,” said the former president. “You know I saw some of them here. I think with the rules we’re not supposed to have any contact with them. They’re like Energizer Bunnies. They’re just everywhere.”
Yes, the Ready for Hillary PAC will soon be everywhere—in fact, working in every state where there is a key Senate race in the upcoming midterm election. This is number four on my list, and it is politically groundbreaking. Never in the history of American politics has an organization with an unannounced presidential candidate tried to influence the outcome of an election in the name of that candidate.
Ready for Hillary communications director Seth Bringman announced that starting on October 1, his political staff will plant itself in 14 states. A September 17 email to reporters stated the following: “This staff deployment is part of Ready for Hillary's continued commitment to channeling the enthusiasm for a potential Hillary campaign into helping Democrats on the ballot this year.”
Think of it this way: Ready for Hillary is collecting political IOU’s for its leader, who can never publicly acknowledge the group’s existence.
The fifth, final, and most spectacular September development on the road to Clinton’s January presidential announcement is another historical political milestone and a precursor to how a Hillary 2016 campaign will sound.
In order to defend Clinton against any damaging revelations that may emerge from the select House committee on Benghazi, no fewer than three Democrat groups are ready to pounce. On September 16, Politico reported that a new pro-Clinton group called Correct the Record will work with Democratic researchers and establish a website that “is designed like a news site and will issue detailed, rapid responses to charges against Clinton—mimicking the way a campaign would defend a candidate in real time during a presidential debate.”
Meanwhile, the GOP is fractured, leaderless, and still about 19 months away from the emergence of its 2016 standard bearer—regardless whether Republicans win back the Senate in November. Take one look at the Real Clear Politics 2016 Republican presidential nomination poll averages. It gives new meaning to the words fractured and leaderless.
Then, if you are a Republican with a strong stomach, check out RCP’s 2016 general election match-ups, with Clinton defeating every likely GOP presidential candidate by wide margins.
Americans may not want a coronation in 2016 but the assembling of the infrastructure to elect America’s first female president is well underway and from a Republican point of view looks unstoppable.
If you think of her in retail terms, Hillary is Costco, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot all rolled into one mega-mega-mega-store. Meanwhile, the GOP’s 2016 candidates are small specialty boutiques in a suburban, red-state shopping mall.
In anticipation of 2016 the GOP had better consolidate its goods and reinvent its brand. It also has to dump the Hillary deniers, because at this point, denying her candidacy is counterproductive to formulating a coherent strategy. After all that, the party can go to market with a product that is acceptable to the masses.
If not, on November 8, 2016, the GOP will be out of the White House business for years to come.