As the 2012 presidential campaign began to form seriously
in 2011, some conservatives suggested that the by-then
commonplace slogan “It’s the economy, stupid!” would be
replaced by a new slogan “It’s Obamacare, stupid!” as the
emblematic theme of the Republican attempt to replace
the president, then in his first term, the next year.
It was based, quite understandably, on the performance of
the 2010 mid-term elections when the Republicans regained
control of the U.S. house with a pick-up of 60-plus seats,
and a significant pick-up of U.S senate seats, primarily due
to negative voter reaction to the just-passed medical care
reform law known as Obamacare. Republicans, it should be
remembered, became increasingly confident that they could
win the 2012 presidential election, and they nominated
someone who, because of his support of a comparable program
when he was governor of a northeastern state, was going to
have a difficult time making Obamacare a dispositive issue.
Mitt Romney had other political problems, to be sure, and
the election was close, but the GOP slogan did not materialize
as the difference.
Going into the 2014 mid-term elections, Obamacare is once
again driving voters away from Democratic candidates. In
fact, it is potentially more serious than in 2010 because the
legislation is now being implemented --- with disastrous early
I am suggesting that a focus on Obamacare by Republicans
beyond 2014 is a very bad strategy. The reasons are simple.
If voter dissatisfaction with the legislation does resonate in
the 2014 elections, it will be repealed or dramatically altered
whether or not President Obama agrees to it. Members of
Congress of his own party, having seen the writing on the
electoral wall of 2014, will vote to override any veto. It will be
a matter of political survival, and Mr. Obama will be a very
lame duck. If, somehow, Obamacare miraculously succeeds
suddenly in 2014, including getting by its inaugural technical
glitches, and its implementation is not put off until 2015,
there will obviously no issue. In either case, Obamacare will
cease to confront voters after 2015.
At the same time, Democrats are developing, as their prime
slogan for 2016, “It’s time for a woman president!” This, of
course, presupposes that the current Democratic frontrunner,
Hillary Clinton, is their nominee. There are two problems
with this slogan-as-strategy. First, in spite of her huge lead in
current polls, the election is almost three years away. Mrs.
Clinton enjoyed a similar “insurmountable” lead in 2005, and
three years later, she came up short when Mr. Obama won
the party nod. Second, and perhaps more important, relying
on an abstraction, albeit a sympathetic one, is a very risky
strategy, and not ultimately complimentary to Mrs. Clinton’s
I happen to believe it IS time for a woman (from either party)
to be elected president, but I certainly would not want to vote
for a woman primarily because of her sex. The nation leads
outstanding leadership, now more than ever, and the only true
major consideration should be a vote for the best person, either
liberal or conservative, to serve in the nation’s highest office. It
was theoretically time for a Catholic to be president in 1928
when Al Smith was the Democratic nominee, but it did not
happen until 1960 when John Kennedy was elected. It was time
to have a Jew on the national ticket in 2000 when Joe Lieberman
was the Democratic vice presidential nominee, but he did not
win. Jesse Jackson ran twice for president, and many said that
Republican Colin Powell could have won if he ran, but it was
Barack Obama who was the first black president.
Today, notably more women already vote Democratic, and
notably more men vote Republican. It is illusory to think that
primarily just because she is a woman, Mrs. Clinton will win
in 2016. Nor will her “resume” alone give her victory.
American voters historically don’t vote for “resumes,”
including most recently in 2008. If she is her party’s nominee,
Mrs. Clinton will have to give voters very good reasons to vote
for her, especially after two terms of a president of her own
party, the inevitable Obama-fatigue that will exist in 2016, and
despite her own many controversies, personal and political.
It is, of course, a long time until 2016. In addition to the 2014
elections, many events, most of them unanticipated, will occur.
Hillary Clinton could indeed be elected president in 2016, but
I suspect the main reason will not be simply that she is a
woman. (What if, for example, the GOP nominee chooses the
talented New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez as his running
mate?) A Republican might indeed be elected president in 2016,
but I suspect the reason will not be only voter dissatisfaction with
Slogans, or other short rationales, do not often win national
elections. Long before it was verbalized by the Bill Clinton
campaign, the “economy” was almost always was the major
factor in a presidential election.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.