Recently on Political Wire's podcast, we spoke about Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential hopes and the 2014 midterm campaigns with Geoff Garin, a longtime Democratic pollster who worked for Clinton's campaign in 2008.
Here are four takeaways from the conversation:
1. Were she to run, Hillary Clinton shouldn't have the same inevitability problem that plagued her in 2008. She was widely seen as the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee in 2008, and that perception seemed to produce some complacency within her campaign and contribute to her eventual loss to Barack Obama. This time, should Clinton choose to run, would go much differently, Garin argued. Clinton, fresh off her tenure as secretary of state, would have an even stronger case to make that she's the right person for the Democratic nomination (and the presidency). Her time as secretary of state has bolstered her leadership credentials, and Americans will find those credentials attractive at a time when they feel Washington is lacking in the leadership department. "There is a really good fit between what she would offer as candidate in the presidential leader and what the country is hungry for at the moment," Garin said.
2. Democrats aren't in as much trouble as you'd think. Garin said Republicans have a legitimate shot to take the Senate in November, given the president's sagging approval numbers and what is likely to be a more conservative electorate during a low-turnout election. But he also believes that some vulnerable Democrats like Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) have enough of a unique, independent persona that they're not seen as a rubber-stamp for Obama's agenda. Not only that, but Republicans lack one critical edge that they had in 2010: Then, many voters chose Republicans to take out their anger on President Obama and the Democrats, but now voters have soured even more on Republicans, in part for their ideological rigidity. "There's a real debate to be had, and I think Democrats have shown a much greater inclination and willingness this time to join the debate in an aggressive way and not sit back and just hope for the best," he said. As a result, while turnout this fall will favor the GOP, a 2010-like wave doesn't seem to be in the cards.
3. Republicans' near-singular focus on ObamaCare could come back to bite them. It may be a great strategy to pump up conservative base voters, but voters in the middle of the electorate have other issues in mind besides the Affordable Care Act, Garin said. ObamaCare certainly will play a role in the campaign, but issues such as jobs and the federal deficit are much more of a priority in the eyes of less-partisan voters. The ObamaCare obsession he referred to may serve as another example of how the GOP has become more ideologically rigid in the past few years, Garin said. Additionally, "I just think this Republican obsession is neurotic at some level, and certainly excessive beyond what people want to be talking about," he said.
4. Democrats are right to fight back on ObamaCare. A recent wave of good news about the health care law is giving Democrats the potential to regroup and reframe their ObamaCare argument. Instead of continuing to take a largely defensive tone in their "keep it and fix it" platform, Democrats now are going on offense, Garin said, by explaining the benefits of the law and attacking Republicans' efforts to take away those benefits via repeal votes. "Rather than being in a defensive crouch and hoping this will go away, Democrats really around the country are leaning into the issue," he said. It's true that Republicans now increasingly say they want to replace ObamaCare, but Garin noted that they have yet to offer, much less vote on, a substantive alternative. "If somebody actually came up with a real plan to replace it, I am confident whatever that plan would be would be less appealing to voters than what we have now," Garin said.
Listen to the whole conversation here: