Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, she’s still her own worst enemy

The former first lady and secretary of state has the profile, determination and funding to make it to the White House. But her previous presidential bid exposed character flaws which alienated supporters and ultimately derailed her 2008 campaign. As Hillary announces her new campaign for 2016, will history repeat itself?

Download
On the road to the White House? Only Hillary can stop herself
Steven_george-hilley
Steven George-Hilley
On 12 April 2015 16:32

When Hillary Rodham Clinton announced she was running for President on 20th January 2007, telling her supporters, “I'm in, and I'm in to win,” many believed she already had the Democratic nomination sewn up. Her statement itself symbolised a sense of triumph and entitlement that overshadowed and eventually doomed her campaign, turning her from an agent of change into an establishment figure in the eyes of voters.

With the electorate tired from two long and bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and economic hardship setting in, there was an opportunity to vote for something new and install the first ever female President to bring change to America. It wasn’t just a vote for Hillary, it was a vote for her husband Bill who still captured the affections of millions of voters, despite a troubled period in office as President of the United States. What could possibly go wrong?

Step forward Barack Obama, the young and articulate Illinois Senator who had less money and far less experience than the powerful Clinton clan. Not only did Obama campaign on the central issue of change, but as an African American he also physically embodied change, more so than Hillary who was easily typecast as a member of the old political dynasties of the past.

Obama successfully built momentum by targeting smaller states and engaging thousands of grassroots supporters. His campaign advisers, including David Axelrod, managed to secure large amounts of funding from small micro donations from millions of different supporters.

His relentless message of change and hope resonated well with citizens who were crying out for something different and something new. Yet for all the savvy campaign tactics and innovations, it wasn’t Obama that defeated the Clinton campaign, it was Hillary herself.

In an election where change was the number one aspiration, Clinton’s chief strategist Mark Penn foolishly positioned her as the candidate of experience. This made it easy for Obama’s campaign team to paint Hillary as an establishment figure from the Washington elite, something the vast majority of American’s didn’t want at the time.

Her team overspent early on, forcing her to lend her own campaign millions of dollars in personal funding. This meant that she was unable to pay for TV adverts in key states and was outmanoeuvred on the ground by Obama’s powerful grassroots network of volunteers.

Worse still, her biggest asset, husband Bill Clinton, became a liability with a string of poorly judged comments that many described as dog whistle politics. He called Obama’s campaign a ‘fairy tale’ and compared him to Jesse Jackson, tactics which left a sour taste in the mouths of many of his wife’s supporters.

The loss of trust between her and potential supporters was crystallised when she claimed she arrived in Bosnia landing under sniper fire. Soon after this statement, historic footage emerged of her arriving safely and securely; her version of events at best misleading, at worst a total lie.

Since those dark days, Hillary has served a decent term as secretary of state and published a book which was reasonably well received around the world. She has sorted out her finances, securing millions of dollars in donations and set her eyes on the job that she missed out on seven years ago.

But as the front-runner in this election race will Hillary crumble under the intensive media scrutiny she struggled with last time? Will her short temper get the better of her?

A remarkable woman indeed, but whatever they hype, Hillary is still Hillary. The only question is whether her campaign team can keep the darker side to her character out of sight of the public.

Steven George-Hilley is Associate Editor of The Commentator and a director at the Parliament Street think tank. @StevenGeorgia

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus