To no one's surprise, on April 12 former first lady, senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her entry into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. The obvious questions are: Why announce now? What is her platform? And, does Hillary Clinton have a real chance to become America's first female president?
The Iowa Caucuses won't happen until February 1, 2016, and the Democratic convention will be held July 25-28, 2016. So far, Hillary Clinton has no formidable challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination. Senator Elizabeth Warren has repeatedly said she's not running. That leaves a relatively weak field: Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and possibly former Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, and former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. (Hillary has a 48 point lead over her nearest contender leading some to label this race "Hillary versus the seven dwarfs.")
This last time she ran, Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy in January of 2007. She might have waited a bit longer, but there are good reasons for announcing now:
• The Republican candidates (Bush, Cruz, Paul, Rubio) are beginning to declare and they were dominating the mainstream media. Hillary's announcement will take the wind out of their sails, at least temporarily.
• There are salacious allegations against Clinton (Benghazi, email management while she was Secretary of State, and the donations to the Clinton Foundation). The announcement will give her a good opportunity to respond to these.
• Many Democrats were questioning what she stands for - whether she is liberal enough to represent the entire Party. Now Hillary can respond.
• Finally, the issue of the pending Iran agreement threatened to divide Congressional Democrats. Now Clinton can wade in, presumably on the side of President Obama, and the Party can unify behind her.
Clinton used her announcement video to establish populist themes. The bulk of the two-minute video shows seemingly average people discussing their lives: preparing for marriage, school, a new baby, a new home, retirement, or starting a business. The participants represent the diversity of America including a gay couple and a mixed-race couple. Clinton says, "Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times. But the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top... Everyday Americans need a champion and I want to be that champion."
The Daily Kos observed, "The real brilliance of this piece is that it's inviting Republicans to stick their head in a noose... Instead of coming back with their own positive vision for America and actually arguing issues, Republicans will come back with attacks."
After laying the foundation of her campaign, Clinton's Campaign Manager John Podesta tweeted, "Helping working families succeed, building small businesses, tackling climate change & clean energy. Top of the agenda." (The Clinton campaign later packaged "climate change & clean energy" inside "national security.")
The latest CBS News poll indicates Americans remain concerned about jobs and the economy (18 percent) but they are also worried about Islamic terrorists such as ISIS and Al Qaeda (11 percent). 5 percent are concerned about health care followed by 4 percent that are concerned about education and the "income gap." Clinton will have a plan for each of these issues that should be positively received by Democrats and Independents. (Other polls show that Americans are concerned about immigration and Clinton, who embraces the pathway to citizenship, also has a plan for this.)
There's continuing concern about Hillary Clinton's favorability ratings. However, Nate Silver noted: "Hillary Clinton is extremely well-known, but her favorability ratings are now only break-even: 46 percent favorable and 45 percent unfavorable. These are nearly identical to President Obama's ratings, which are 48 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable." Nonetheless, Silver observed that all the announced Republican presidential candidates have "net-negative" ratings; for example, Jeb Bush has 45 percent unfavorable and only 31 percent favorable. (In other words, voters aren't thrilled with any presidential candidate.)
The latest Real Clear Politics poll shows that Clinton leads all Republican presidential candidates; her closest challenger is Jeb Bush and Hillary leads Jeb by 7.4 percentage points.
Of course, most of us remember 2008, when Hillary Clinton appeared to be the inevitable Democratic nominee and then Barack Obama won the race. In 2016, it seems unlikely that Clinton will lose the Democratic nomination. The question is whether she can win the general election.
In 2012, presidential election exit polls indicated that Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney because he formed a strong coalition of women and racial minorities. He also prevailed among urban voters and those who positively viewed his presidency and the economy. This seems like a formula that will work for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Hillary Clinton has a populist platform, positive economic winds, and loads of experience. This should be enough to defeat a weak Republican field. Hillary looks to be ready to win.