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“A Lot More Incentive To Stick With Him”: Bucking Conventional Wisdom, Hillary Clinton Declines To ‘Distance Herself’ From Obama

For a long time, the conventional wisdom has been that Hillary Clinton needs to “distance herself” from Barack Obama. It’s something we hear in just about every presidential election that comes at the end of a two-term presidency, as the candidate from the same party as the departing president is told that “distancing” is key. This line is repeated whether the president is popular, unpopular, or something in between.

But if you actually look at what Clinton has been saying, it’s been hard to find any distance at all between her and the President. So if she’s worried about creating that distance, it isn’t in evidence yet.

For instance, campaigning yesterday in South Carolina, Clinton spent her time telling African-American voters that she and the President are as close as can be:

But the message Mrs. Clinton got across was specific, and it was clear: She was on Barack Obama’s side from the moment she conceded the nomination to him in 2008, she had done everything she could to help him in office, and she would follow through on much of his agenda if she were elected to succeed him.

“Some of you may remember we had a pretty vigorous campaign in 2008,” she joked, knowingly, to an approving crowd of lawmakers, local Democratic officials and others. She added, “Both President Obama and I worked really hard.”

“I went to work for him” as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton said, “because he and I share many of the same positions about what should be done in the next presidency.”

One might argue that this only happened because she was speaking to an African-American audience, among whom Obama retains enormous loyalty. But African-Americans are the Democratic Party’s core constituency, and encouraging strong turnout among them is critical to any Democratic nominee; this won’t be the last time she does something similar.

Furthermore, it’s hard to find issues she’s discussed so far in the campaign where there’s much “distance” at all between her and Obama. That isn’t to say Clinton is going to take the identical position as Obama on everything; for instance, she’s been vague about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, suggesting she may end up opposing it. But in general, the “move to the left” people have noted in Clinton’s positions has essentially made her more in tune with Obama’s presidency than with her husband’s. Much of that is just about the evolution of their party; if Bill Clinton was running today, he’d be more liberal on many issues than he was 20 years ago, too. But the effect is to draw her closer to Obama.

Whether you believe that Clinton is taking a more liberal stance than she has in the past on issues like immigration or paid family leave because of conviction or calculation, the fact is that those positions are extremely popular. And there isn’t much the Obama administration has done overall that is crying out for distancing. Obama hasn’t had any monumental scandals or screw-ups on the scale of the Lewinsky affair or the Iraq War. His most controversial policy achievement is the Affordable Care Act — which Clinton has embraced wholeheartedly.

Reporters are going to continue to pore over Clinton’s statements with Talmudic care to try to find any evidence of distance between her and Obama. But in reality, if anyone’s working to distance themselves from a president, it’s Republicans trying to shuffle away from George W. Bush, despite the fact that he left office over six years ago.

Clinton won’t be identical to Obama, for the simple reason that they’re different people. Though they come from the same party and thus agree on most things, there will no doubt be an issue here or there on which she promises something slightly different. But let’s not forget that as much as Republicans despise Obama, he did get elected twice. If Clinton can hold his coalition together, she’ll win, too. So she has a lot more incentive to stick with him than to distance herself.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, May 28, 2015

June 1, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, President Obama | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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