The Tea Leaves Suggest Hillary Clinton Would Be A Formidable Candidate

By Steve Paul (Opinion)
The Kansas City Star

No matter what happens in the midterm election this November, a larger political scenario looms for 2016.

For the Democrats right now, the presumptive though not entirely certain presidential nominee is Hillary Rodham Clinton. (“I’m thinking about it,” she said coyly last week.) For the Republicans, well, it’s too early to say.

But, according to demographics and polling, it’s all uphill for the GOP.

That’s one observation made in Kansas City on Wednesday night by a pair of longtime political observers. David Von Drehle, the Kansas City-based editor-at-large for Time magazine, and Carl Cannon, Washington bureau chief of the Real Clear Politics website, held a chat session on stage before a few hundred listeners at the Kansas City Public Library’s Central branch.

Cannon, who has covered presidential politics since the Reagan years, drew on his reading of voter trends and demographics to suggest that the gender gap alone will work in Clinton’s favor.

Then again, Cannon began the talk by reminding the audience how he declared, in 2005, that Hillary Clinton would be the next president of the United States.

Responding to a later question he and Von Drehle agreed that, contrary to popular belief, Clinton ran a very good primary campaign in 2008, but she was up against a ground-breaking and great campaign run by Barack Obama and his political team.

A lot of emotional baggage comes with a Clinton candidacy, including the, uh, complications that beset the presidency of Clinton’s husband, Bill.

“Anyone who has covered the Clintons,” Cannon said, “has mixed feelings about them.”

And don’t forget that red-meat GOP issue regarding the tragedy at Benghazi, which occurred under Hillary Clinton’s watch as secretary of state. You can almost hear the super-PAC, attack-ad video machine already gearing up for that one.

Still, Cannon noted, Clinton topped a Gallup poll in December 2013 of the most admired women in the United States. Her numbers (15-plus percent) essentially equaled those of the next three women combined, Oprah Winfrey (6 percent), Michelle Obama (5) and Sarah Palin (5).

With the talk recently of a Republican candidacy by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, brother of George W. Bush, the speakers speculated on whether American voters would be weary of what appeared to be political dynasties in the making.

“The best guy on the other side is the guy who takes the dynasty issue away from you,” Cannon said.

In putting together its tickets, the GOP has made nothing but mistakes ever since its Kansas City convention in 1976, Cannon said.

Presidential nominee Gerald Ford could have made history by choosing Texan Anne Armstrong as his running mate, but passed her over for Bob Dole of Kansas, who, Cannon said, added no political help to the ticket.

No matter what direction the Republicans take in creating a ticket for the coming presidential campaign, Clinton would likely outsmart them. When pressed by a questioner about possible Clinton running mates, Cannon and Von Drehle agreed that most likely she would choose someone of Hispanic heritage, perhaps one of the Castro twins of Texas, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro or San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.

Much like Barack Obama before him (in 2004), Julian Castro, formerly little known, gave an impressive keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Reading tea leaves is a tricky business, but this public confab certainly had the effect of energizing what already was a highly engaged audience. And if you think that the next presidential election seems so far off, it’s clear that campaign 2016 is already under way.

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