Meet the Press   |  August 18, 2013

Hillary lays groundwork for 2016

A Meet the Press roundtable examines remarks made recently by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and how her comments foreshadow a future presidential run.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> this is the middle of august, but there's a lot of politics going on, and we want to get to a lot of it. from hillary clinton to the rnc, the republican party , chris christie , a lot to chew on. let's start with hillary clinton , chuck todd . she's talking about voting rights on monday. a series of speeches. she is laying the groundwork for how she comes up with a message. listen to a part of her speech.

>> anyone who says that racial discrimination is no longer a problem in american elections must not be paying attention.

>> i am surprised in this first year that she is getting political this quickly and laying the groundwork this quickly. i really thought she was going to take -- you have sky-high bipartisan approval ratings . you come off foreign policy , least political of the offices held. why not hang on to that as long as you can? the thing that surprises me about this is she has done nothing to tamp down the enthusiasm for her, understandab understandably, and is now embracing this with a series of speeches. it means she's going to become political sooner. with that comes some negatives, meaning you're going to get scrutiny, like this week of the clinton foundation , you'll get dings of what mccullough's doing in the virginia race, where the minute you stop being above the fray, which is the decision she's beginning to make, you are then starting the presidential campaign i think a lot sooner, and at some point, they're going to look back and go, ooh, should we really have started that soon? that is the whole thing about the run-up that surprises me.

>> rich lowry , you didn't like what you saw and wrote about it in politico. "madam secretary hasn't missed a beat," you write. "she knows that the calling card of democrats in the barack obama era is a polarizing politics that seeks to fire up minority voters by searing fears of fire hoses and police dogs . its basic vocabulary with the standard that's low and dishonest and its ethic is whatever works, so lock long as it stirs fear, anger and resentment. get ready for hope and change 2.0."

>> she will be a formidable front-runner if she runs, but she has been a formidable front-runner before. i think one of the downsides is she is not a natural politician, so she will be vulnerable to the left. she wants to shore up the left i think as soon as possible. so, she didn't, as you might expect a former secretary of state, to give a speech about egypt when it's descending into the abyss. it was about voter laws. and these voter i.d. laws, depending how you count, about 30 states have them. they're popular across the board. the " washington post " poll not too long ago said more than 60% of blacks and latinos support these laws. they've been upheld by the supreme court 6-3 by a very liberal justice. so, i think the case against them is extremely weak and inherently demagoguic.

>> congresswoman, what do you think?

>> well, i think her speech comes on the heels of the supreme court 's action striking down part of the voting rights act . so, it's not a surprise she would give an important policy speech on something like that. also, i think she's really going to dig her heels in at the foundation, continuing the work that she did at the state department on women and girls and lifting up the voices of women and girls in the united states and around the world.

>> there is a question, robert gibbs , that i have, which is how does hillary clinton position herself, vis-a-vis barack obama ? she wants a coalition that he has built her in 2012 . she wants that certainly to be her coalition in 2016 , but the legacy of obama could both help and hurt her. how does she distinguish herself and have room to run?

>> well, she also has to distinguish herself from her husband, too, right? listen, if her campaign becomes an extension really of either her husband's term or the current president's term, it's not necessarily a good deal for her. i completely agree with chuck. i as a strategist am fairly floored that she has decided to enter the public fray so quickly. she could do the foundation work, she could do issue work, she could build the campaign, she could develop a message without having to be so far out front there. and chuck talks about strong bipartisan approval ratings . those will whittle quite quickly as she steps further and further --

>> by the way, then we're going to get cheap political stories that will show up in certain political news sites that say, oh, look, hillary clinton 's ratings are falling, and it's simply because republicans and independents who are republican leaning will go away as she becomes more --

>> if she doesn't look at the primary process as one that's shortened for her as being a very good thing. remember, bill clinton got into, because we ran primaries very late in the earlier '90s, you know, he gets in in the fall of 1991 for a 1992 election, and i would have thought that would be the path she would more use.

>> and she basically has the power, right --

>> absolutely.

>> to breeze --

>> she actually can do that. not many front-runners have that power.

>> newt gingrich sat in your chair not long ago and said i don't know if republicans have anybody that can really take on hillary clinton . this week changing his tune a little bit. on wednesday, he said the coronation's not starting now. here's what he said.

>> she's proven an ability to lose, so i want to just start and say it's a long way from here to her coronation. and if she moves to the left in these speeches in order to try to block a primary opponent, she will be increasingly isolating herself from the american people . so, i'm not at all convinced what the choice will be by 2016 .

>> what do you say?

>> well, republicans aren't going to have anyone with this kind of resume, but i think although hillary has quite the resume, i'm not sure she has much substantive accomplishment to back it up, certainly as secretary of state. so, what republicans have will be a lot of fresh faces, a lot of fresh voices about the direction of the party, and it really is shaping up to be the inverse of what we may see on the democratic side, where you have a huge front-runner, whereas republicans for the first time in recent memory won't have that next-in-line front-runner looming over the rest of the field.

>> donna edwards , i want to come back to this point of do americans, specifically democratic voters, want to see a third obama term or would they like to see the restoration of the bill clinton era?

>> well, i think among, you know, the electorate, president obama 's really popular among democrats. and so, there's no harm in that, but we didn't mind president clinton either. and so, i think democrats don't really have a problem here. it's republicans who have the problem. and really, for hillary clinton , you know, the fact is, she doesn't need to shore up her base from a fight from the left. she will win the nomination if she chooses to run. i really do believe that, and i think democrats want to coalesce around a candidate early to kind of put this aside.

>> also, that makes why she's getting involved so much, quite frankly , more and more curious, because she is the default candidate and she's probably more the default candidate than she was in 2008 because there's not an issue like iraq that separates her. and if she has that ability, i do think it is very surprising that she's decided to step back into the ring so early.

>> david, there is one other unintended consequence here that i don't think she is intending. the more there is sort of the split inside the democratic party , who's the leader of the party right now? the more she's talking, the more you start seeing a gravitational pull back towards hillary. this hurts the current president of the united states as trying to be leader of the democratic party , as trying to move the party as he gets ready for a bunch of fall fights. the lame duck status happens in two phases, right? the first phase is lame duck status in washington between the presidency and the white house . and then there's a second phase of lame duck status inside your own party. her coming out early i think speeds up that lame duck process of barack obama inside the democratic party , and that's something if i'm sitting in the white house , i don't like so much. you don't start