Forget comparing the current Democratic presidential primary race – and Hillary Clinton’s current struggles – to 2008.
A better comparison is Al Gore in 1999-2000.
Just look at some of the headlines about Gore at this time 16 years ago:
- The New York Times: “Clinton Admits to Concerns As Gore Campaign Stumbles” (May 14, 1999).
- The New York Times: “As Candidate Struggles, Gore Campaign Second Guesses Early Decisions” (Oct. 9, 1999).
- The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank: “He's Here! And There!; Heading in all directions won't get Al Gore where he wants to go” (Dec. 19, 1999).
- The Wall Street Journal: “Despite Problems, Gore Still Holds Some Strong Cards” (Dec. 27, 1999).
In addition to these types of headlines, Hillary Clinton in 2015 and Al Gore in 1999 share these other similarities: running for their party to hold onto the White House for a third-consecutive term; getting almost no benefit of the doubt from the press; and being held to the same standards as Bill Clinton.
Indeed, Hillary and Gore both inherited much of Bill’s baggage (“You can’t trust them!” “They’re pushing the limits of what’s acceptable”) without any of the benefits (“Why can’t they connect to voters as well as Bill did?” “Why are they trying so hard to be spontaneous and approachable?”). Hillary has the email server and “didn’t knowingly send classified info”; Gore had the Buddhist temple and “No controlling legal authority.”
It’s a tough act for any politician to follow in Bill Clinton’s footsteps -- or Barack Obama’s. But do remember this: Despite all of the tough headlines he received, despite all of the focus on “earth tones,” and despite all of the attention on his debate sighs, Al Gore won every single Democratic primary over Bill Bradley; he won the popular vote in the general election; and the only things that kept him from winning the Election College were arguably Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan.
Oh, and there’s one other similarity between Hillary Clinton now and Al Gore back in 2000: The general-election opponent might have Bush as a last name.
Of course, there are two significant differences between now and 1999: One, there isn’t a huge sex scandal (Monica Lewinsky! Ken Starr! Impeachment!) dominating the headlines and national environment. And two, the U.S. economy, while definitely improving, isn’t humming along the way it was in 1999 or 2000.
Still, the Hillary-Gore comparisons are hard to ignore. Perhaps the bottom line is that that both of them have/had a Bill problem. And since neither has the natural political talent/instincts to replicate Bill, neither ever quite convinces/convinced the party to totally fall in love with them.