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Three Things We've Learned About Hillary Clinton's Emerging Campaign

It’s pretty easy to conclude that Clinton won’t be running away from Obama.
Image: Center For American Progress Hosts 10th Anniversary Conference
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses a gala celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Center for American Progress at the Mellon Auditorium October 24, 2013 in Washington, DC. Co-founded by former Clinton Administration Chief of Staff John Podesta, the liberal public policy research and advocacy organization is a think tank that rivals conservative policy groups, such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The Republican presidential field has received most of the recent attention -- and deservedly so, especially with Mitt Romney appearing to make another run. But in the last few days, we’ve also learned some important things about Hillary Clinton’s budding presidential campaign. First, by grabbing Obama’s chief pollster (Joel Benenson) and media consultant (Jim Margolis), Clinton has decided to enlist key parts of Obama’s campaign 2008-2012 team, discarding the folks who ran her polling and media in ’08. And she isn’t only grabbing Benenson -- she’s lured the other part of Obama’s polling/analytics organization (John Anzalone and David Binder), the Washington Post reported. When you add the fact that John Podesta is leaving the Obama White House to serve as a liaison between the Clinton campaign and White House (as well as to handle the Clinton Old Guard), it’s pretty easy to conclude that Clinton won’t be running away from Obama. In fact, it’s looking like she will be more connected to him than ever. And the people she’s hiring are the best-equipped campaign folks to reassemble the Obama-voter coalition.

It’s not going to be Gore vs. Bradley or even Bush vs. Dole

Two, we’ve learned that Clinton most likely won’t receive any real Democratic primary challenge, allowing her to focus on a general-election campaign much earlier than everyone else. The final tell here came earlier this week when Elizabeth Warren once again said she wasn’t running -- and this time did so in more than just the present tense.

Fortune magazine: So are you going to run for president?

Warren: No

Yes, groups like MoveOn are still pining for Warren (and they’re continuing to hire staffers for a draft campaign). Yes, Warren still wants to use her visibility and following to influence and pressure her party. And, yes, Democrats like Jim Webb, Martin O’Malley, and maybe even independent Bernie Sanders appear to be running or could run. But let’s be realistic here: Any challenge that Clinton gets probably won’t look like Gore vs. Bradley in 2000 or even Bush vs. Dole in 1988. Just look at all of the polls among Democratic voters out there. And if Warren’s not running, that allows Clinton the option to sit back and wait much longer than Republicans in the GOP field will.

How does Clinton distance herself from what’s looking like a growing list of has-been candidates?

And three, the growing realization that 2016 is going to be the year of the political re-run or spinoff -- you’ve got Romney, a Bush, a Paul, Huckabee, Santorum, and of course Clinton -- is a potential problem for her. When it was just Jeb running, that appeared to neutralize maybe her chief weakness in that she’s not a fresh face or name to lead the country into a new decade. But when it’s a growing cast of the same stale characters (or their relatives), it’s automatic to lump Clinton into that group. So she has to find a way to distance herself from that. Running as a historic candidate -- trying to be the first female president -- is a way to do that. But this could very well be her biggest challenge in 2016.

GOP backlash to Romney builds

There’s even MORE Republican backlash to Mitt Romney’s likely third presidential bid. Politico: “A Republican backlash against Mitt Romney that had been simmering for days boiled over on Wednesday as conservatives across the GOP spectrum panned the prospect of another presidential bid by the former Massachusetts governor and two-time loser on the national stage. Leading the anti-Romney charge was the voice of the GOP establishment wing, the Wall Street Journal editorial page. ‘The question the former Massachusetts Governor will have to answer,’ the newspaper wrote, ‘is why he would be a better candidate than he was in 2012… The answer is not obvious.’ The Journal’s owner, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, piled on: ‘He had his chance, he mishandled it, you know? I thought Romney was a terrible candidate.’” More: “Even Sarah Palin took a shot. ‘We need new energy,’ the former vice presidential nominee told “Inside Edition.’ ‘We need new blood. We need new ideas.’”

Throwback Thursday: 2016 contenders edition

Mitt Romney’s first presidential run started back in February 2007. (For context, that was just a month after most Americans started hearing the word “iPhone” for the first time.) For better or worse, that’s a lot of time and experience running for the White House. So one of us(!) took a look back at what all the major 2016 candidates were doing back when Romney announced for the first time. Some, like Rand Paul and Elizabeth Warren, weren’t even in public office. Others, like Gov. Scott Walker, were dealing with the nitty-gritty issues of local governance. And Rubio, Cruz and Jindal were barely old enough to legally be president.

Does Romney attend Steve King’s upcoming cattle call in Iowa?

Romney, of course, speaks Friday night at 10:00 pm ET at the RNC winter meeting in San Diego. (And today, Ben Carson and Scott Walker address the confab.) Yet for us, the question is if Romney ends up attending Rep. Steve King’s cattle call in Iowa on Jan. 24. Remember, Romney used the issue of immigration to distinguish himself from McCain in ’08 and Rick Perry in ’12. And it seems to be the obvious way he could run against Jeb Bush in ’16. As we’ve pointed out time and again, immigration -- especially the “A”-word, amnesty -- is one of the most powerful attacks in intra-party GOP fights. Just ask Eric Cantor.

Immigration battle turns to the Senate

Speaking of immigration, as NBC’s Alex Moe reported yesterday, the GOP-controlled House passed its bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security by a 236-191 vote, and it contained two noteworthy amendments: 1) an effort to rollback Obama’s executive action on immigration from late last year, and 2) an effort to rollback his DACA action from 2012. The House’s passage shouldn’t be surprising; Republicans have the numbers. What will be key is how the legislation fares in the GOP-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need 60 votes.

Wanna get away?

Republicans hold joint retreat: By the way, House and Senate Republicans are holding their two-day retreat in Hershey, PA.

Is Kamala Harris going to have a freer ride than we all expected?

Lastly, after Elizabeth Warren quickly endorsed Kamala Harris in the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), we’ve got to ask: Is Harris going to have a freer ride than we all expected? Now remember, it’s a LONG time before the filing deadline. And all it takes is for one very wealthy person (Tom Steyer?) to jump into the race to make things interesting. But the conventional wisdom was that this was going to be a JAM-PACKED field to succeed Boxer, and that doesn’t look as likely today.

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