The Hillary Clinton 1.0 “Listening Tour” and the 2.0 “Listening Tour” may be the same remedy from a campaign strategy point of view, but the circumstances are very different.
When seeking the U.S. Senate from New York, although well-known, she had never sought elective office and had to prove herself as a candidate in her own right. Also, there was the so-called “carpetbagger” issue which required her to learn about New York and demonstrate her ability to represent the state. The task before Clinton now, having been a senator, candidate for president, and Secretary of State, is to re-invent herself as someone who can connect and relate to Americans. Success will be measured in whether she can earn the public trust, rather than seem that she is once again inevitable and entitled. Lacking stiff competition for her party’s nomination, Clinton also needs to find a way to stay relevant over the next year to avoid being defined by the GOP. She also needs to stave off the Republicans characterizing the political agenda. The trip to Iowa seems like a good place to begin and the drive there an interesting attention grabber.
Right now, Clinton has a clear path to the nomination. But, Democrats do want to have a dialogue. She hopes the listening tour provides that interaction. The general election is more of a 50-50 proposition. Demographic changes are in her favor. When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, 87% of the electorate was white, and only 13% were people of color. Fast forward to 2012, white voters represented only 72% of the electorate and people of color had more than doubled to 28%. Will the Obama coalition turn out and be solid for Clinton? Will the GOP make any inroads with Latino voters?
Offsetting this “Demography is Destiny” thesis is the so-called “curse of the third term.” In 1988, Bush 41 was elected following President Reagan’s election and re-election. The previous time a president served a full eight years and then someone of the same party was elected was Rutherford B. Hayes following President Grant. History may repeat itself, but it doesn’t often.