Hillary Clinton Hurting 2014 Democratic Candidates?

Some on the left are saying that Hillary Clinton isn't doing enough to help Democrats in 2014.

Hillary Clinton Addresses Recycling Industries Trade Conference In Las Vegas

Brent Budowsky echoes a refrain I’ve heard from many on the left regarding the nasceant Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, namely that she isn’t doing enough to support the Democratic Party’s candidates in 2014

Politically, Clinton’s prime directive for 2014 should have been to use her considerable intellect to devise substantial policies for income equality in the spirit of the most profound and popular public figure of our age, Pope Francis, and to go all out to save the Democratic Senate in the midterm elections.

If Clinton does not relish the prospect of being investigated for the next two years by what I have called the Republican house of inquisitions, she might ponder the pleasantries of being investigated as well by the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in a GOP-controlled Senate wielding the partisan power of the gavel and subpoena. Democrats — above all, Clinton — must clearly understand they face a dire state of political emergency.

In a recent CBS poll, voters favor Democrats over Republicans 41 percent to 37 percent, but enthusiastic voters favor Republicans 47 percent to 40 percent. In short, Democrats move from plus 4 to minus 7, losing 11 points because GOP voter enthusiasm now overwhelms Democratic voter enthusiasm.

Consider Senate campaign polling from Real Clear Politics, which today mostly tabulates polls from registered voters, not likely voters. If we add 11 points per race, or even 5, to Republican numbers when polls shift to likely voters, the mortal danger to Democrats becomes alarming.

Clinton should have spent all of 2014 working hard to support Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky and Michelle Nunn in Georgia. She has not. For the first eight months of 2014, Hillary Clinton has done virtually nothing to save the Democratic Senate. Now, her piling on criticism of Obama, whose unpopularity in red states is already a grave danger for Democrats, only helps the GOP cause.

Even more damaging to Democrats, and self-destructive for Clinton, is that her line of attack against Obama in the Atlantic interview wields national security arguments against Obama usually aimed against Democrats by Dick Cheney, neoconservatives and hyperpartisan Republicans.

Clinton’s talking points against Obama gives Republicans ammunition against Democrats, drives Obama’s negatives higher, divides Democrats against one another, alienates many liberals from Clinton, and further depresses Democrats when the party desperately needs dramatically increased enthusiasm, not new Democratic divisions and deeper Democratic depression that will keep more Democratic voters home in November.

Republicans rejoice and Democrats are appalled when Clinton is praised by Newt Gingrich for attacking Obama for policies devised when Democrat Clinton was Democrat Obama’s secretary of State.

Hillary Clinton should distinguish herself from President Obama. I would not recommend her using neoconservative-sounding arguments, which remind a vast and unenthusiastic Democratic base of her six years of support for Bush 43’s Iraq war and her penchant for political calculation, to promote her candidacy for president. But whatever case she makes should be made AFTER this year’s midterm elections, not before.

Clinton should stop all criticism of Obama and any Democrat, concentrate aggressively on saving the Democratic Senate, ask Ready for Hillary to spend ALL its cash on hand to support Senate and House Democrats, and develop inspiring programs for income equality and other issues vital to voters.

Budowsky’s complaints, as well as those from others on the left, including those who have pointed out that people who have been mentioned as 2016 candidates such as Elizabeth Warren have spent much time campaigning for Democratic candidates already, bring to mind a few observations.

First of all, even though there are now less than three weeks left until the General Election, it is still relatively early in the process. Most Americans are far too busy with their summers and getting kids ready for school to be paying much attention to the midterm elections at this point. Once Labor Day has passed, and even more so after Congress is out of session at the end of September. There’s more than enough time for Clinton herself, and her husband (who has already campaigned for candidates in states like Kentucky), to get out and do the kind of high profile campaign events that they would be most valuable at. Last year in Virginia, for example, both Clinton’s spent considerable time campaigning for Terry McAuliffe but most of that time was spent during the last two weeks or so of the campaign, in no small part because their appearances were also meant to be “get out the vote” rallies. While not dismissing the value of fundraising, those are the roles that Clinton would seem to be the most valuable in at this point, especially in states like North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, and Kentucky. While I doubt that Hillary Clinton will spend most of her October on the campaign stump, I’d be rather surprised if she wasn’t out there a considerable amount of the time, not only for the candidates on the ballot but also because such campaigning would obviously be helpful as a prelude to her own campaign. So, to that extent Budowsky’s complaints strike me as being a bit premature.

The other side of the coin, of course, is that the individual candidates that Budowsky talks about no doubt want to be careful about how they use someone likeatHillary or Bill Clinton as a surrogate on the campaign trail. Not so much because of problems that might develop but because of the risk that the surrogate could overshadow the candidate. For example, any political rally that Hillary Clinton shows up at going forward is likely to end up drawing press attention as much for what it means for a potential 2016 Presidential run as anything else. When you’re a candidate in a tight election race, you want the press clippings to be about you, not about the person campaigning for you. Because of that, the Clinton’s are the kind of surrogate that most campaigns would want to use sparingly and strategically.

As for Budowsky’s other point, I’m not certain how much Clinton’s criticisms of the President’s foreign policy are going to have all that much of an impact on Democratic candidates. In no small part, this is because foreign policy is generally not an issue that motivates voters very much. The larger factor, though, is that voters in red states that are inclined to vote against a Democratic Senate candidate because of President Obama aren’t going to have their opinion impacted very much by what Hillary Clinton has to say about the President’s foreign policy. Additionally, to the extent that the President’s policies are unpopular you aren’t seeing Democratic candidates in these red states being all that eager to associate themselves with them in any case. So, on balance I’d say that Hillary’s criticisms aren’t going to hurt Democrats any more than the President is already hurting them.

The final thing to keep in mind, of course, is that Clinton is only going to do those things that are in her interest. This is true of any Presidential candidate, of course, but even more true for the Clintons. It’s no mistake that both of them spent so much time in an important swing state like Virginia last year, for example, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see most of their campaign stops located in states that have implications for the primary or General Election in 2016 have the most emphasis on their calendars in the fall. Expecting any candidate to put the interests of the party before their own is naive, but expecting the Clintons to do it is just ignoring reality.

FILED UNDER: 2014 Election, 2016 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mu says:

    Hillary is working on Hillary 2016, not a democratic success in 2014. For her, a 2 year disaster with Obama vetoing everything that a republican run congress produces is just what can sweep her into office like Obama 2008. Can’t be a the big savior if there’s nothing be be saved from.

  2. MR X says:

    i guess she could steer more money to these Dem Senate candidates, but I don’t see why she would. The clintons are clever and don’t bet on losers. She’ll look like more of a hero in 16′ if Dems pick up Senate seats in a much friendlier landscape when she does indeed run.

    The only thing that can hurt Hillary at this point are PACS. the average voter has practically zero influence in any election these days.


  3. stonetools says:

    Budowsky failed to mention that Bill has been campaigning for Grimes in Kentucky.

    As the Democrats’ unofficial campaigner in chief, Bill Clinton helped Grimes raise more than $600,000 at a fundraiser in Louisville last February. He was back again a week ago at two high-profile campaign events in Kentucky’s horse country and eastern coalfields.

    Bill Clinton is also active in Arkansas:

    Bill Clinton has already gone in to stump for Pryor, helping him fill his war chest to defend against the millions in outside group spending that is flooding the airwaves.

    He has also helped raise money for two Democratic candidates in open-seat House races: former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays in the 2nd District, and James Lee Witt, a former FEMA director under Clinton and the Democratic nominee in the 4th District.

    I think we will see a lot of both Clintons on the campaign trial this fall-so much so that I imagine that certain pundits are already outlining a “Clintons: Too Much of a Good Thing?” column for late October publication.

  4. Tyrell says:

    @MR X: “the influence of ordinary citizens registers at near zero” : shocking and sad. All we hear from politicians is that they represent the middle class working people. If their influence is near zero, why even vote? What this is saying is that the middle class really no longer exists. What does that say for our political system and democracy in general? Is there really “power to the people” ? “Of the people, by the people, and for the people”: just an abstract idea?
    “The public be damned”: Vanderbilt. I always thought that the gas companies said that.

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    Yea! the site is back up after 48 hours. I have missed you OTB.

  6. Sejanus says:

    @Ron Beasley: Can’t wait for the obligatory Rick Perry post!

  7. Mu says:

    I would feel so much better for Rick Perry if he hadn’t gone after the public corruption unit. Always makes me uneasy when politicians try to mess with that.

  8. Janis Gore says:

    @Sejanus: Ahem. Hopefully grumpy realist, with her exquisite thinking, will comment.

    I’m just a bitch.

  9. Janis Gore says:

    Or KM. She has a lovely mind.

    Son of a bitch makes me crazy.

  10. Janis Gore says:

    For all her history, I think this woman is insipid, and will have nothing further to do with her.

    If I wanted her, I would have voted for her the last time.

  11. Janis Gore says:
  12. Janis Gore says:

    Where the hell are you, Clinton?

  13. Janis Gore says:

    Where are you, Hillary?

  14. Janis Gore says:

    I’ve had about of enough of this Missouri business. Ron Johnson is a good man, but he can’t do it by himself. Where are the so-called “elites” in this situation? How many days has it been?

  15. Janis Gore says:

    Absolutely worthless at a critical time in the nation, you overfed bitch!

  16. Janis Gore says:

    Ding, ding. It’s 3 am.

  17. Janis Gore says:

    Worthless. All of them.

  18. Janis Gore says:

    Will you look at this crap in Missouri CNN 1:14 am aug 16 2014.

    Not one major leader in the country is there. Worthless.

  19. Janis Gore says:

    C’mon, now. How many morons are in this country?

  20. edmondo says:

    Clinton’s prime directive for 2014 should have been to use her considerable intellect to devise substantial policies for income equality

    And then spent her entire first term figuring out ways to make sure that they weren’t implemented. No sense pissing off real supporters

  21. Eric Florack says:

    @Janis Gore: Well, now that’s an idera I’ve been thinking about before this post even showed up.

    Can in fact, Hillary Clinton be of any help to anyone so far as getting votes?
    Its all well and good to note she’s not been going out for anyone else of late. But that ignores the other obvious question… has anyone asked for her to show up to help their elective efforts? If not, why not?

  22. stonetools says:

    You know, one thing I think liberals should beware of is “advice” offered by conservatives (echoed by liberal purists) that goes:

    Please reject Hilary Clinton-the overwhelming frontrunner-and instead nominate that true blue liberal candidate that no one has ever heard of and who the general public may not like or trust. Throw us into that briar pitch please, and just forget 1972 and 2000 ever happened.”

  23. stonetools says:

    Please pull my completely innocuous comment out of moderation. Also too, the home page is not updating.

  24. Just FYI, some comments appear to be getting caught in moderation for unknown reasons.

  25. Pylon says:

    It appears that “several on the left” = Budowsky and….?

    Anyway, IMO stonetools is absolutely correct.

  26. Janis Gore says:

    @stonetools: I encourage anyone who wants to vote for her. She has some good qualities, I just have no use for her.

    And the longer this crap goes on in Missouri, the more pissed off I get at everybody.

    Where’s Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Samuel Jackson. Those are people with real charisma. They could be influential. Russell Simmons.

    This keeps going on and nobody of any substance is showing up for these people.

    Ticks me off no end.

  27. Janis Gore says:
  28. Tyrell says:

    I don’t see Hillary making a pitch to the left. Campaigns are won in the center. Her policy books are being written mostly by Bill and will reflect his centrist pragmatism, which a lot of the Democrat left did not like when he was president. Bill gets it.
    As far as this “hug fest” with Hillary and Obama over the weekend, they say there wss not a lot of hugging. Not a lot of talking for that matter.

  29. Eric Florack says:

    @Tyrell: Ummm. No.
    Campaigns are LOST in the center.
    ask McCain, Dole, and Romney.

  30. Pylon says:

    If you think McCain and Romney are centrists you are fooling yourself. Just Left of the tea party is not “centrist”

  31. Eric Florack says:

    @Pylon: they are most assuredly not conservatives. not even close. The GOP has been tilting left for so long the party of Reagan is indistiguishable from the party of Obama.