Republicans Planning To Run Against Hillary Clinton Again in 2018

Hillary Clinton isn't running for anything in 2018, but that isn't stopping Republicans from running against her.

It’s been seventeen months since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election, and by the time we get to the midterm elections in November, two years will have passed since that event. Hillary Clinton isn’t President, of course, and she won’t be running for anything. By all indications, it’s unlikely she’ll be actively campaigning for any midterm candidates except, perhaps, for speaking at a fundraiser or a rally in a deeply blue state. It’s also fairly clear that she isn’t going to be a candidate for President a third time in 2020. In other words, outside of her current book tour, which continues to get press attention for what I think are obvious reasons, Hillary Clinton is basically a retired politician. That isn’t stopping Republicans from making her an issue in the midterm elections, though:

Hillary Clinton won’t go away.

So conservatives are giving her a seat at the table.

Clinton is starring in the Republican Party’s 2018 midterm strategy. With no Democrat to attack in the White House for the first time in nearly a decade, Republicans are betting big that the ghost of Clinton will serve them well in 2018.

Even if she avoids the spotlight moving forward, the Republican Party plans to evoke her early and often in key congressional races, particularly in regions Trump won, which feature most of the midterm season’s competitive races.

Internal polling and focus groups conducted by Republican campaigns find that Clinton remains one of the most unpopular high-profile Democrats in the nation, second only to Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader.

Just 36 percent of Americans viewed Clinton favorably in a December Gallup poll, an all-time low mark that bucked a trend in which unsuccessful presidential candidates typically gain in popularity over time.

“We’re going to make them own her,” Republican National Committee spokesman Rick Gorka said.

With control of Congress up for grabs this fall, the GOP’s most powerful players are preparing to spend big on plans to feature Clinton as a central villain in attack ads against vulnerable Democrats nationwide.

The strategy, which already has popped up in races in Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Dakota, illustrates the resilience and political potency of Republican voters’ antipathy for Clinton.

As difficult as it’s been for Democrats to move past the Clinton era, it may be even harder for Republicans.

“STOP HILLARY. STOP PELOSI. STOP LAMB,” read pamphlets circulated during the special election in Pennsylvania earlier this year.

That’s just a taste of what’s to come as the November elections grow closer, say those who control the GOP’s strategy in the first midterm elections of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“I promise you that you’ll continue to see it — Hillary Clinton starring in our paid media. She’s a very powerful motivator,” said Corry Bliss, who leads the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super political action committee ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to shape House races this fall. “It’s about what she represents. What she represents, just like what Nancy Pelosi represents, is out-of-touch far-left liberal positions.”

Part of this campaign will involve using Clinton’s words against Democratic incumbents:

During recent remarks in India, she took a shot at Trump’s slogan and his appeal across the heartland: “His whole campaign, ‘Make America Great Again,’ was looking backwards,” Clinton said.

The national GOP pounced, running digital ads featuring Clinton’s comments — and her image — to attack the 10 Democratic Senate candidates running for re-election in states Trump carried.

“She’s called you ‘deplorable.’ Now, she’s called you ‘backwards,'” said one ad that targeted Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

“If Bill Nelson had his way, Hillary Clinton would be president,” the ad continued. “Florida won’t forget.”

In some cases, Republicans are using Clinton, who last served in the government in 2013, to go after some of their own.

That’s what is happening in Indiana, where Republican congressional candidate Steve Braun is under attack in his primary from conservatives who suggest he may have voted for Clinton in 2008, when he cast a ballot in the state’s Democratic primary.

A super PAC is set to begin running new TV ads linking Braun and Clinton in the coming days.

It ought to be noted that the article linked above is from Fox News, which explains the tone of its opening paragraphs and the overall tone of the piece. Nonetheless, it points out several truths about the plan that Republicans seem to be putting together to try to stave off disaster at the polls in November.

On paper at least, the GOP has very little positive news to run on this year. Despite the fact that it controls both Congress and the White House for the first time since the George W. Bush Administration, the GOP’s legislative achievements have been rather meager. Although the Affordable Care Act was changed in at least one significant aspect by the tax bill that passed in December, Obamacare has not been “repealed and replaced,” and it looks as though the program will remain largely in effect for the entirety of President Trump’s first term at the very least, and perhaps much longer than that. The Administration’s infrastructure package exists mostly as a series of talking points that will clearly not become any kind of coherent legislative package before the midterms. Whether it’s reform of the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or the border wall that the President made a centerpiece of his campaign, there’s been no significant action on immigration. The tax bill was passed, but that appears to be slipping in popularity among the public at large and even President Trump doesn’t talk about it much anymore. In fact, beyond the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the appointment of other judicial nominees, the actual accomplishments of the GOP in Washington have been limited at best. Given all of that, there’s very little positive news for the Republican Party to run on this year, and that’s a problem in an election year that historically promises to be helpful to Democrats and which appears to be looking more and more ominous for the GOP as Election Day comes closer. It’s not surprising then that the GOP would be planning to expend so much of its resources against running negative ads, and on campaigning against someone who isn’t even on the ballot.

In reality, of course, making Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi the centerpiece of the campaign isn’t really about attracting independent voters or advancing an agenda, it’s about riling up the base voters to give them a reason to come out to the polls. Much like the judicial nominee issue I wrote about earlier today, Republicans are quickly coming to realize that the only chance they have of staving off utter disaster is if they are able to get Republican voters who might otherwise be demoralized by the increasing prospect that their party is likely to lose one or both houses of Congress. Given the fact that there are few people that hardcore conservatives hate more than Hillary Clinton. That’s been true since the 1990s, and it remains true today. So if the GOP can convince their base that getting out the vote in 2018 is somehow a way to vote against Hillary, you can be sure they’re going to use that. In the end, though, while it might help to motivate the base of the part, I’m not sure how it’s supposed to win over anyone else.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Campaign 2018, Congress, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Of course they’ll run against Hillary. What else can they do? Run on policy?




    11



    0
  2. Kathy says:

    Judging by a few Branch Trumpidians here and there, it may work with the base. Some of them are even plotting scenarios on how Hillary will run in 2020, which I find alternatively hilarious and pitiful depending on how I feel.

    Obviously it won’t work on democrats. And I guess most independents will ask “Don’t they know Hillary Clinton isn’t running for this seat or any other?”




    4



    0
  3. SKI says:

    In reality, of course, making Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi the centerpiece of the campaign isn’t really about attracting independent voters or advancing an agenda, it’s about riling up the base voters to give them a reason to come out to the polls.

    Interesting, and telling, that their vitriol is aimed at the prominent women but not Bill or Harry…




    10



    1
  4. Mister Bluster says:

    Interesting, and telling, that their vitriol is aimed at the prominent women but not Bill or Harry…

    That’s because they are certified sexist pigs just like their Dear Leader.
    “I did try to fvck her. She was married.” “I moved on her like a bitch.” “…and now she has the big phoney tits…” “Grab them by the pvssy”

    This is the goon that Bungles and JKB and Tiny Mind 0.00000000000000000000001 and Johnny Telephone support.




    2



    1
  5. Joe says:

    @Kathy:

    Some of them are even plotting scenarios on how Hillary will run in 2020

    Surely, some of them are plotting scenarios on how Hillary will run in 2018.




    2



    0
  6. Pete S says:

    This seems like a risky strategy. If the Repubs get their clocks cleaned in November I would hope that every day from November 2018 to November 2020 every article about a losing Republican candidate includes the phrase “who managed to lose an election to someone who wasn’t running”.




    2



    0
  7. SKI says:

    @Mister Bluster: Let’s be fair. They channeled misogyny long before Trump. They hated Hillary more than Bill in the ’90s and targeted Nancy far more than Harry long before, in Doug’s memorable phrase, the Tangerine twatwaffle was their leader. He didn’t create this in the GOP, they created the conditions for him to lead to GOP.




    4



    1
  8. Kylopod says:

    You need to take a few steps back to grasp how weird this is. To the best of my knowledge, Dems didn’t run against John McCain in 2010 or Mitt Romney in 2014. Repubs didn’t run against Al Gore in 2002 or John Kerry in 2006.




    4



    0
  9. Franklin says:

    @Kylopod: Ahhh, but I do remember conservatives complaining that Obama was running against Bush, when he was actually running against McCain.




    1



    0
  10. Kylopod says:

    @Franklin: That’s not the same thing. Running against the sitting president from the other party is perfectly normal. Running against a past president from the other party is perfectly normal. Neither of those things holds a candle to running against a defeated candidate who was never president.




    7



    0
  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Pete S:

    I would hope that every day from November 2018 to November 2020 every article about a losing Republican candidate includes the phrase “who managed to lose an election to someone who wasn’t running”.

    Don’t count on it. As with everything else, IOKIYAR.




    0



    0
  12. teve tory says:

    You need to take a few steps back to grasp how weird this is. To the best of my knowledge, Dems didn’t run against John McCain in 2010 or Mitt Romney in 2014. Repubs didn’t run against Al Gore in 2002 or John Kerry in 2006.

    Dems don’t run on visceral hatred of individuals. Republicans do. Obama was a Kenyan communist radical imposter. Hillary is a corrupt murderer. Kerry faked his injuries and heroics in Vietnam and Stole Valor. McCain (in 2000 when the mainstream GOP opposed him) was a traitor who got special treatment from the viet cong for betraying americans. Also he fathered negro children. (anonymous mailers describing his adopted dark skinned daughter).




    0



    0
  13. Kylopod says:

    @teve tory:

    Dems don’t run on visceral hatred of individuals. Republicans do. Obama was a Kenyan communist radical imposter. Hillary is a corrupt murderer. Kerry faked his injuries and heroics in Vietnam and Stole Valor.

    I get that. But even Republicans usually forget about a politician once that politician fades from the political scene–the only exceptions being actual past presidents like Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter. So they swift-boated Kerry in 2004, but after he lost they moved onto other things (at least until he became Sec. of State several years later). To the best of my knowledge, Republican candidates in 2006 didn’t run ads about the evils of John Kerry, and it would have been considered pretty weird if they did.

    Their continued obsession with Hillary Clinton two years after she lost, and where the consensus is that her political career is over, is deeply strange and unprecedented. It supports the theory that they truly expected her to become president and have not managed to adapt to a world in which she’s no longer there to kick around.




    1



    0
  14. teve tory says:

    The Hillary hatred is special–they’ve been feeding that since literally 1990. A smart, uppity, liberal woman with an education who didn’t just smile broadly and blankly by her man–and explicitly told them so. She’s their white whale.




    3



    0
  15. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    Their continued obsession with Hillary Clinton two years after she lost, and where the consensus is that her political career is over, is deeply strange and unprecedented.

    As to Clinton’s career: If I were a Democratic candidate in the presidential primaries in 2019-20 and Hillary ran again, I wouldn’t bother attacking her record, her character, her policies, etc. I’d simply point out “She’s the candidate who lost against Donald Trump.”




    2



    0
  16. Hal_10000 says:

    Good Christ, are we going to be condemned to reliving the 2016 election in perpetuity?




    2



    0
  17. Kit says:

    In an ideal world, Republicans would still be running images of Dukakis in that tank, but, alas, the public school system has failed the country, and too many of the younger generation are growing up ignorant of their own history. Oh well, life moves on.




    0



    1
  18. Franklin says:

    @Kylopod: Oh, yeah, good point. I wasn’t thinking when I wrote that.




    0



    0
  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Kylopod:

    I get that. But even Republicans usually forget about a politician once that politician fades from the political scene–the only exceptions being actual past presidents like Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter.

    I think four reasons:
    1. As @teve tory: points out, misogyny.
    2. Pelosi and Schumer just aren’t prominent enough to serve well as the “other”.
    3. Conservatives believe their own BS. They made Hillary out to be some sort of super-villain, and they believe it.
    4. They’re all going to unimaginatively copy what worked for Trump, and “lock her up” worked well for him.




    1



    0
  20. Hal_10000 says:

    @teve tory:

    Dems don’t run on visceral hatred of individuals.

    What? Have you missed, like, the entirety of political history since 1828? What do you think the Democrats are running on *right now*?

    The main reason the GOP are running against Clinton is because there are very few Democrats in power for them to demonize. Obama would make a good target but he’s out of power, not coming back and popular. Clinton I has long been out of power. No one could get that worked up about Kerry when he was running, let alone now (and he’s out of power too). Right now, there’s no clear front runner for 2020. That leaves Schumer, Pelosi and Clinton — the latter having been within a whisker of the Presidency just 18 months ago. It’ sad, but … it’s the way the GOP is these days. Out of ideas; running entirely on “not Democrats”.




    3



    1
  21. george says:

    @teve tory:

    Well, the hatred of Bill and Obama was right up there too. So much so that the conservatives tried to bring up Bill and Obama as much as possible during the 2016 election – they clearly figured there was still an awful lot of hate mileage among their base against those two. If Hilary was a standout in the hate department they wouldn’t have wanted to water down that hate with lesser figures; clearly they thought Bill and Obama brought up similarly strong feelings.

    Obama probably because he was black, Bill I suppose simply because he was a successful Democratic party president, which is the ultimate crime for conservatives.




    0



    0
  22. george says:

    @teve tory:

    Dems don’t run on visceral hatred of individuals.

    Trump? Bush Jr?

    You could argue the two deserved it, Trump for the things he’s said, Bush Jr for the same reason JFK and Lyndon Johnson deserved to be hated (starting wars for no reason, and in the case of Lyndon and Bush lying about the reasons), but they clearly were ran against on very explicit, visceral hatred.




    0



    0
  23. Kylopod says:

    @Hal_10000:

    What do you think the Democrats are running on *right now*?

    I will concede that the Dems viscerally hate Trump, and they viscerally hated Bush. But for better or worse, those are and were the sitting presidents. It is absolutely not normal for a party to center their campaign on hatred of an individual who never was president.

    On a broader level, modern Republican rhetoric has an incredible obsession with boogeymen–much, much more than Democratic rhetoric these days. You have to be blind not to see it. Once they’ve stopped talking about Bill and Hillary, they quickly move on to Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Al Sharpton, George Soros, and Saul Alinsky–among others. You’ve heard it here on OTB from the rightie drones many, many times. And I don’t think it is at all coincidental that nearly all the boogeymen are black, female, and/or Jewish. This kind of thing has been a staple of American right-wing rhetoric for over a generation, going back at least to Limbaugh, and it’s gradually gone totally mainstream.




    3



    0
  24. Hal_10000 says:

    @Kylopod:

    Will definitely agree that the GOP seems to be entirely, “We’re not X” where X is some exaggerated boogeyman. It’s especially bad now because their President is so bad and has accomplished so little while controlling the entire government. I don’t think it’s *necessarily* race or gendered; it’s that the Democratic leadership in recent year have broken from the straight-white male thing. They hated Bill Clinton intensely when he was in office.

    With Limbaugh, I would quibble. There was a time in the 90’s when he was positive and had actual ideas. Yeah, he did once use the phrase “Feminazi” but most of the time he was on point. Even when I disagreed with him, I found his arguments interesting. But, like most of the conservative movement, he completely lost in between 2004 and 2008 (especially after Obama became President). He’s even admitted on his show that he’s no longer conservative, he’s anti-liberal, whatever that means.




    1



    0
  25. grumpy realist says:

    @Pete S: Starting to remind me when birthers managed to lose a law suit to an empty chair.




    1



    0
  26. Monala says:

    @Hal_10000: Back in the ‘90s, when the U.S. was mired in the NATO war in the Balkans, I recall a cartoon in which an elephant, wearing a GOP button, found a magic lamp and rubbed it. The genie that emerged offered the elephant one wish: “I can either rid the world of Slobodan Milosevic, or rid the world of Bill Clinton.”

    Two panels pass in which the elephant stands there, scratching its head. Finally, the annoyed genie says, “Well? What will it be?!” And the elephant responds, “Give me a minute, I’m thinking!”

    Such was the hatred of the Republicans for Bill Clinton back in the ‘90s, that one could easily imagine them having a tough time deciding whether they’d prefer to rid the world of Clinton, or of the brutal Serbian leader who introduced the term “ethnic cleansing” to the lexicon.

    This cartoon is also an indicator of how far the GOP has fallen. It’s not hard to imagine that today, given a choice between getting rid of a genocidal dictator or a hated Democrat, many Republicans would easily choose the Democrat.




    2



    0
  27. Facebones says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Good Christ, are we going to be condemned to reliving the 2016 election in perpetuity?

    Honestly, some parts of the country are still fighting the Civil War, so…




    3



    0
  28. Kylopod says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I don’t think it’s *necessarily* race or gendered; it’s that the Democratic leadership in recent year have broken from the straight-white male thing.

    The right has been doing this for at least a generation. Even when there were plenty of white males to attack, they couldn’t get enough of Al Sharpton, a figure whose actual influence in the Democratic Party was negligible. And why do you think they obsess on Maxine Waters far more than they ever did for, say, Alan Grayson?

    They hated Bill Clinton intensely when he was in office.

    And why do you think they hated Bill Clinton so intensely–more than previous Democratic presidents? Carter was an easy target because he was perceived as a failed, weak president, but with Clinton, it was personal. It had almost nothing to do with his record, it had to do with what he stood for, in their eyes. He was the first baby boomer in the White House, and he came to represent everything they hated about that generation–if you listen to Republican rhetoric at the time, a lot of it took on the qualities of hippie-punching. Never mind his actual centrist policy-making; he played the role of amoral, permissive, womanizing, sax-playing product of the ’60s counter-culture. It’s no accident that Toni Morrison called him the first black president.

    With Limbaugh, I would quibble. There was a time in the 90’s when he was positive and had actual ideas.

    Please. Even back then, the man was spreading the conspiracy theory that the Clintons had offed Vince Foster, and telling “jokes” at the expense of the 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton’s looks.

    I came of age in the ’90s, and the thing that struck me was how Republicans always talked about liberals like they were describing a particularly odious species of insect. They had their own vocabulary (“Democrat Party”), even their own bizarre pronunciations (they seemed to draw out the first syllable of “liberal,” like they were saying “liiiiberal” or something). It was like a cult. I saw friends of my parents who once were Democrats but after listening to talk radio for years came out well and brainwashed. My mom was very close to one of her aunts, who became a Fox News obsessive. In 2004 she actually begged my mom to vote for Bush. (“Do it for me!” she cried.) This was around the time Rush Limbaugh was going around claiming Michael J. Fox was faking his Parkinson’s, and this aunt started telling my mom the same thing, citing as evidence the fact that her brother (my grandfather), who also had Parkinson’s, didn’t display Fox’s symptoms. It didn’t seem to occur to her that not everyone with the disease has the same symptoms. (You may find this hard to believe, but she was an intelligent, sensible woman in her personal life.) In 2008 when my mom told her over the phone that she was voting for Obama, the aunt began screaming at her and she had to hang up. That was the last time they ever spoke. My mom is still stung by the experience.

    I do agree that Limbaugh got worse over time (a few weeks ago we were talking here about the way radio hosts eventually become parodies of themselves), but the seeds were there from the start. He was literally the first person I ever heard who talked this way, and who brainwashed large segments of the populace into talking exactly the same–the Stepford Conservatives.




    3



    0
  29. teve tory says:

    LOLGOP

    @LOLGOP
    Follow Follow @LOLGOP
    More
    The guys who are still, six years later, trying to invent a reason why 7 committees had to investigate Benghazi would like you to know that an investigation that’s yielded indictments and 5 guilty pleas is a huge waste of time.

    8:05 PM – 23 Apr 2018




    2



    0
  30. wr says:

    @Monala: “It’s not hard to imagine that today, given a choice between getting rid of a genocidal dictator or a hated Democrat, many Republicans would easily choose the Democrat.”

    Seriously? Right now they’d vote for the genocidal dictator for president!




    1



    0
  31. An Interested Party says:

    It’s not hard to imagine that today, given a choice between getting rid of a genocidal dictator or a hated Democrat, many Republicans would easily choose the Democrat.

    Of course they would…look how fond their leader is of dictators…




    0



    0
  32. Turgid Jacobian says:

    Tactically it allows then to keep trying to capitalize on the liberal/Democrat divisions that HRC seems to almost symbolize these days




    1



    0
  33. george says:

    @wr:

    I think its extremely unlikely that more than half of them would even be aware that the president was a genocidal dictator. Most people, if they vote at all (40% don’t), vote for the same team they always vote for, and half spend less than 10 minutes listening or thinking about politics even in a presidential election. All the protests and Internet forum talk about elections is driven by a few million people, which sound impressive and makes a lot of noise, but is still only 5% of eligible voters.

    More than half of Trump’s votes came from people who couldn’t have told you anything that Trump had said or done other than “You’re fired!”. They voted for team, and had no interest in ‘wasting’ time on ‘boring’ things like listening or reading about anything any candidate had said or done.

    Genocidal dictators get in through their party; once they have the party endorsement its simply a question of team sports. Once a Yankee’s fan (or Red Sox etc) always a Yankee’s fan, and people don’t change loyalty just because the current pitcher or manager (or presidential candidate) is an a-hole. This is what people interested in politics just don’t get – they assume everyone is as interested in politics as they are.

    Science types run into the same thing. Things like the 2nd law of thermodynamics play an much bigger role in our lives than politics, so we assume everyone is interested in it and knows about it. We’re wrong. Political wonks are just as wrong about the level of knowledge and interest in politics.




    0



    0
  34. Monala says:

    @george: I’m pretty sure that the elephant in the 1990s cartoon didn’t represent the average uninformed voter who just votes GOP out of habit, but rather Republican elected and party officials. And as to wr’s comment, it doesn’t matter if the average Joe knows that they’re choosing for genocidal dictators or not. Republican leaders know — and that’s disgraceful.




    0



    0