Hillary Preempts the Field

The day after Clinton released her announcement video, another Republican candidate entered the increasingly crowded GOP field. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is 43 and offers a young and attractive family and life story. As a Cuban-American, he, like fellow Senator Ted Cruz, would be the first Hispanic nominated for president by a major party.


By Andrew Thomas l April 20, 2015

Screen Shots: Clinton video announcement and Marco Rubio live campaign announcement at Miami’s Freedom Tower landmark

To kick off her second bid for president, Hillary Clinton went decidedly low-key.  On Sunday, April 12, her campaign released a two-minute video announcing her candidacy.  The film featured a diverse rainbow of voters and offered her announcement almost as an afterthought, the candidate in virtually a cameo role.  Towards the end of the footage, Clinton vows, “Everyday Americans need a champion.  And I want to be that champion.”  With a smile she announces, “I am running for president.”

The attempt to repackage the political titan as a “woman of the people” did not go without complications.  The next day, as Clinton’s motorcade headed to Iowa, she stopped in a Mexican fast-food restaurant in Ohio to order – and was not recognized.  The dark sunglasses she wore indoors undoubtedly did not help.

Clinton’s long-anticipated entrance into the Democratic field establishes her as the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination.  Clinton and her supporters reportedly plan to raise $2.5 billion to finance her campaign. This unprecedented sum would mean spending approximately $38 per vote.

She comes with her own unique skills and baggage.  Given her past performance in 2008 and that of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, Hillary may fare better among women and white working-class voters than did President Barack Obama.  Whether she can hold Obama’s historic bloc of votes from African-Americans and young people is unclear.

Moreover, Hillary is not Bill.  When writing a biography of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, this author interviewed Yale Law professors who had taught not just Thomas, but Bill and Hillary Clinton.  The consensus among them was that Bill was “brilliant” but Hillary was of the second tier.  One professor volunteered that she was not even the best female student in her class from Wellesley.  Ultimately, though Bill will be her most trusted adviser, only Hillary can earn and deliver the votes.

Scandals dog her, as they did her husband.  Clinton’s public-approval rating plunged last month after news broke that, while secretary of state, she effectively skirted the mandates of the Freedom of Information Act by conducting her official business through a private email account on a server in her house.  The Clinton Foundation has raised millions of dollars from foreign governments before and after Hillary was secretary of state.  This includes small fortunes raked in from oppressive governments in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The foundation will continue these practices through the 2016 election.

Clinton’s role in the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya remains murky and troubling.  The attack left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead.  The Obama administration originally branded the event the result of a “demonstration” instead of a terrorist attack; officials later denigrated whistleblowers who contradicted this explanation, and failed to account for why Special Forces personnel stationed nearby were not deployed in time to prevent the assault.  Clinton, for her part, has steadfastly sought to dodge the affair.

As the threat from ISIS grows, so does the political salience of foreign policy.  A recent Pew Research survey found that for the first time in five years, “as many Americans cite defending the U.S. against terrorism (76%) as a top policy priority as say that about strengthening the nation’s economy (75%).” Even so, Obama’s former secretary of state is focusing on the economy.  And this makes sense, as pocketbook issues still predominate.  Last month, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found 46 percent of Americans approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.  This tracked the 47 percent who approve of the job he is doing handling the economy.  Obama earned these marks even as a sizeable 58 percent disapprove of the job he is doing in handling foreign policy.

The day after Clinton released her announcement video, another Republican candidate entered the increasingly crowded GOP field.  U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is 43 and offers a young and attractive family and life story.  As a Cuban-American, he, like fellow Senator Ted Cruz, would be the first Hispanic nominated for president by a major party.

Unlike Cruz, Rubio faces an angry right. He alienated conservatives by backing the John McCain-led “Gang of Eight” immigration legislation of 2013.  Conservative leaders and talk-show hosts widely denounced this proposal as amnesty for illegal immigrants. The legislation failed in the House after passing the Senate.  Rubio is still in damage control.

 His candidacy is a bold move.  Should his presidential fortunes evaporate, Rubio has until May 2016 to file for reelection to the U.S. Senate.  But other prominent Florida Republicans are not obliging Rubio: Florida’s lieutenant governor and a half dozen others are actively exploring candidacies to succeed him and there is widespread talk he would prefer to run for governor of Florida than serve another term as senator in Washington.

Also, Rubio cannot count on friend and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to choose him as the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate should Bush win the nomination.  The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution says members of the Electoral College must vote for at least one candidate who is not from their state.  This would bar Florida’s crucial 29 electors from voting for a Bush-Rubio ticket.

In short, like Hillary Clinton, Rubio appears to be all-in.


Andrew Thomas is a graduate of the University of Missouri and Harvard Law School. Twice elected as Maricopa County Attorney, the district attorney for metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, Thomas served a county of four million residents and ran one of the largest prosecutor’s offices in the nation. He established a national reputation for fighting violent crime, identity theft, drug abuse and illegal immigration. He is the author of four books, including Clarence Thomas: A Biography and the The People v. Harvard Law: How America’s Oldest Law School Turned Its Back on Free Speech. Mr. Thomas ran for governor of Arizona in 2014, receiving endorsements from many conservative leaders. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.