On the same week that a Catholic priest was slaughtered by Islamic militants on a church altar in northern France, the Democrats made love the theme of their nominating convention in Philadelphia. It’s a nice sentiment, but it won’t get Hillary Clinton elected the next president.
Clinton’s image problems are well known. Voters don’t like her, and they think she’s dishonest. For the first time, according to a new Gallup poll, Clinton’s unfavorable ratings match Donald Trump’s at 58 percent. Her convention speech is not going to fix things. She needs a new plan.
One of the mistakes candidates make is they’re always trying to rerun the last election. Clinton assumed that as long as Trump remained more unlikable than she is, all she had to do was keep together the same coalition that got President Obama elected twice. So intent is Clinton on preserving that voting bloc that she dare not criticize Obama, not on the war against terror or on any other subject.
Candidates attempting to succeed a two-term president of the same party usually don’t fare well. The last Democrat to successfully do it was Martin Van Buren, in 1836, following Andrew Jackson. It’s why Al Gore kept his distance from Bill Clinton in 2000, and also why John McCain did the same with George W. Bush in 2008.
Obama’s war against ISIS has been a disaster. It got off on the wrong foot when he left behind an inadequate force in Iraq. When ISIS filled the vacuum, Obama termed them the “JV team.’’ Now FBI director James Comey predicts the same wave of terror that almost daily afflicts Europe will soon arrive on US shores. We have already pre-tasted it in Orlando, San Bernardino, Boston, Fort Hood, and elsewhere.
If there is one area where Clinton should separate from Obama, it’s on the conduct of this war. Instead, at the Democratic convention, one speaker after another said Trump was trying to scare people with his talk of an unsafe world. Mentions of ISIS were kept to a minimum.
Two-thirds of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, at least partly due to fear of growing religious fanaticism. Yet, Clinton eagerly represents herself as a continuation of Obama’s policies. At the conclusion of Obama’s Wednesday night speech, Clinton wrapped him in a bear hug that signaled her satisfaction with the status quo.
It may be an embrace she comes to regret.
Eric Fehrnstrom is a Republican political analyst and media strategist, and was a senior adviser to Governor Mitt Romney.