Skittish Republicans in 2016

Despite President Obama’s low approval rating, many Republicans seem unusually nervous about the future of the GOP.  And likely the ennui is not from imbibing too much propagandistic kool-aid liberally poured out by the press. The problem is Hillary. 

She’ll be the Democratic nominee, of course. There’s nobody else in the wings, except maybe Elizabeth Warren, who boasts a smidgen of Cherokee blood and talks a tough progressive game. But the Massachusetts senator and everybody else in Democrat circles know that the party will not go the rout route like it did in 2008. Five very long years ago, Hillary Clinton, the odds-on favorite, was replaced by a relative unknown in large part because he was viewed as more electable.

The GOP is wise in assuming such a Democrat primary fight will not happen in 2016. That aside, an insidious prognostication is being circulated among Republicans to the effect that she will be all but impossible to beat in her bid for the White House.  

Perhaps these skittish partisans need reminding that in 2008 Hillary Clinton was considered a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. And she might have become the first woman president of the United States had her party not concluded that she was simply too divisive a political figure to win.    

So are Republicans suffering from short-term amnesia? Why else would so many of them be acting as though Ms. Clinton -- half a dozen years older, blowsier, and burdened with even more baggage – is unstoppable? Are GOP doomsayers buying into Hillary’s inevitable “right” to the office?  Are they cowed into believing that no amount of money or effort can block the Clintons’ inexorable path back to the White House?

Or is there something else to the pessimism, such as presuming that between then and now there has been a significant change in the public’s perception of Mrs. Clinton?  The former Madame Secretary has morphed into a mother figure like Golda Meier-- maybe even Queen Elizabeth-- as she sweeps into friendly venues with the expectation of being greeted and treated like royalty. Just as Madeline Albright collected pins, Hillary seems to be amassing ribbons and sashes of appreciation from whatever liberal organizations can hang them on her. Even Chelsea’s pregnancy could not have come at a more propitious time. 

It is true that the Hillary’s campaign apparatus has been grinding away and raising considerable funds, even though she has not formally announced her candidacy. But is this really the major impetus behind the negativity coming from some GOP quarters as they view the chances of a Republican win in 2016?  Fingers crossed, it is nothing more than some compensatory adjustment to the overexuberance that ended in disappointment in 2012. 

But whatever the rationale, a fatalistic attitude can have fatal consequences.  And those who express fear that Hillary cannot be defeated need to be reminded that if she isn’t, there will be more at risk than the loss of an election. Anxious Republicans who thumb-suck at recent polls that show Ms. Clinton enjoying a 48% approval rating, should also recognize that she has a 46% disapproval rating .

In fact, it would be far better if Republicans concentrated on the elections this year, rather than those two years hence.  But it’s the nature of the political beast to eye the ultimate prize. In so doing, Republicans may be anxious that a repeat of a crowded field in a protracted GOP primary will be much worse than having one clear candidate, early on, around whom a party has little choice but to rally.