07 June 2015

Will Hillary's Campaign Strategy Make the Country More Polarized?

Today's NY Times has an article about Hillary Clinton's probable strategy, written by Jonathon Martin and Maggie Haberman. Bill Clinton went after (and won) states like Kentucky whereas Barack Obama focused on fewer states with an agenda that had less broad-based appeal. It seems that Hillary will be more like Obama in this regards, focusing on rallying more liberal voters rather than appealing to more moderate swing voters. The fear is that Democrats in the neglected states will be less likely to win local elections and even the ones who do win a place in Congress are going to be less able to relate to the folks across the aisle. Which is to say, it could cause more gridlock, not less.

The quote that summarizes the thinking behind Hillary Clinton's strategy is here:

“The highest-premium voter in ’92 was a voter who would vote for one party some and for another party some,” said James Carville, Mr. Clinton’s chief strategist in 1992. “Now the highest-premium voter is somebody with a high probability to vote for you and low probability to turn out. That’s the golden list. And that’s a humongous change in basic strategic doctrine.”

The real question is whether this is a capitulation to the reality of a more polarized electorate or if it is just going to exacerbate this polarization. In either case, it seems like a reminder that Hillary is more pragmatic than idealistic, less about changing voters's minds than winning office.

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