Clinton's stronger, softer second sortie

WASHINGTON - Mrs Hillary Clinton has launched her second bid for the White House as a stronger and more experienced candidate with a clearer message, say analysts.

Mrs Clinton announced her candidacy on April 12 in a video featuring "average" Americans that makes clear her message to be a "champion" for the people.

In comparison, "she struggled to articulate a unifying theme to her 2008 campaign", said Ms Kelly Winfrey, a lecturer at the Carrie Chapman Catt Centre for Women & Politics at Iowa State University.

Her video for the 2008 race emphasised her willingness to have a dialogue with the people, but was very much centred on her and less so on the people she was willing to work for. Learning from past mistakes, she is likely to adopt a softer image that plays up her feminine side.

University of Massachusetts Amherst associate professor of political science Jesse Rhodes said Mrs Clinton had tried "to position herself as the tough, hawkish candidate" in the last election.

"In 2016, she's emphasising themes - empathy, compassion, etc - that are more popular with many Democratic primary voters," he said.

A candidate has to win his or her party's nomination in a primary election before contesting the presidential election. Mrs Clinton lost in the primaries to President Barack Obama in 2008.

She currently leads all other Democratic candidates with 59.8 per cent of the Democratic vote, with the nearest contender, Senator Elizabeth Warren, having only 12.2 per cent, according to an aggregate of recent polls by political website Real Clear Politics.

Polls also predict that she would beat any Republican candidate if the presidential election were held today.

Cautious about being seen as arrogant or over-confident, Mrs Clinton is trying to appeal to ordinary Americans. She travelled by van last week from New York to Iowa where she met people in small groups rather than in large town halls.

"I think this strategy could be very successful in making her relatable," said Ms Winfrey.

There is no doubt that she is more qualified than in 2008, and definitely more so than her prospective Republican opponents.

"Her tenure as secretary of state, along with her service in the Senate, makes her one of the most experienced candidates since Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush," said Associate Professor Daniel Franklin of Georgia State University's political science department.

She also has state and local experience through serving in the Arkansas state government as head of an education reform committee, he added.

Mrs Clinton's brand name is immediately recognisable and experts believe she will be able to amass an impressive war chest.

The Centre For Responsive Politics estimates that the Ready for Hillary super-PAC, an independent group launched in 2013 to lay the groundwork for her campaign, raised almost US$13 million (S$17.5 million) in 2014.

The PAC (political action committee) will not be able to coordinate efforts with Mrs Clinton now that she has announced her candidacy, but organisers could possibly share their mailing lists with her.

But experience and brand recognition can be a double-edged sword. Already Republican hopeful Marco Rubio, who announced his bid one day after Mrs Clinton, called her a "leader from yesterday" - a theme that is likely to be repeated frequently by Republican candidates in the coming months.

"Americans like fresh faces. Hillary is just not that exciting as a politician," said Prof Franklin.

However, the possibility of electing their first female president is something for American voters to get excited about.

Age, however, is not on her side. Mrs Clinton would be 69 if she assumes the presidency in early 2017. The oldest president to take office was Mr Ronald Reagan, who was also 69.

"There are going to be questions about her fitness for office, especially if she shows any signs of slipping during the campaign," said Prof Franklin.



The current Republican front runner is former Florida governor Jeb Bush, 62. His father George H. W. Bush was the 41st US president and his elder brother George W. Bush was the 43rd.

While brand recognition has given him a head start in the polls - he has the support of 16.5 per cent of Republican voters, according to political website Real Clear Politics - he has also to worry about voter fatigue towards the family name. He comes across as an intellectual and an articulate speaker - a distinction from his brother he appears happy to embrace.

Mr Bush's campaign war chest will be unrivalled, with donations expected to exceed US$40 million (S$54 million), when he finally announces his candidacy. He would probably attack Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on foreign policy matters.

If the Clinton and Bush political dynasties were to face off in this election, Mrs Clinton would probably win. Polls say 48.3 per cent of voters support her, compared with 40.9 per cent for him.


Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, 47, is inching in on his rival Jeb Bush.

Mr Walker is known for his no-nonsense executive style - standing up to government unions and making tough Budget cuts. He appeals to many segments of the party and is respected for being a Republican governor in a state that typically votes Democrat.

But he lacks the pizzazz some of his rivals may have, which would mean having to work harder to make himself known to voters.

He may also face political fire from a 2012 corruption probe into his campaign's ties with outside groups ahead of his recall election for governor that year. His support among Republican voters is at 15.3 per cent, according to the Real Clear Politics website.

Against Mrs Clinton, he would likely pitch himself as a fresh contender beholden only to voters instead of Wall Street or labour union bosses.

If voters were to pick between the two today, 49.3 per cent would back her and 41.1 per cent, Mr Walker.


Youth is on the side of first-term Florida senator Marco Rubio and he, like others before him, will milk it for what it's worth.

Declaring his bid for the presidency last Monday, the 43-year-old Cuban American called this election "a generational choice" about what kind of country American will be.

This is reminiscent of President Barack Obama, who also dangled the carrot of youth and hope in front of voters for the 2008 election.

Mr Rubio leads other Republican candidates with 715,000 followers on Twitter, but trails far behind Mrs Hillary Clinton, with more than three million followers.

The charge of inexperience will likely plague him throughout his campaign.

Currently, he trails in the polls, with just 7.3 per cent support from Republican voters, according to political website Real Clear Politics.

In a face-off with Mrs Clinton, polls say she would beat him 49.5 per cent to 41.7.


New Jersey governor Chris Christie, 52, is known to be a bully who uses his position to intimidate and punish others - and the recent Bridgegate scandal did not help his image.

It was found that Mr Christie's staff and political appointee had deliberately created a traffic jam in Fort Lee by closing lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge, possibly as political retribution against the town's mayor.

While New Jersey lawmakers cleared Mr Christie of any involvement, the issue has affected his favourability ratings.

His poll numbers are poor - a mere 5.5 per cent of Republican voters support him, according to political website Real Clear Politics.

But his strength lies in his authenticity. He is the sort to throw off his jacket and engage in a candid question- and-answer session.

If pitted against Mrs Hillary Clinton, polls say she would get 48.8 per cent of the votes, against his 39.5 per cent.


Kentucky senator Rand Paul, 52, gained national attention when he helped his father Ron Paul, a former Texas congressman, campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. His father also ran in 2012, but without success.

These past failures are now benefiting Mr Paul, who inherited his father's political infrastructure. Little more than a day after he announced his bid for the White House on April 7, US$1 million (S$1.35 million) was raised through his website.

Support for his Republican nomination stands at about 9.8 per cent, according to Real Clear Politics.

But Mr Paul's poor judgment could be his downfall. The Tea Party favourite has got himself in trouble for plagiarism, commenting on civil rights and hiring neo-Confederates.

He is also finding it hard to shake off his "isolationist" image.

In a showdown with Mrs Hillary Clinton, he would get only 41.3 per cent of votes, losing to her 48.7 per cent.


Texas senator Ted Cruz is a master orator who needed neither podium nor teleprompter when he launched his presidential bid on March 23.

The 44-year-old is perhaps best remembered as the firebrand whose bid to repeal healthcare reform law Obamacare caused the 2013 federal government shutdown. That has made him a Tea Party favourite, but its voters alone will not take him to the White House.

Political website Real Clear Politics shows that with support from only 10 per cent of Republican voters, he is third among the party's contenders. Experts note that his apparent inability to build coalitions with the centre will cost him many votes.

Mr Cruz is likely to link Mrs Hillary Clinton to President Barack Obama, and caution people against voting for more of the same policies.

But he is the least likely to beat Mrs Clinton at this point. About 50 per cent of voters surveyed said they would pick her, while only 39.8 per cent chose him.

This article was first published on April 20, 2015.
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