Hillary Rodham Clinton came to Iowa to give voters an intimate glance of who she’d be as president. What they got instead was a glimpse into the complicated relationship between the current inhabitant of the White House and the woman who hopes to follow in his path.
On a two-day swing through Iowa, the opening act of her 2016 campaign, Clinton embraced two of the most politically fraught planks of President Barack Obama’s legacy: the health care law and the push for an immigration overhaul. But even as she cast herself as continuing the Obama administration’s domestic policies, Clinton carefully drew a subtle contrast between her leadership and that of the president.
“I want to fix our political system. I want to get things done,” she told small business owners, sitting between cardboard fruit cartons at a produce company warehouse in Norwalk. “We have to start breaking down the divisions that have paralyzed our politics.”
The roundtable with small business owners reflected the pull-and-tug that Clinton will face as she attempts to extend Democrats’ control over the White House to three straight terms, should she win the nomination.
It won’t be easy: Historically, Americans have rewarded change after a party controls the presidency for two straight terms — Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were the only presidents to maintain control for three terms during the past half-century.
Her success will depend, at least in part, on how she walks the fine line between praising Obama enough to maintain the support of his loyal coalition, particularly the black and millennial voters who overwhelmingly backed his candidacy, and putting enough distance to woo independents frustrated with Washington partisanship.
In polling conducted by CNN last month, 57 percent of Americans said their “perfect candidate” would be someone who changed most policies of the Obama administration. Already, Republicans are stressing the deep ties between the two, describing Clinton’s candidacy as a “third Obama term.”
Shortly before Clinton entered the race on Sunday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush released a video message deriding the “Obama-Clinton foreign policy.”