Not Rice, but Clinton

The article below is a product of the Harvard Political Review. Review articles and viewpoints expressed are written and edited exclusively by Review undergraduate students, not the staff of Harvard's Institute of Politics.

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Humza Bokhari

The article below is a product of the Harvard Political Review. Review articles and viewpoints expressed are written and edited exclusively by Review undergraduate students, not the staff of Harvard's Institute of Politics.

Do we have to make Benghazi a conversation on 2016? While it does not seem fair to politicize the tragic loss of Americans in the line of duty, it appears that, by targeting President Obama’s likely State nominee, Ambassador Susan Rice, that is exactly what the Republican Party is doing. Rice, they argue, is not only unintelligent, but was part of a deliberate Obama conspiracy to hide information to ease his re-election. Well, one or the other. Or both. Or neither. …Regardless, Rice, to the GOP, is unqualified. (Unlike Kerry, of course, who they’d love to put on a Swift Boat to State. Scott Brown’s probably already revving up his pickup.) Why, though, is the question many are asking. Racism? Sexism? Allow me to posit a possibility–at least as likely as some of the GOP theories, so hear me out.

Here goes: by sinking Rice, the GOP can use that in the future to claim that Benghazi was a legitimate failure (i.e., “look what it did to Rice”). By establishing that Benghazi was evidence of a catastrophe at State, they can lambast its head, Hillary Clinton. And if Clinton is caught up in the scandal, well, she may be more vulnerable in 2016 than she is now.

It is blatantly clear that Rice, acting on the intelligence she was given at the time, and having little to do with the whole thing to begin with, is being attacked on political grounds. Her career is not important to Republicans. And the narrative is shifting – conservatainers like Rush Limbaugh are pushing the false narrative that Benghazi will sink Clinton (they forget how quick Americans are to forget). It has also been shown that Clinton asked for more security, and her skill showed once more in the recent swift Middle Eastern ceasefire.

As for Sec. Clinton, there is no evidence save from an issue out by the National Enquirer at your local CVS (granted, they’ve been right about a Democratic nominee before) that she is going to run in 2016 – indeed, there is plenty more that says otherwise. But Republicans are extremely wary, having been trounced on the national stage twice now.

At this point, the GOP firewall (their safe states), which leads to less than 200 electoral votes, is pretty underwhelming. And Clinton smashes right through. What on earth am I talking about? Well, I paid attention to the polls in 2008. Clinton, in the end, was an even stronger candidate than Obama four years ago–according to CNN exit polls, she would have trounced McCain by an unprecedented eleven points (McCain also won 16% of Clinton Democrats). But about that firewall. Recognizing that polls months before the election are suspect, but also the last we got for Clinton in ’08, check out these numbers:

  • Arkansas was a solid blue state, with Clinton consistently ahead of McCain, in the latest Rasmussen poll 53-39.
  • Clinton was ahead in Kentucky in a May Rasmussen poll 51-42.
  • Until February 2008, Clinton was competitive in Tennessee, 46-46.
  • Clinton also led West Virginia in 2008, 47-42.
  • Clinton was also as competitive, or doing better than Obama, at this time in Missouri, North Carolina, and Indiana. And she was outperforming him in Ohio and Florida.

You get the idea. Yes, these numbers are not the best we have, but they demonstrate that in the thicket of the Democratic campaign, Clinton had made the South thoroughly competitive. Imagine the electoral map, then. Completely hypothetically, and knowing that we’re getting way ahead of ourselves: if we assume Clinton wins all Obama’s 2012 states (very possible), and take into account her strength in the firewall…. Clinton could take 398 electoral votes. Hello, Blue Reagan.

The Democrats have a startlingly weak bench in four years. Candidates such as Clinton and Obama have set the bar incredibly high when it comes to sheer celebrity and name recognition, and few Democrats in the wings could possibly galvanize the support they have had. The Republicans, on their end, have warmed their bench impressively, and are just waiting to pounce with an armada of qualified, credentialed, and diverse governors. They also have a Bush or two waiting in the wings, and are primed to take back the White House in four years. 2000 and 2008 show that they have a very good chance of doing so.

But one candidate on the Democratic side is essentially the Blue Reagan in her national popularity, and that’s the still-standing Hillary Clinton, who, after a startlingly complicated love story with America, has finally won its heart. Her favorability is through the roof now, at 66%. Remember that in 2008, when all those Southern states were competitive, she was still considered polarizing, with only about half of Americans liking her. Her meme-ability has shown that young voters will be more willing to side with her next time around, and all the bigwigs who threw Clinton off the boat for years ago are no longer relevant (Al Gore), or are now claiming to back Clinton (Nancy Pelosi). In addition, the Camelot crown was passed to Obama, but it’s the populist champion in the vein of 2008’s Ohio-and-Texas Clinton who now has Ted Kennedy’s seat–Elizabeth Warren.

In 2008, Obama was the universally loved, “establishment” candidate. (I say this with all the irony possible in the fact that virtually everyone but the Clintons in the party supported Obama for a variety of somewhat-silly personal reasons.) Now, that candidate is Clinton. If Republicans were clamoring to “beat the b****” five years ago, you can only imagine the richness of their vocabulary four years from now.

Benghazi is only the beginning. The GOP is out to injure the quarterback.



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