With or without flying shoes, a Hillary Clinton candidacy would be formidable

04/10/2014 10:29 AM

04/19/2014 6:50 PM

Not long after the bulk of this column was posted online last week, a woman drew from the bumpkin political playbook and tossed a shoe at Hillary Clinton. Clinton was standing on a stage in Las Vegas, speaking to a convention audience of waste recyclers. She ducked, but deftly recovered and went on with her talk.

No matter what happens in the midterm election this November, a larger political scenario, very likely involving Clinton and perhaps a bare minimum of flying shoes, looms for 2016.

For the Democrats right now, the proud grandmother-to-be is the presumptive, though not entirely certain, presidential nominee (“I’m thinking about it,” she said coyly recently). For the Republicans — well, it’s too early to say.

But, according to demographics and polling, it’s all uphill for the GOP.

That’s one observation made on a recent night by a pair of longtime political observers. David Von Drehle, the Kansas City-based editor-at-large for Time magazine, and Carl Cannon, Washington bureau chief of the

Real Clear Politics

website, held a chat session before a few hundred listeners at the Kansas City Public Library.

Cannon, who has covered presidential politics since the Reagan years, drew on his reading of voter trends and demographics to suggest that the gender gap alone will work in Clinton’s favor.

Then again, Cannon began the talk by reminding the audience how he had declared, in 2005, that Hillary Clinton would be the next president of the United States.

A lot of emotional baggage comes with a Clinton candidacy, including the, uh, complications that beset the presidency of Clinton’s husband, Bill.

“Anyone who has covered the Clintons,” Cannon said, “has mixed feelings about them.”

And don’t forget that red-meat GOP issue regarding the tragedy at Benghazi, which occurred under Hillary Clinton’s watch as secretary of state. You can almost hear the super-PAC, attack-ad video machine already gearing up for that one.

Still, Cannon noted, Clinton topped a Gallup poll in December 2013 of the most admired women in the U.S. Her numbers (15-plus percent) essentially equaled those of the next three women combined — Oprah Winfrey (6 percent), Michelle Obama (5) and Sarah Palin (5).

With the talk of a possible Republican candidacy by former Florida governor Jeb Bush — brother of former president George W. Bush and son of “41” — the speakers speculated on whether American voters would be weary of political dynasties in the making.

“The best guy on the other side is the guy who takes the dynasty issue away from you,” Cannon said.

The GOP has made nothing but ticket mistakes on women ever since its Kansas City convention in 1976, Cannon said. Presidential nominee Gerald Ford could have made history by choosing Texan Anne Armstrong as his running mate, but he passed her over for Bob Dole of Kansas, who, Cannon said, added no political help to what turned out to be the losing ticket.

No matter what direction the Republicans take in choosing running mates for 2016, Clinton would likely outsmart them. When pressed by a questioner about possible Clinton running mates, Cannon and Von Drehle agreed that most likely she would select someone of Hispanic heritage, perhaps one of the Castro twins of Texas — U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro or San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro. Much like Barack Obama before him (in 2004), Julián Castro, formerly little known, gave an impressive keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Reading tea leaves and shoe-tossings is a tricky business, but this public confab in Kansas City certainly had the effect of energizing what already was a highly engaged audience. And if you think that the next presidential election seems so far off, it’s clear that campaign 2016 is already underway.

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