(Providence, Rhode Island) – I have a small role in a political movie that debuts this week (more on that later), but the real drama was in Washington, D.C., as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before Congress about Libya. Here are my weekly political observations.
Hell Hath No Fury! – Democrats loved Hillary Clinton's combative appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, particularly her feisty exchange with Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.). Supporters think a "tough as nails" persona by Clinton bodes well for her presidential chances in 2016.
What Difference Does it Make? – Republicans, on the other hand, have pounded Clinton. They believe her rhetorical question – "What difference does it make?" – about the often-changing explanation of what really led to the death of four American at the Libyan Consulate, was insensitive and inflammatory. You can expect to see the, "What difference does it make?" clip in campaign ads against her in 2016.
The Middle Ground – Neither of the above observations is a surprise. Hillary Clinton is a polarizing figure – people either love her, or despise her. There is little middle ground. But with 40 percent of American voters registered as independent, and beholden to neither party, how they react will be critical. And to those who think this quote will be a distant memory in 2016, that's highly unlikely in our Internet and You Tube age. It may fade for a time, but it will come back.
Keep Your Friends Close, and Your Enemies Closer – Hillary Clinton's biggest initial problem with her quote may actually be with Democrats, and not Republicans. While she is the odds-on-favorite to win the 2016 nomination (as she was in 2008), there are no guarantees. It's likely to be a contested primary season again with key Democrats such as Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), former Governor Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) and former Senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) as possible challengers. Any one of them would be more than willing to use the, "What difference does it make?" quote against Hillary Clinton. The only potential challenger that could not is Vice President Joe Biden. The problem for Secretary Clinton is she has created a wedge issue – whether she intended to or not – that can, and likely will, be used against her.
Why Does it Matter? – I am sure some readers are discounting what I am saying. After all, the next presidential campaign cycle is three years away, and memories can fade. But Hillary Clinton remains one of the most fascinating dynamics in American politics. Much of what she does and says will be highly scrutinized. She is likely to travel a lot, write a lot and speak a lot, right up until the day she decides whether or not she'll run in 2016. Potential challengers – especially within her own Democratic Party – will be looking for any opportunity to pounce and gain some traction. Politics is a full-contact sport!
But Can She Win? – The short answer is yes. She came so close in 2008, that we all know she has the tools. But the road won’t be easy. As a practical matter, Americas most often switch parties in the White House after a two-term presidency. Only two vice presidents have ever succeeded their bosses electorally after two terms – Martin Van Buren and George H.W. Bush. So that does not bode well for Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden. It can be done, but it will be tough.
The Looming 'X Factor' – It made a few headlines this week, but the chorus may get louder before long. Republicans in states such as Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin, are talking about changing the way their states award Electoral College votes. Currently those states are winner-take-all, meaning whoever wins the statewide popular vote gets all the Electoral College votes. Only two states – Maine and Nebraska – divide their Electoral College votes differently. They do it by whoever wins each Congressional District. If all of the above mentioned states allocated their votes by Congressional District, Mitt Romney would be President today. There are lot of doubters that this change will actually take place, but consider this: Republicans now control 24 states governments, meaning they have the governor and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Democrats only have 12 states where they control the whole government. Politics is often about leverage. Keep an eye on this issue!
I Ought To Be in Pictures! – Well actually this week I am! Sunday night on ABC, I play a background actor in "The Makeover" – a movie where political operatives find a gruff beer deliveryman and do a makeover, turning him into a candidate for Congress. It stars Julia Stiles and David Walton. Watch the bowling alley scene, and look for a guy in a lime green pullover shirt (photo above), applauding in the background. It will be akin to finding a needle in a haystack, but yes, that's me! And soon, you can see me in "Labor Day" with Kate Winslet, which is set for release a bit later this year!
As always, you can respond by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.