COMMENTARY | Is John McCain just being a maverick, or does he really like and respect Hillary Clinton as a politician? The outspoken Republican senator from Arizona and 2008 GOP presidential nominee, who almost went toe-to-toe with the former First Lady in ’08 before rookie senator from Illinois Barack Obama upset her to clinch the Democratic nomination, is making waves by saying that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency if the election was held tomorrow, reports CNN. Is this begrudging respect from a former political opponent…or is John McCain trying to set Clinton up for a fall?
Interestingly, McCain’s show of support for Hillary’s political prowess comes on the heels of libertarian senator Rand Paul’s assertion that the Republican Party would not win the presidency again “in his lifetime” without major change. Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky whose father, U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), was a recent presidential candidate, is routinely mentioned as a frontrunner for the 2016 GOP presidential nominee. Do Republican powerhouses McCain and Paul both genuinely believe that the GOP is not up to the task of winning the White House in 2016?
Or, shrewdly, might both mavericks be plotting a scheme?
By praising Hillary Clinton as the unstoppable liberal mogul the duo might be attempting to position her as the “inevitable nominee” voters eventually love to hate. Indeed, Clinton’s status as the inevitable nominee early in the 2008 presidential campaign cycle may have helped lead to her loss to a young Barack Obama. In recent election cycles U.S. voters have seemed to relish the ability to idolize and spurn frontrunners in quick succession, as evidenced by the turmoil faced by both Democrats and Republicans in 2008 and by Republicans in 2012. Frontrunners emerged and, within weeks, were replaced.
Publicizing and praising Hillary early in the game may be a tactic to make voters weary of her come 2016. Republicans may also be trying to draw her out into the open early, hoping she makes mistakes upon which they can capitalize. Having retired from her previous position as Secretary of State, a job now occupied by 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, Hillary must tread carefully. If she is too inactive prior to 2016 she looks opportunistic, returning to public life only to run for office, but if she is too active in public life she risks making mistakes. Republican operatives, through feigned praise, may be trying to get her into the political arena as a liberal spokeswoman for the 2014 midterm elections, hoping to get some dirt they can use later.
Drawing Hillary out in order to boost her omnipresence and tacitly troll for dirt is a decent GOP strategy. At best, Hillary makes some mistakes and Republicans have ammunition for 2016. At the very least, Republicans would have a good chance of increasing voter apathy among Democrats. “I’m so over Hillary,” would be the refrain over the oversaturated liberal voter. “They’ve been talking about her 2016 campaign since the beginning of 2014!”
Hillary Clinton must be cautious. Given the turmoil of the last few election cycles, it would be to her advantage to announce her presidential candidacy later rather than sooner. The early frontrunners, from both parties, have typically fared poorly. And, by sitting out a few of the earliest rounds and letting small-time opponents batter each other, Hillary can avoid looking like the bad guy. Let someone else bring in the dirt, start the fight, and jump in only after the dust has settled.