Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets supporters at George Washington University in Washington on June 13, 2014.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Why the GOP can’t turn Clinton into Romney

Updated
The fact that Hillary Clinton has no competitive rival for the Democratic nomination offers the candidate plenty of benefits. She won’t have to worry about spending tens of millions of dollars, for example, to overcome intra-party competitors. Clinton can also keep an eye on Election Day, effectively running a 19-month general-election campaign.
 
But the downsides are equally obvious – most notably the fact that there will be a massive field of Republican candidates, each of whom will spend every day of their campaigns taking shots in Clinton’s direction. Every Republican committee, PAC, super PAC, oppo firm, and allied entities won’t have to divide their attention or resources. They’ll have one enemy.
 
They’ll of course have to settle on a line of attack, and if this Politico report yesterday is correct, Republicans seem to be on the wrong track.
A consensus is forming within the Republican Party that the plan of attack against Hillary Clinton should be of a more recent vintage, rooted in her accumulation of wealth and designed to frame her as removed from the concerns of average Americans. […]
 
The out-of-touch plutocrat template is a familiar one: Democrats used it to devastating effect against Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. While Hillary Clinton’s residences in New York and Washington may not have car elevators, there’s still a lengthy trail of paid speeches, tone-deaf statements about the family finances and questions about Clinton family foundation fundraising practices that will serve as cornerstones of the anti-Clinton messaging effort.
The headline said the Republicans’ plan is to “turn Hillary into Mitt Romney.”
 
Right off the bat, it’s hard not to appreciate the dramatic shift in GOP thinking. In 2012, when Democrats rolled out the “out-of-touch plutocrat” line of criticism, Republicans spent months in fainting-couch apoplexy. Democrats are engaging in “class warfare,” they said. Democrats are “trying to divide the nation,” voters were told. Democrats are “condemning success,” GOP operatives insisted.
 
Three years later, however, these same Republicans suddenly want to adopt Democratic talking points as their own? It’s almost as if the pushback in defense of Romney was insincere.
 
But that’s really just the start of the problem.
 
The part of this strategy that the GOP never fully appreciated is why it was effective in the 2012 race. The problem was not that Romney was extremely wealthy; the problem was that Romney was extremely wealthy while pushing a policy agenda that would benefit people like him.
 
The Democratic pitch would have fallen flat if they’d simply mocked the candidate’s riches. It resonated, however, because Romney breathed life into the caricature – vowing to give tax breaks to the wealthy, promising to take health care and education benefits away from working families, and expressing contempt for the “47 percent” of Americans for whom Romney had no respect.
 
When Democrats effectively told the American mainstream, “Romney isn’t on your side,” the GOP nominee made it easy for voters to believe it. The car elevators were simply gravy on top of an already effective narrative.
 
Applying this to Hillary Clinton is silly. What matters is not whether she flies on private planes and makes lots of money giving speeches; what matters is whose interests she intends to champion if elected.
 
It’s baffling why Republicans find this confusing. There have been plenty of Democrats with names like Kennedy, Roosevelt, and Rockefeller who’ve amassed great wealth, but they were immune to accusations of elitism because of their platforms – they were committed to helping those at the opposite end of the economic spectrum.
 
Romney wasn’t. It’s why the criticisms worked. This isn’t rocket science.
 
Or put another way, if Clinton is very fortunate, the Politico report is accurate and Republicans are committing to an incoherent line of attack.
 

Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney

Why the GOP can't turn Clinton into Romney

Updated