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The 2016 Vote

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Republicans Seek to Cast Hillary Clinton as a Third-Term Obama

September 30th 2014

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Republicans are working hard to define a Hillary Clinton presidency as a third term for President Obama’s White House.

Seizing on Obama’s low approval ratings, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and outside GOP spending groups are casting the president’s former secretary of State as being in lockstep with his agenda.

It is a strategy Republicans say they unveiled just in time for the midterm elections, as Clinton prepares to campaign for Democrats in tight races across the country.  America Rising, a super-PAC targeting Clinton, released a memo to supporters last week titled “Stop Hillary 2016, Obama’s 3rd Term.” In the memo, officials seek to make the case that Obama’s policies are Clinton policies. “No matter how many of her advisers whisper to reporters that she’s different from Barack Obama, Americans still know who she is: Barack Obama Part Deux,” the memo says.

Tim Miller, America Rising’s executive director, said the group wants to remind voters that Clinton is “in step with Obama,” particularly as many Democrats are trying to distance themselves from him. Miller said the group will continue to push the message aggressively in the lead-up to the midterm elections.

The strategy is not without risks, given Clinton’s public differences with Obama on airstrikes with Syria and the threat from Islamic militants — a narrative the GOP has also seized upon.

But Republicans think their best argument against an expected Clinton candidacy to date is to tie her to the unpopular president, especially given her years advocating Obama’s foreign policy.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) picked up the theme in a speech Friday at the Values Voter Summit. “Never forget she will be Barack Obama’s third and fourth term as president of the United States,” said Bachmann, who ran for president in 2012.

The argument is a natural one for Republicans given Obama’s low approval ratings, and it extends the GOP’s argument from the midterm elections, in which they are tying Democratic candidates for the Senate and House to Obama.

A CNN poll released Monday shows that Obama’s approval ratings rank below 50 percent in categories ranging from his handling of terrorism to healthcare. With foreign policy dominating the news, GOP officials are underscoring how Clinton was a major part of Obama’s decisions when she served as secretary of State.

“Right now voters have the impression that Obama’s foreign policy is worse than Hillary’s and that’s silly because she was implementing the president’s foreign policy positions,” Miller said.

Miller acknowledged that while Clinton’s approval numbers have come down since her tenure at the State Department, they haven’t fallen “nearly as much as [Obama’s.]

“It makes it a timely thing to bring up,” he said. “We need to make sure the electorate knows how lockstep she was with him.”

It’s by no means the only attack the groups are making against Clinton as they seek to define her before an expected run for the White House.

They are also building a message that Clinton is out of touch and only looking to help her associates and special interest groups, including Wall Street.

In the coming months, they plan to emphasize Clinton’s comments about being “dead broke” when she and former President Bill Clinton left the White House. In the same vein, they will also point to the fact that Clinton hasn’t driven a car since 1996.

Republicans are also casting Clinton as overly partisan and as someone who is not a “friend” to women, an RNC official said. They could use the example of the former first lady calling Monica Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon,” to Diane Blair, a late friend of Clinton’s and a political science professor whose journals were donated to a University of Arkansas library.

Clinton and her allies have already been pushing against such narratives. In speeches across the country in recent months, Clinton has indicated that she would put women’s rights at the center of her agenda. She has signaled that she would be a champion for equal pay, and called for a “movement” to help women at work.

Clinton allies say Republicans are desperate for a strategy to bring down a potential Clinton candidacy.

“Republicans are making these assertions because they have no vision and no record of accomplishments to run on,” said Adrienne Elrod, communications director for Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton super-PAC. “Should she run, Hillary will focus on the vision and direction of our country and will win.”

Asked about the notion that Clinton is too overtly political, as GOP officials say, Elrod called the former senator and secretary of State “one of the most admired and trusted public figures in America and should she run for president, she will run on her own record and implement her own vision for moving our country forward.”

It’s commonplace for candidates in the opposing party to loop an unpopular sitting president with the front-runner from the same party. In 2008, the Obama campaign compared Arizona Sen. John McCain’s policies to that of President George W. Bush, who suffered in the polls amid a poor economy and two unpopular wars.

But Republicans say it’s easy to prove that Clinton and Obama are far more similar. And the proof, they say, is in the reactions they’ve been watching from the other side.

“We’ve been surprised how prickly they’ve been and how reactive they’ve been to what we’re doing,” Miller said.

Amie Parnes writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted. 


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