This past Sunday Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president in 2016—the worst kept secret in politics. Over the last few weeks, Republican candidates have also come forth with their respective declarations of candidacy with undoubtedly more to come. The large difference between the two is that Clinton has a better chance of winning the Democratic nomination without any serious competitor than any non-incumbent in recent memory, while the Republicans have a long primary season ahead.
Although presidential primaries can serve candidates well in preparation for national elections, they can also expose flaws of potential presidential contenders. For example, Mitt Romney was forced to appeal to the right on immigration during the primary debates countering his earlier sentiments on the issue, thus labeling him as a “flip-flopper” throughout the general election.
Clinton will also benefit from not running in a primary by avoiding certain criticisms that would normally arise against a liberal candidate but would seem hypocritical if addressed by Republicans. For instance, Republicans are not likely to criticize her as being hawkish on national security, nor would candidates like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker be right in condemning her ties with Wall Street.
Moreover, Clinton has experience campaigning on the national stage, so the benefits a candidate typically receives while in a primary are irrelevant to her. Not to mention, she will be unified with her party and its financial supporters. Furthermore the 2008 primary elections were as long as most general elections, and her experience as first lady and secretary of state provide further political know-how.
On the other hand, Republicans will need to campaign tenaciously among each other as there is no clear front runner. Each candidate will do the work of the Clinton campaign in exposing the weaknesses of one another.
The primary itself will be expensive for the Republican candidates and as a result drain funds that would undoubtedly be useful in the general election where, if campaign funding trends continue, it will be the most expensive presidential campaign in history.
In addition, Republican primary contenders must be able to appeal to the more conservative base of the Republican Party—those who will have a higher turn-out during the primaries—while simultaneously not alienating themselves from more moderate, independent and swing voters.
While the Republican primary heats up, Clinton will have ample time to prepare and capitalize on any mistakes made throughout the primary by the Republican candidates. Moreover, many of the Republicans are still not well known at the national level, benefitting Clinton on multiple levels.
Although Clinton has little work to do in competing for the Democratic nomination, whichever Republican survives the primary process is sure to provide her with ample competition.
What do you think of Benjamin’s perspective? Do you think Republican competition will benfit Hillary? Please send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.