Republican US Senator Rand Paul yesterday tied former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton to Democratic losses in US midterm elections, tweeting with the hashtag “HILLARYSLOSERS” as an opening shot in the 2016 presidential contest.
The US Republican National Committee and the Republican super-poltical action committee (PAC) America Rising echoed the Kentucky senator’s line of attack, which blamed Clinton for the defeat of Democratic senators for whom she campaigned. The message: Voters rejected Clinton.
The sharpened focus on Clinton raises the question of whether her stock went up or down after Tuesday’s elections. And it is a sign that Republicans want to draw her out so they can test her reflexes while Democrats are divided over whether she should enter the race now or wait until next year.
“Early shots across the bow test whether she really has improved as a candidate,” Republican strategist Mary Matalin said.
They also allow Republicans to “assess her response mechanism” if she responds, to see what role former US president Bill Clinton takes on in defending her, to invigorate potential primary challengers and to tie her to US President Barack Obama, “from whom distancing herself for a 2016 run is mandatory,” Matalin said.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill declined to comment.
Hillary Clinton appeared on behalf of five losing Democratic Senate candidates — in Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia and Iowa — and at least three victors, in New Hampshire, Michigan and Minnesota. Several Democratic operatives said Clinton’s stops for Democratic candidates in the final weeks of the campaign showcased her loyalty and would help her unify the party for 2016.
“Hillary Clinton worked for Democrats across the country because she believes in an all-inclusive Democratic Party,” said Adrienne Elrod, communications director for pro-Clinton super-PAC Correct the Record.
“Hillary Clinton’s commitment to support, strengthen and grow our Democratic Party was clear as she made 45 midterm-related political stops where she stood with Democrats and shared her vision of what our nation needs for the future,” she added.
Democrats lost at least seven seats in the midterms, including races in the presidential battleground states of Iowa and Colorado.
Hillary Clinton should draw two main conclusions from the results, according to a Democratic strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering the potential candidate while she is “lying low.”
The strategist said that Democrats were defending tough turf that they might not need to win the 2016 election. Outside of Iowa and Colorado, Democratic Senate candidates lost in Republican-heavy states, such as South Dakota and Montana, that Hillary Clinton would not need to win the White House.
Also, Hillary Clinton has to find a way to persuade the US public she is a tougher leader than Obama without distancing herself from him so much that she alienates a Democratic base that remains very loyal to him.
There are more warning signs for Hillary Clinton in both voter surveys and the final results of the races, said a Democratic pollster who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid criticizing the politician who is expected to be the party’s presidential nominee in 2016.
The pollster said that campaigns matter, comparing the dysfunctional operations run by some of this year’s losers to the drama-wracked outfit Hillary Clinton presided over when she ran for president in 2008. Hillary Clinton will also have to find a way to energize and motivate a Democratic base that showed underlying weaknesses over the past year.
Also, Hillary Clinton has to talk more about the economy than Democratic candidates did in this election cycle, the pollster said. Exit polls showed that the economy was the No. 1 concern of people who voted in the midterm elections, and she needs to win those people over with a cogent economic message, the pollster said.
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