News of the Future: Running Hillary

How can Barack Obama win his 2012 re-election campaign?

November 2, 2009

How can Barack Obama win his 2012 re-election campaign?

From: David Axelrod

January 1, 2012

Subject: Running Mate for the Second Term

Mr. President,

Per your request, I have assessed the latest polling data and have come to the reluctant conclusion that we will need to take radical action to strengthen your reelection ticket for this year's campaign.

Five major polls currently show the Obama-Biden ticket trailing Republican tickets headed by Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney by factors of 5 to 12 percentage points.

Detailed analysis reveals you have suffered significant erosion among the Democratic base, as well as a loss of the Independent support that you won overwhelmingly in 2008.

Unfortunately, the main factor driving this erosion reflects the current state of the economy, and it is structural in nature. Until unemployment falls significantly below its current base level of 12%, our message about our success in restructuring the economy and ensuring a prolonged bull market on Wall Street over the past six months will continue to fail to impact the Democratic base.

The prime erosion appears to be taking place among the core Democratic constituencies you had the most trouble attracting during your long primary campaign with then-Senator Hillary Clinton.

We had expected to transform many blue collar jobs into green ones and to convince white working-class communities that their future lay in jobs and energy generated by solar power in Nevada and across the Southwest, and by our ambitious investment in wind energy across the Great Plains.

However, the unfortunate destruction of more than 20,000 new light aluminum windmills by the record tornadoes generated last summer by global warming has forced us to scale back our previous admittedly optimistic projections, as you are well aware.

Our strategic team has concluded — and I must say I reluctantly agree, Mr. President — that your only hope for re-election may lie in dropping Vice President Biden from the ticket and replacing him with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Putting her on the ticket will give us a crucial boost in our core constituencies, and she will also rally the millions of women voters that our research unfortunately reveals have been lost to the Independent and Undecided categories.

They would certainly rally around the prospect of Secretary Clinton becoming the first female vice president in the nation's history. Yet because Secretary Clinton ruled out any future presidential run back in October 2009, her selection as your running mate would in no way prejudice the succession to you in 2016.

I realize that this will be unwelcome news to you, as the vice president has been hard-working and totally loyal, despite his unfortunate propensity to embarrass the Administration by taking stands and making gaffes that later turned out to be entirely correct.

These include his opposition during our first year in office to committing large numbers of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, his telling Iraq's leaders to be more responsible in running their country, his warning to avoid traveling on planes and trains to lower the risk of contracting swine flu, his description of Russia as having a withering economy and his warning a few months ago that inflation would reach 10% by the end of last year.

Of course, the vice president, in his defense, would point out that his judgment was confirmed on all these issues. But from our perspective, Mr. President, this makes his comments even more embarrassing.

In analyzing the poll numbers, our strategists conclude that despite Secretary Clinton's prominent position in your administration, working class, middle class and unemployed elements that supported the party in 2008 do not hold her responsible for their negative perceptions of our economic policies.

It is unfortunate and unfair, but our polling data also confirm that Secretary Clinton currently scores a full 20-30 points higher than you in the areas of decisiveness and credibility, Mr. President. You will agree that this is particularly ironic, as all our foreign policy decisions have been made without involving Secretary Clinton too closely.

Our data unfortunately show that Pawlenty and Romney both now enjoy a 40-point lead over you on economic policies among middle class voters. While we correctly sized up the degree to which the American public had come to loathe the policies and personality of George W. Bush, your predecessor's ineptitude now appears a statistical aberration.

We cannot take for granted that the Republican candidate this year will provoke the same hostile coalition against him or her in our favor.

A broad anti-Republican backlash is all the more unlikely considering Sarah Palin's abysmal favorability ratings, even among Republicans. This means we can no longer count on her being a significant force in the Republican campaign to rally support in our favor.

I regret to say, Mr. President, that Secretary Clinton's service in the Senate, her eight years as First Lady and her years of service as your Secretary of State have created the perception among the public that she is a figure of substance and experience compared with yourself.

Sometimes the voters can be so unfair.

Signed,

David Axelrod
Senior Advisor to the President

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Takeaways

While we correctly sized up the degree to which the public had come to loathe the policies and personality of George W. Bush, your predecessor's ineptitude now appears a statistical aberration.

Putting Clinton on the ticket will give us a crucial boost in our core constituencies, and she will also rally the millions of women voters.

Because Secretary Clinton ruled out any future presidential run back in October 2009, her selection as your running mate would in no way prejudice the succession to you in 2016.