Jonathan Chait wrote a really interesting article yesterday, Why Hillary Clinton Is Probably Going to Win the 2016 Election. He goes after six arguments that people make for why Clinton is not a strong candidate. I think it is kind of interesting that we are even discussing such matters. The truth is that the people claiming that Clinton is a weak candidate are almost exclusively Republicans. They aren’t exactly the most objective sources of information. It reminds me of Brer Rabbit, “Only please, Brer Fox, please don’t throw me into the briar patch!” In this case it is, “You’re making a big mistake running Hillary Clinton against us!” Yeah, right. I think we are a bit smarter than Brer Fox.
The one point I want to discuss is Chait’s fifth, “Is it time for a change?” This is the idea that the electorate gets tired of having the same party in power. I’ve never found this to be a very compelling argument. For one thing, FDR won four terms in office. But let’s just look at recent history. George Bush managed to win a third straight term for the Republicans in 1988. And then, right after that, Al Gore won a third straight term for the Democrats in 2000. (The fact that the Supreme Court decided the election doesn’t change the fact of which party the people voted for.) So the last three times there has been a chance for three consecutive terms for the same party, it happened twice.
What’s more, people are pretty predictable in their voting. I have a hard time thinking that people are really going to be swayed by which party has been in the White House for the previous eight years. And that’s especially true when you consider that Constitutionally, that third term will have to be held by someone new. So people may be tired of Barack Obama (I know I am), but they won’t be voting for Barack Obama.
In his article, Chait pointed out the one thing that would kill a Clinton candidacy, “Unless the economy goes into a recession over the next year and a half, Hillary Clinton is probably going to win the presidential election.” And that is about it. In fact, if we look back at the candidacy of Al Gore, we learn something interesting. The unemployment rate was flat. In fact, from April to August, it was going up. The fact that Gore won that election is an indication Democrats really do have an edge in presidential elections. Yet Gore won that election 291-246 — not a bad margin — roughly the margin Carter beat Ford with.
So I’m with Chait: the 2016 election is not even at this point. It is Hillary Clinton’s to lose. And about the only way that she does lose is if the economy tanks. And that isn’t a question of tanking at any time. We could go into recession now, and as long as we were coming out of it by this time next year, she would be fine. Of course, that doesn’t make me feel good, because anything could happen in that time frame.
Will sent me the current odds on different candidates. Clinton’s were by far the best: 13/10. And the odds of the Democrats keeping the White House are -200 and the odds of the Republicans taking it are +160. If I understand odds correctly (and it has been a long time), that means you would have to risk $200 on the Democrats to win $100; and you would have to risk $100 on the Republicans to win $160. In other words, the gambling community is about correct on the state of the race right now. Hillary Clinton is sitting in a very good place.