Hillary Clinton’s grip on the nomination is hardly threatened by Bernie Sanders winning West Virginia. But she sure is having trouble generating excitement.
And the reason has to do with her incremental approach to the presidency. It may be sensible and realistic, but it’s a snooze. While Sanders is drawing huge crowds who are feeling the Bern, Clinton is running a position-paper campaign -- that is, when she’s not deflecting the latest broadside from Donald Trump.
Maybe that helps explain why she’s won 23 states and he’s won 19, although hers are much bigger and have given her a virtually insurmountable delegate lead.
Clinton’s not-so-subtle argument running against Trump is that she’s a tested leader who wouldn’t do crazy stuff. But much of what she talks about is tweaking government—and tweaking doesn’t get the voters’ pulse rate up.
Take a release I got the other day on Clinton’s “bold new goal”: Limiting child-care costs to no more than 10 percent of a family’s income. She would boost the salaries of child-care workers by creating the Respect And Increased Salaries for Early Childhood Educators (RAISE) initiative. She would increase child care on campuses by spending $235 million more on the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS). She would give student parents scholarships of up to $1,500 through the Student Parents in America Raising Kids (SPARK) program.
All this sound like more bureaucracy and more federal spending, if not at the wildly expensive Sanders free-college-for-all level.
As the Washington Post smartly noted the other day, Clinton would crack down on Wall Street by expanding a regulatory form—one that is already 42 pages long and can require up to 300 hours to fill out.
Clinton wants to give students a tax credit worth up to $2,500, the paper noted, if they fill out Form 1098-T and Form 8863 and make a series of calculations.
On some issues, like free trade, Sanders has pulled her to the left. And she veered left the other day on health care, where Bernie famously doesn’t think ObamaCare goes far enough and wants a single-payer health system run by the government.
Clinton this week came out for a public option that would give those 50 or 55 and up the opportunity to buy into the Medicare program, which would be a large step toward government-run health care—and miles from what she pushed as first lady.
She is the opposite of a bumper-sticker candidate. She uses many words but rarely utters memorable phrases.
Trump, of course, is having his own stutter-steps on policy. Having proposed a massive tax cut that by some estimates would add up to $10 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, his campaign has asked CNBC anchor Larry Kudlow and former Wall Street Journal writer Stephen Moore for suggestions on bringing down the cost.
In the end, the election isn’t likely to be decided on specific policy positions. He will run to her left on some issues, especially military intervention. Clinton and Trump offer dramatically contrasting styles, one a cautious creature of government, the other a bombastic businessman who denounces government.
Many critics say Trump , who told the New York Times the primaries gave him a “mandate” to be provocative, needs to tone it down. But perhaps Hillary needs to dial it up.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.