An op-ed published this week in the Wall Street Journal has ignited rumors of a potential 2020 presidential run for Hillary Clinton.
The piece discusses the different iterations of Hillary Clinton the public has seen over the past 30-plus years. But none of those versions became president and no matter how many times Clinton tries to reinvent herself she cannot change who she is at the core: inauthentic, unlikable and out of touch.
According to the op-ed by Mark Penn and Andrew Stein – headlined “Hillary Will Run Again” – Hillary Clinton 1.0 was a “universal-health-care-promoting progressive firebrand” in 1994 when she was first lady.
Hillary Clinton version 2.0 was a moderate when she successfully ran for the Senate and again when she lost in the Democratic presidential primaries to then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008.
In 2016, Clinton 3.0 was a progressive who moved further to the left because of her challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. And Hillary Clinton version 4.0 will run for president in 2020 by returning to her roots as a progressive, Penn and Stein predict.
But the fact there have been so many different versions of Clinton is precisely the problem.
Clinton is inauthentic. Former Obama adviser and Democratic strategist David Axelrod nailed this point about Clinton and the 2016 election when he said: “Authenticity is a big factor and a leading indicator for candidates, and they have to be comfortable in their own skin. There is no one wishing that Donald Trump would speak his mind. Hillary Clinton has always been allergic to revealing herself, and when she does talk, it comes out through a political filter.”
Clinton’s authenticity has also taken a major hit over the years because she changes policy positions depending on where the political winds are blowing. This gives the perception that she is not rooted in any core beliefs.
One issue that probably hurt Clinton most in the rust belt was trade. As secretary of state in 2012, she backed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, even calling it the “gold standard.” However, she changed her position in 2016 while under scrutiny from Bernie Sanders on the left and candidate Trump on the right.
Clinton also has a likability problem. In an interview with the Washington Post, Democratic pollster Peter Hart put it this way: “I bring it down to one thing and one thing only, and that is likability.”
The likability issue was also brought up during a 2008 Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire, when the moderator said voters were impressed by Clinton’s resume but were “hesitating on the likability issue.” Obama famously quipped that she was “likable enough” during the exchange.
Clinton is also out of touch. Her surprise pit stop to an Ohio Chipotle in 2015 while on the campaign trail demonstrated this. Despite it being a great opportunity for pictures with customers, she wore dark sunglasses in the restaurant. She couldn’t be bothered to speak with anyone.
Clinton’s infamous “basketful of Deplorables” comment also underscores this point. In response to her comment calling his supporters "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic,” Trump responded that Clinton showed "her true contempt for everyday Americans."
Other gaffes also speak to Clinton’s disconnect with voters. In response to a question from ABC’s Diane Sawyer in 2014 about her $200,000 speaking fees, Clinton said that she and President Bill Clinton “came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt.”
President Clinton received a $15 million advance for his memoir after leaving the White House and then-Sen. and former first lady Hillary Clinton received $8 million in a deal for her memoir.
In what will likely be a crowded 2020 Democrat primary field, Hillary Clinton would not stand out. Her time has come and gone. She is a relic of the past. No amount of pollsters, speechwriters, or consultants can change who she is – and that is why she will never be president.