This New Republic piece by Danny Vinik is accompanied by a big picture of Hillary Clinton and has the clickbait title "Hillary Clinton's Biggest Vulnerability: Her Economic Agenda," but it's really about what a terrible liability the Democratic economic agenda could be in 2016 regardless of who the Democratic nominee is -- and it's an utter crock:
Amid all the midterm hoopla over Benghazi, the IRS and Veterans Affairs scandals, and Obamacare, it's easy to forget that presidential elections are mostly defined by the economy. Even today, Americans' top priority is the economy and that's unlikely to change by 2016. For Democrats, that's a problem. They have several smart ideas to help the economy fully recover from the Great Recession, but as we enter the latter half of Barack Obama's second term, the public increasingly blames him and his party for the weak recovery....Yes, and obviously the Republicans are going to run against Clinton (or Biden or O'Malley or Warren or Sanders) with the message that we've had eight years of failed economic policies and it's time for a change. But they're also going to run specifically opposing wildly popular policies: raising the minimum wage (71%-28% favorability according to a May CNN poll), paid family leave (which 86% of Americans support; Hillary thinks it's politically difficult right now, but she backs it), and job creation and infrastructure spending programs (77% and 75% support respectively, according to Gallup in 2013).
Herein lies the problem for Democrats: They have an economic agenda that would help return the economy to full employment.... But those ideas have lost their political salience, because of their supposed lack of success in the Obama era.
Vinik warns that Republican ideas might look awfully good to voters:
In contrast, Republicans will have a policy agenda that seems substantial and is untested. Whoever the GOP nominee is for 2016, their economic platform will almost certainly contain spending and tax cuts along with a deregulatory plan -- the same policies they have supported throughout the Obama presidency. As the minority party, the GOP does not need to change that platform, and it might just appeal to voters if Democrats can't find a better way to sell their economic ideas.Right --and these are the same policies that have lost Republicans the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections: tax cuts that will almost certainly be skewed toward the rich, along with deregulatory schemes that warm the hearts of Fox viewers and attendees at Koch confabs but have absolutely no kitchen-table appeal otherwise. The next GOP nominee may not come off as a new Mitt Romney personally, but he's going to have a set of economic positions that's 100% Romney. Sure, talk of spending and the debt will connect with a lot of centrist voters, but we're going to have the same economic debate we have every four years -- and even though it's always a close contest, Democrats win that every four years.
I agree that after eight economically woeful years, Republicans ought to be able to find an opening. But they've lost the ability even to fake empathy with ordinary citizens -- they don't think you're a real American unless you own a small business and they've drunk so much Randian Kool-Aid that many of them are afraid even to say that a minimal safety net should exist. Remember, the 2016 Republican nominee may not even be willing to say that America should have a minimum wage. (Marco Rubio in 2013: "I don’t think a minimum wage law works." Also see Rand Paul.)
Vinik is wrong. Economics is the biggest vulnerability for Republicans in 2016.
Oh, and here's my point made in visual form. The numbers are from a March Abc/Washington Post poll (PDF):