Hillary's Progressive Balancing Act: Envisioning Bill's Potential White House Role and Reaching out to Sanders Voters

Hillary Clinton finds herself campaigning in Kentucky after Donald Trump has already clinched the Republican presidential nomination, and as she fights to end Bernie Sanders’ 19 state winning streak in a state that last voted for a Democratic president when her husband narrowly won the state during his reelection bid, her campaign is attempting a delicate balancing act to win over skeptical progressives while promising a return to a more moderate Clinton economic agenda.

“Hillary Clinton is considering a running mate who could make a direct appeal to supporters of Bernie Sanders, bridging a generational and political divide,” USA Today reported Monday:

Clinton’s chief requirements include a candidate’s resume and a fighter capable of hand-to-hand combat with Trump. The campaign’s vetting also prioritizes demographics over someone from a key swing state as she seeks to unify the Democratic voting base, said the individuals coordinating with the campaign, who were not authorized to speak on the record about early deliberations.


A [Elizabeth] Warren pick would leave unattended a gaping gender gap between her and Trump. But according to one source close to the campaign, officials believe she can build a winning coalition by rallying blacks, Hispanics, older women—who already support her—along with younger women, whom Warren could bring into the fold.  The source was not permitted to speak on the record about strategy.

According to top Clinton surrogate Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, however, the calculus on picking a progressive running mate could change if Sanders agrees to aggressively campaign for Clinton—suggesting that Clinton’s commitment to a more populist approach may be more about campaigning then governing. “It’s why you see the absolute hands-off respect to what Bernie has accomplished,” McCaskill, who backed then-senator Barack Obama over Clinton in the 2008 primary, explained. “At the point in time that she is nominated, which I believe she will be, this will really turn on Bernie and how Bernie handles it.”

While her campaign has remained rather tight-lipped about specific potential running mates, on the campaign trail, the candidate has begun to give more details on her vision for her husband’s role in the White House.

“The economy does better when we have a Democrat in the White House,” she reportedly told hundreds of supporters in Kentucky over the weekend. “My husband, who I’m going to put in charge of revitalizing the economy because, you know, he knows how to do it, and especially in places like coal country and inner cities and other parts of our country that have really been left out.”

“When my husband was president, incomes rose for everybody,” she said in Louisville on Sunday morning.

The former president was tasked with making his own direct appeal to low-income white working class voters who have repeatedly rejected Clinton in favor of Sanders in many states disproportionately impacted by job losses, in part because of Clinton-era trade deals.

“All I’m telling you is, I volunteer that if Hillary got elected president, I would like to be tasked with the responsibility to take you along for the ride to America’s future,” Bill Clinton told voters in Prestonsburg, the heart of Kentucky’s coal country, last week.

Of course, federal law bars spouses from serving in a president’s cabinet—so even if popular progressive Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren isn’t ultimately tapped to be Clinton’s running mate, she won’t be competing with Bill for the role of Treasury Secretary.


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