Making Hillary’s Case
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is not proceeding exactly as planned. While she appears clearly headed to receiving the nomination in Philadelphia at the end of July, she will not be rolling into the city of brotherly love, beloved by all of her Democratic brothers and sisters. In fact as a result of the persistent Sanders campaign, she will probably not be able to relax until after the California primary on June 7. Even then–by which time she will most likely have enough pledged delegates (even excluding super delegates)—the Clinton forces know they probably will face platform fights before the convention and potentially floor fights as well. The one good thing that Hillary is likely to receive after she secures the nomination in California is that the President is expected to get into the ring and start stalking after Trump.
Hillary needs Obama to get into the fight because it is becoming clear at this point that Bill may be too much of a liability despite the fact that he is a masterful campaigner. Trump has made it very clear that he intends to attack President Clinton’s affairs and his wife’s tolerance of his wayward behavior before and during his White House days. What Obama has always done well and could help Hillary is on the road in driving more excitement for her candidacy. While many can and do question how effective a leader he has been, few deny that Obama was and still can be a master on the stump. (According to some analysts, in fact, were she to be elected despite her weaknesses as a candidate, Hillary could well be a better decision maker and President than Obama.)
Getting Obama on the stump as soon as possible will have two critical positive effects for the Clinton campaign. He will be able to reach out immediately to the African-American voters and the Hispanic voters who are vital to Clinton’s entire campaign. Both of these communities need to be energized now and the urgency for them to engage already before the convention. While some of these groups have supported Sanders, unlike some groups of female voters who may be waffling on Hillary, both Black and Latino voters need Obama to underscore now the need for them to register and be prepared to stand up to Trump’s expected anti-Hillary onslaught.
There is another way that Obama on the stump can help Clinton. While current polls show Hillary with a small lead, Trump will undoubtedly get post-convention bump. Clinton needs to improve her polling numbers now to force the Trump team to escalate its attacks sooner which could well force him into mistakes. Better poll numbers will also be achieved if the disengaged or un-engaged Obama supporters get rolling soon. Better poll numbers can also change momentum. This too the President can drive.