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Politics & Policy

The Number That Explains Why Hillary Is Distancing Herself From Obama

Hillary Clinton in New York on Sept. 25, 2013

Photograph by Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Hillary Clinton in New York on Sept. 25, 2013

The Wall Street Journal reports today what anyone with a pair of eyes and even a vague interest in national politics has already figured out: Hillary Clinton is distancing herself from President Obama ahead of her likely presidential campaign. She’s signaled that she’d do a better job of attracting Republicans. That she’d be more assertive abroad. That she’s better attuned to the economic pains of the middle class. “They don’t think the economy has recovered in a way that has helped them or their families,” Clinton said last week in Aspen, to an audience of plutocrats.

With Obama’s approval rating stuck in the low 40s and Americans souring on his presidency, it’s no shock that Clinton isn’t waving the banner for a third Obama term. Yet the real number driving her conscious uncoupling from the president isn’t his approval rating, but what voters say they want in their next president. A Pew poll in April captured this nicely:

Pew Research Center

Two-thirds of voters say they want the next president, whoever he—or she!—may be, to offer policies different than Obama’s. As a former member of his cabinet who agrees with him on the overwhelming majority of issues, this is Clinton’s single greatest liability as a presidential candidate. The surprise to me isn’t that she’s subtly distancing herself from Obama. It’s that she isn’t being more overt about it.

Green is senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaGreen.

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