Just keep looking ahead, Hillary. Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Why Hillary Clinton Shouldn't Listen to Journalists

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Politico offers advice for Hillary Clinton today that's practically a greatest-hits list of How Not to Run for President. About the only useful takeaway is that if she does follow Politico's advice, Democrats should probably start wondering if they might want another candidate.

In terms of practical suggestions, the idea that she should begin distancing herself from President Barack Obama has to be about as bad is it gets, although the idea that she should be worrying now about "fair-minded non-partisans or mild partisans" -- a group that won't start paying attention to the 2016 presidential election until after the conventions are over -- is pretty silly, too.

And I'm not even sure which part of "Don't turn into Mitt Romney" is worse: the idea that because the loser of the last election had particular presentation problems that Clinton should be worried about those particular problems ... or the idea that "Romney might have been president if he could have narrowed the gap between himself and people who thought he was awkward, elitist, insular, and just a bit odd." Get those authors a copy of Sides and Vavreck!

The main point? All presidential candidates should be thinking about just one thing right now: the nomination. Sure, they should be careful not to do something at this stage that would make them entirely unelectable in November 2016, but mostly general elections are about big structural factors, not candidates (and certainly not about candidate presentation; it's impossible to win a major-party presidential nomination without having the personal electioneering skills needed to win in the fall). Sure, candidates and their campaigns can matter on the margins, but there's not a lot that they do right now that will make any difference that far down the line. If, that is, they even get there.

Because the priority right now is nomination, the last thing Clinton should be doing is distancing herself from Barack Obama, who the Gallup Organization tells us, remained around 80 percent approval among Democrats at last check. Now, it's certainly possible that Obama may be the kiss of death in November 2016, although it's far too early to know that, and he's hardly at that point yet with an approval number that has been in the low 40s. But if so, absolutely nothing Clinton or any other Democrat could do to "distance" themselves will work.

John Harris and Maggie Haberman do have a couple of worthwhile, if obvious, suggestions. Clinton's campaign certainly should be doing (or actually have already done) a first-rate job of self-research. And, yes, she should be ready with some sort of platform to run on. Good advice for any candidate down to the city council level; I'm fairly sure Clinton's campaign had thought of those tasks already.

As I said last week, at some point Clinton is going to have a bad week, and the news media is going to be eager to pile on. I'm not sure if a bit of gossip about the 1990s really counts as a "bad" week, but Politico's efforts to turn it into "publicity storms that can hijack her public image and swamp her plans to carefully manage her re-entry into public life" which Clinton is "acutely vulnerable" to is fair notice of the pile-on. What matters for Clinton's campaign is to avoid overreacting to every little one of these, and just keep plowing ahead.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

(Jonathan Bernstein writes about U.S. politics for Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter at @jbplainblog.)

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Frank Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net