Hillary Clinton as Mitt Romney


If you tuned in to last night’s debate because you were expecting a substantive examination of the great issues facing our country and about which some hard decisions need to be made—and soon—you were disappointed. Trump’s signature issue, immigration, was hardly discussed and questions of war and trade were not debated at the highest level. If you tuned in last night to watch a reality-show inspired smack-down handed to one or the other candidate, you were similarly disappointed. This debate was not that, surprisingly, quite boring for most of it. But, as Charles Krauthammer commented at the debate’s conclusion, the debate was a draw and the thing about draws is that they almost always go to challengers.

Although I think it is indisputable that Trump whiffed on a number of fastballs down the middle from Clinton, the first several plate appearances scored him solid hits. From there, the consensus among the pundits and the fancy-people is that he tanked. And I confess that I was disappointed in his second half performance, too. There was no home run and he seemed to get on base mainly on errors after the opening part of the debate. He got bogged down with a lot junk pitches from Clinton. He didn’t strike out, but he did hit a lot of foul balls on pitches he’d have been better off letting pass. He barely escaped striking out looking, in my humble opinion.

But my opinion and the opinion of other experienced debate scorers does not seem matter.

Indeed, the consensus across the anecdotal platforms that tells us what the only important people in this election—the voters—think, offers an alternate take. Online “snap polls” handed Trump a near universal win, including sites like Slate and Time, which cannot be described as leaning Republican or conservative. At the New York Post Salena Zito offers some interesting insights on a group of undecided independents and Democrats who gathered to watch inside a bar in Youngstown, PA called, of all things, the “Tin Lizzy.” One of the people Zito interviews for the article, Ken Reed, is a registered Democrat and small business owner. He offered the following observation on the evening:

By the end of the debate, Clinton never said a thing to persuade me that she had anything to offer me or my family or my community. . . . Have to say that Trump had the edge this evening, he came out swinging but also talked about specifics on jobs and the economy.

Reed went on to explain that Secretary Clinton came across as “smug or as though she was reading her résumé” and that there was nothing about her résumé that touched his life.

At a similar gathering happening in a watering hole a world apart from the Tin Lizzy, Hollywood conservatives, for the most part, had a like reaction:

“This is nothing but a good time,” said ‘Magic’ Matt Alan of satellite radio and Outlaw Radio. “Trump is cleaning the floor with the miserable, no-talent hack. Is there any debate? He’s kicking her ass. Look at her. She wants to kill him.”

And then there was this:

“On balance, Trump is winning,” said Andrew Klavan, a novelist, screenwriter and author of The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ. “He’s keeping his cool. If he was a little smarter, he could take her apart, because she’s not proposing anything new. Even so, Trump is an entertaining guy and it’s serving him well tonight.”

Klavan’s comment fairly sums up my opinion of the debate. The part of me that wants to see a substantive dismantling of the politics of the Left is disappointed. But the part of me that understands such a dismantling would not have resonated at this time is counseling patience. This is because the hurdle of achieving popular disdain for the purveyors of Leftist hokum has not been cleared, so I take it as a sign of progress that voters don’t find naked Leftism resonating either. That they are willing to grade Trump on a curve suggests that they do not yet see themselves—as conservatives would have them do—hiring a President to provide this dismantling of the Left. They don’t yet know that this dismantling is necessary to improve their lives. What they do know, and seem to know better than the pundits (even and including me) is that Hillary offers nothing that will improve their lots in life or improve the standing of our country.

In last night’s debate, she was the more polished and experienced candidate. No doubt about it. But does this help her with the people she needs to convince to support her? The thing pundits are just beginning to understand about the voter uprising this cycle is that formerly complicit voters are saying, “No thanks!” to all of that. A good friend of mine remarked this morning that Hillary Clinton reminded him of an old boss he doesn’t like. He expected more out of Trump than he got, but if Trump was full-on Trump in seeming ill-prepared, Hillary’s problem was that she was full-on Hillary by a factor of ten. She didn’t show anything original or insightful or that indicated she’d been paying attention to what people have been saying concerns them in this election. She recited talking points and tired clichés she had rehearsed in front of a mirror—probably since 1992. If this were 1992, perhaps it would sell. But we’ve seen this movie before and didn’t like it much. It’s a much harder sell today—mainly because we know how it turns out. That politics and those debates produced a farce. If we are going to have to endure a farce, let’s at least be entertained by someone who will call it such.

Put differently, Hillary Clinton is the Mitt Romney of this cycle. She failed in 2008 next to Obama because he was the candidate who understood that a new kind of politics (like it or not) and a new kind of media outreach was required to capture the imagination of an American public tuned out and exhausted of the old-style political game. He fought on a different plane. Clinton hasn’t been a good student either of her husband or of Obama. Similarly, Mitt Romney failed against Obama because he wanted to play the old game, too. He wanted to recite policy talking points and show off his polish and acumen on points. Voters yawned and called BS. They. Don’t. Care.

Clinton is likely to lose this election because she refuses (and, probably, can’t) learn the new rules. She is the polished corporate BS slinger that everyone recognizes and despises. The high school debate team captain who annoys all but the teachers most needy of validation. She makes Trump seem interesting and compelling by comparison, even when he rambles and trips over himself—as he did in many places last night. Whatever Trump actually is or is not, he seems to be the more “real” candidate to the people tired of this show. They want to change the channel.

About Julie Ponzi

Julie Ponzi is Senior Editor of American Greatness. She holds an M.A. in political philosophy and American politics from the Claremont Graduate University. She was an Earhart Fellow and a Bradley Foundation Fellow while studying at Claremont and also earned a Publius Fellowship from The Claremont Institute. Formerly the Director of Academic Programs at the Claremont Institute, she also taught American politics at Azusa Pacific University. Her writing has appeared in the Claremont Review of Books, The Online Library of Law and Liberty, The Columbus Dispatch, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Washington Times. She was also a regular and long-time contributor to the Ashbrook Center's blog, No Left Turns. She lives in California. You can follow her on Twitter at @JuliePonzi

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11 responses to “Hillary Clinton as Mitt Romney”

  1. Excellent analysis. Conventional wisdom has been rote idiocy this cycle. Even before 2016, though, the “debates” ceased to be anything but theater. If Trump put on a good enough show and is remembered for doing so, it probably does break to his advantage. Dr. Krauthammer is a remarkable mind but early in the primary he let conventional wisdom get the better of him. His recent analysis has been largely accurate because he started to view the world through a contemporary prism. He’s one of the few Establishment pundits who has been able to adjust to the new realities.
    Nothing changed the trend lines last night, which all were in the direction of Trump. Hillary Clinton offered no policy proposals or new insights or suddenly developed charisma. Trump very well could make some major stumble or blunder in the weeks ahead but at the moment the wind is at his back and he looks well-positioned to win.

  2. TRUMP: The record shows that I’m right. When I did an interview with Howard Stern, very lightly, first time anyone’s asked me that, I said, very lightly, I don’t know, maybe, who knows? Essentially. I then did an interview with Neil Cavuto. We talked about the economy is more important. I then spoke to Sean Hannity, which everybody refuses to call Sean Hannity. I had numerous conversations with Sean Hannity at Fox. And Sean Hannity said — and he called me the other day — and I spoke to him about it — he said you were totally against the war, because he was for the war.

    HOLT: Why is your judgment better than…

    TRUMP: And when he — excuse me. And that was before the war started. Sean Hannity said very strongly to me and other people — he’s willing to say it, but nobody wants to call him. I was against the war. He said, you used to have fights with me, because Sean was in favor of the war.

    And I understand that side, also, not very much, because we should have never been there. But nobody called Sean Hannity. And then they did an article in a major magazine, shortly after the war started. I think in ’04. But they did an article which had me totally against the war in Iraq.

    And one of your compatriots said, you know, whether it was before or right after, Trump was definitely — because if you read this article, there’s no doubt. But if somebody — and I’ll ask the press — if somebody would call up Sean Hannity, this was before the war started. He and I used to have arguments about the war. I said, it’s a terrible and a stupid thing. It’s going to destabilize the Middle East. And that’s exactly what it’s done. It’s been a disaster.

    HOLT: My reference was to what you had said in 2002, and my question was…

    TRUMP: No, no. You didn’t hear what I said.

    HOLT: Why is your judgment — why is your judgment any different than Mrs. Clinton’s judgment?

    TRUMP: Well, I have much better judgment than she does. There’s no question about that. I also have a much better temperament than she has, you know?


    I have a much better — she spent — let me tell you — she spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an advertising — you know, they get Madison Avenue into a room, they put names — oh, temperament, let’s go after — I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament. I know how to win. She does not have a…

    HOLT: Secretary Clinton?

    TRUMP: Wait. The AFL-CIO the other day, behind the blue screen, I don’t know who you were talking to, Secretary Clinton, but you were totally out of control. I said, there’s a person with a temperament that’s got a problem.

    HOLT: Secretary Clinton?

    CLINTON: Whew, OK.

    No, this clown isn’t going to win. Thanks for nominating this loser, Decius.

    • Sounds like a man with wisdom. Standing against the entire Republican zeitgeist calling for a stupid war in Iraq.

      • Up until now, you’d have said that was an essential qualification.

      • Maybe Trump should just have said “I can’t recall” over and over and over and over again, like Clinton did when questioned about EmailGate. And like she did in WhitewaterGate back in the day.

      • Except that we obviously know that he can answer a question.

  3. If you assume that Trump and Clinton were competing on an even playing field then you’d have to conclude that Clinton won.

    If you acknowledge the indisputable fact that the playing field was titled heavily in Clinton’s favor (she was asked no questions on the Clinton Foundation, on her health, on emailgate, on Benchazi etc while Trump was grilled on inconsequential nonsense like the birther story) then Trump came out on top.

    And that’s before you consider the stories going around that NBC gave Hillary the questions a week before the debate to help her prepare.