Every 2016 contender with a shot at the general election has an important question to answer: Go big? Or go base?
Should a campaign focus on building new constituencies? Or turning out existing ones? From this elemental decision flows the entire operation: Data, money, policy and rhetoric.
David Brooks has an interesting column out this week exploring how the current crop of 2016 frontrunners are answering this question. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, for example, is “going big.” Wisconsin governor Scott Walker? He’s “going base.”
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is “going base” – in a big way.
“Clinton strategists have decided that, even in the general election, firing up certain Democratic supporters is easier than persuading moderates,” Brooks wrote. “Clinton will adopt left-leaning policy positions carefully designed to energize the Obama coalition – African-Americans, Latinos, single women and highly educated progressives.”
According to Brooks, Clinton’s approach is bad for the country (in terms of polarization), bad for her legislative future (i.e. reaching across the aisle) and bad for her image as a leading (in that it makes her appear calculating).
But he also argues it’s bad for Clinton politically, citing her husband’s 1992 win, George Bush’s 2000 victory and Barack Obama’s 2008 election as examples of campaigns which all “went big.” And won big.
“Today’s political consultants have a lot of great tools to turn out reliable voters,” Brooks wrote. “They’re capable of creating amazing power points. But as everybody from Ed Miliband to Mark Udall can tell you, this approach has not succeeded at the ballot box. Voters want better politics, not a continuation of the same old techniques. By adopting base mobilization, Clinton seems to have made the first big decision of her presidential campaign. It’s the wrong one.”