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Clinton’s ‘Comeback’ That Wasn’t

Clinton's win may be remarkable for other reasons, but it is not the "greatest comeback" since Nixon.
hillary clinton

Peter Beinart makes a very odd claim:

In purely political terms, Clinton’s victory—after losing the Democratic nomination in 2008—constitutes the greatest comeback by a presidential candidate since Richard Nixon won the Republican nomination in 1968, after losing the presidential election of 1960.

That is a huge overstatement. Clinton’s win may be remarkable for other reasons, but it is not the “greatest comeback” since Nixon. It is scarcely even a comeback. It’s true that losing Democratic candidates from previous cycles don’t usually return to win their party’s nomination (many don’t try), but this has happened on the Republican side many times. In that sense, Clinton’s success is not really any more surprising or remarkable than that of the elder Bush, Dole, McCain, or Romney. As Obama’s main opponent in 2008 and then as his heir apparent for the last eight years, it was taken for granted that Clinton would be the favorite for the nomination years ago. Indeed, she was such a prohibitive favorite for the 2016 nomination that very few prominent Democrats even considered running against her, and most of those that did gave up quickly. That the Sanders campaign has done as well as it has is a testament to how dissatisfied a large bloc of Democrats and independents has been with this arrangement, but the outcome was never really in doubt.

A political comeback implies that Clinton recovered from a seemingly career-ending defeat, overcame significant resistance, and achieved an improbable and unexpected victory. None of that is true of Clinton’s 2016 campaign. No one seriously thought her career was finished when she lost in 2008, she faced relatively little resistance from within her own party over the last eight years, and her victory was one of the most often predicted and likely events in U.S. politics in recent memory. She won in large part by being the preferred candidate of elected and party officials and most big donors, and by presenting herself as Obama’s successor. Calling Clinton’s victory a major comeback is as absurd as calling the Yankees underdogs in baseball.



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