Friday, May 08, 2015

Is Hillary Clinton ready to defend herself against the inevitable social media onslaught?

By Richard Barry

Dylan Byers is saying what a lot of people are saying, which is that this presidential election is Hillary Clinton's to lose.

He does some compelling Electoral College math suggesting an extremely strong starting position for Mrs. Clinton as he notes the difficulty Republicans will have "shifting the map" given how poorly some of the GOP's entrenched positions play in states they would have to win to be competitive.

But all is not lost for the GOP, Byers argues, if one of two things happens:

1. The Republicans build an Obama 2008-level narrative around their nominee, significantly broadening their candidate's appeal to independents and Democrats. 

2. Some legitimate controversy, historic stumble, unconscionable error or jaw-dropping gaffe completely reorients the way voters view Hillary Clinton.

Byers adds that E-mail-Gate or Clinton Foundation-Gate are not going to be her downfall, though something else could arise.

As for scenario number one, it's not going to happen. The GOP hasn't got that kind of candidate in the contest. 

So, it's scenario number two. Hillary Clinton has to defeat herself, which, Byers writes, is not inconceivable given the current climate.

First he writes that the "national media have never been more primed to take down Hillary Clinton." The way they have gone after the Clinton Foundation story and the e-mail business, while stories not likely to be fatal, indicate how hard they will pursue leads of any sort.  That could be important.

But his second point I find more interesting.
[The] media environment is radically different from the 1990s or even the 2000s. The power and volume of social media means that controversies can be both disseminated and elevated to unprecedented levels. In today's media environment, nothing with even a whiff of gunpowder comes across the transom without blowing up, because blowing stuff up is what the media do. Or, as Daniel Henninger notes in today's Wall Street Journal, the "electronic elements have reached critical mass ... [and] the new political media that will drive the 2016 presidential contest are like the surface of the oceans — huge, always moving, unpredictable and potentially destructive."

The unprecedented "power and volume of social media," and I would add the sums of money that will be available to add fuel are on point. Each year these factors become exponentially more important. Because of Hillary Clinton's profile going in, she could be badly damaged by so much that she does or says or that comes out because of the ability of social media to disseminate and elevate, perhaps far in excess of the damage it would have caused in previous election cycles. 

The higher the profile, the easier the target, and Mrs. Clinton's profile couldn't be higher. And, let's face it, the Clinton's are aways good copy. 

There is an unknown here, maybe something qualitatively different than we've seen up to this point. I'm not sure it signals a problem for Hillary Clinton of the sort that could lead her demise, but it should make "Team Hillary" nervous. 

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  • For many years, here in my very Democratic hometown, we had a Republican US Representative. The reason was that he was about to be destroyed by the Democratic incumbent. But a month before the election, the incumbent died in a plane crash. He still won, but they had another election and the Republican won. And we were stuck with him for the next 20 years. So Hillary could die.

    But I don't think this can be repeated enough: if the economy tanks during the first 9 months of 2016, the Republican candidate is almost certain to win. Maybe the demographics have changed enough in the Democrats' favor for that not to be as true. But that's still going to be the biggest part of the outcome.

    I am, however, working on an article that counters this idea. But it will only work to the Democrats' favor. If the economy takes off in 2016, the Republican is going down in a big way.

    By Blogger Frank Moraes, at 7:59 PM  

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