According to David Axelrod, voters want a “remedy, not [a] replica” in the next candidate.
But what Axelrod’s book highlights is the way in which this kind of attack presents challenges that go well beyond mere association. In the 2008 campaign, the Bush’s “third term” charge was a way to highlight the contrast between the old and the new. McCain was a part of the Washington system, Obama was from outside that system. The attack created an appetite for the new, the flavor that Obama happened to be selling. Hillary Clinton may be a strong candidate, but she will never be able to pull off new.
Axelrod writes about a crucial lesson he learned from working on so many mayoral races. Voters want a “remedy, not [a] replica” in the next candidate, even when the incumbent leaving office is well-liked. He says this rule—which he learned most directly in the 1989 race for the mayor of Cleveland where Michael White, the Democrat, followed the popular incumbent Republican George Voinovich—applies to presidential campaigns, too. He wrote to Sen. Obama in 2008: “When incumbents step down, voters rarely opt for a replica of what they have, even when that outgoing leader is popular. They almost always choose change over the status quo.” This is a different formulation of what President Obama was talking about recently when he said voters wanted “that new car smell.” Clinton is associated with the status quo even more because she has the Obama years and the Clinton years attached to her.