Tremors: Hillary passing on Netroots Nation

The annual gather of progressives known as Nutroots, er… sorry… Netroots Nation is fast approaching. This year it will be taking place next month in Phoenix, Arizona and the excited liberal base will be thronging there to hear from prominent Left side speakers and candidates for high office. But as it turns out, one rather notable figure has sent back their RSVP “with regrets” and won’t be able to make it. And that would be Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is skipping a gathering of politically active progressives next month that would have put her on the same stage with her Democratic challengers — and likely set up unwelcome comparisons with liberal heroine Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

Clinton sent regrets for Netroots Nation, a three-day political conference that is a draw for some of the most ardent progressive activists, because she has previously scheduled speaking events in Iowa and Arkansas, her campaign said.

“Our campaign looks forward to earning the support of the Democrats participating in this conference but Hillary Clinton has scheduling conflicts which will prevent her from attending,” campaign spokesman Jesse Ferguson said. “She wishes them the best on their conference.”

Clinton is far and away the Democratic front-runner, with 75 percent of Democratic support in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll out this week. But she has struggled to gain the enthusiastic backing of the far left, despite running a very left-leaning campaign so far.

Netroots has been talked about as the liberal answer to CPAC since its inception and at least to some extent that’s probably true. It’s never amassed the same kind of popular appeal or drawn the kind of numbers that the conservative gathering does each winter, but building something like that takes time. It was originally known as YearlyKOS, but I suppose that was a little too blog-centric for them to build a following. But last year’s shindig had some high profile speakers from the Left and attracted a few thousand people, so they seem to be sticking with the plan.

The Washington Post article states the obvious repeatedly. Hillary’s excuse that she has a scheduling conflict – ostensibly for some speaking engagements including “an Arkansas Democratic Party dinner” – seem to be transparently weak. This convention has been known of and planned basically since the last convention, just as we do for CPAC. But if she were to go she would be running into O’Malley, Warren and Sanders in front of a potentially rough crowd. We see the same thing on the Right, of course, with some of the more RINOish northeastern Republicans passing on CPAC in years past.

Is this actually going to hurt Hillary? That’s doubtful. Her poll numbers haven’t seriously budged in a while among Democrat primary voters and what would she have to gain by going and having a bunch of far Left bloggers yell at her? Sanders has eaten into her lead slightly, but not nearly enough to present a serious threat. And as Clinton has shown in the past, she is skillful at simply shrugging off a few bad headlines and just moving on, refusing to discuss any unpleasant subjects. Whatever ugly quotes come out of Netroots Nation will be quickly forgotten as the media latches on to the next shiny object.