WaPo’s Dan Balz's message to Hillary: Being the first woman president is not a message

It has been a rough weekend for Hillary Clinton’s nascent presidential campaign.

All the elation on the left over the House Intelligence Committee’s report which largely exonerates the conduct of Barack Obama’s administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack is sure to dissipate when they realize that this same report was not flattering to former Sec. Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

The report found that State failed to provide its personnel in Benghazi with adequate security, in spite of numerous warnings in writing submitted to Washington by the late Amb. Chris Stevens about the deteriorating security situation and the need for a more robust defense of the diplomatic outpost in that turbulent city.

Now, on the politics front, Clinton endured yet another shot across the bow from Washington Post columnist Dan Balz. In a thorough and compelling dispatch which chronicled Clinton’s campaign rollout and the reception it has received from her prospective supporters, Balz warned that Hillary’s bid still lacks a narrative which would compel both liberals and persuadable centrist voters to back her for the White House in 2016.

“It’s fair to say that no one seeking the Democratic nomination — no one who wasn’t already an incumbent president at least — will have the kind of machinery in place that now exists for her,” Balz reported. “Still, machinery doesn’t win elections, which means the second and more important step for her is to know exactly why she wants to run for president again and how she is alike and different from her husband and Obama, and then to be able to articulate those reasons in a compelling and forward-looking message.”

Clinton is nibbled from all sides as she thinks through the rationale for a campaign. On the left are rising demands for a populist economic message of the kind associated with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. She has edged toward that, but sometimes awkwardly, as when she said last month, “businesses don’t create jobs,” a shorthand that baffled nearly everyone by its inarticulateness.

Her prospective candidacy offers the possibility of the first female president in history, but for all the power behind that aspiration, it is not a message. Nor, as the midterms proved, are narrow appeals to women of the kind that fell short for Democratic candidates for Senate in Iowa and Colorado — two states vitally important in a general election.

Nor can she count on the “demography is destiny” theme that many Democrats see as their ace in the hole in future presidential campaigns. In the corridors at the Ready For Hillary meeting, more than one Clinton loyalist said that will not be enough to win in 2016.

Balz’s warning confirms that, though the left is Ready for Hillary, it also lacks for a compelling alternative to her candidacy. It’s not hard to be the inevitable nominee when you’re seen as having a monopoly on the concept of viability at the ballot box. Moreover, Clinton’s “inarticulateness” and her reliance on the dubious presumption that narrow appeals to the themes associated with female victimhood are, in Balz’s estimation, just not going to cut it in 2016.