Following her announcement on Sunday, Hillary Clinton officially sets out on her 2016 campaign, and now eyes are on Clinton's relationship with current President Barack Obama more than ever. Any candidate is put in a tough position when their party has held the White House for two consecutive terms already, but, considering Obama’s dipping approval ratings and Congress’s dismal performance over the last several years, Clinton has an especially challenging balancing act.
Clinton can’t outright separate herself from Obama and his stances, at the risk of alienating the party and the Democrats who still support the president. But she can’t necessarily follow in his footsteps either, as that would alienate voters who are frustrated with the president and want to see change in the White House. So, Clinton must carefully stay within the lines while still delicately underlining the differences between herself and Obama.
The two admittedly have a lot in common, but, as evidenced by the Democratic primary contest in 2008, they also have a few differences. As Clinton progresses through her campaign, these will likely be points that she pulls out in certain moments and submerges at others. Here are three of the key ways Clinton and Obama differ.
1. Their relationships with Wall Street.
Wall Street is, perhaps, one of the key points of divergence between Clinton and Obama. While Obama’s Dodd-Frank banking reforms have led to tenuous relationships with Wall Street financiers, the Clintons have long had a much warmer relationship with the financial sector. Back in 1999, for example, Clinton supported the repeal of the Glass-Steagall banking law, which was designed to provide for the safer use of banks’ assets and to regulate interbank control.
Just last year, Clinton paid a visit to the Ameriprise Financial Conference in Boston. She’s also made frequent visits to Goldman Sachs and other investors, including The Carlyle Groups. However, these relationships may be a strong point for Clinton in 2016, especially against critiques from Republican candidates, The Washington Post reports.
2. Their foreign policy approaches.
As evidenced by Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, she has a much different approach to foreign policy than Obama does. While the Obama administration has been criticized for its use of what some call “soft power,” Clinton’s attitude is considerably more hawkish and direct.
In Clinton’s memoir that she released last summer, Hard Choices, she outlined some of the key foreign policy issues on which she disagreed with Obama, despite the fact that the two were working together on foreign policy for years. Perhaps most notably, Clinton has questioned Obama’s hard-line approach to dealings with Israel, and suggested she might be less forceful in dealings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom Obama notoriously has a pretty rocky relationship.
She has also criticized Obama for not dealing with Putin harshly enough, for the administration’s handling of arming Syrian rebels, and for his 18-month deadline for bringing the troops home from Afghanistan.
3. Their experience levels upon entering office.
Age alone shows just how different Obama and Clinton’s experience levels would be upon entering office. When Obama was inaugurated in 2009, he had just turned 47, making him the fourth youngest person ever elected to office. Clinton, on the other hand, would be 69 when she would be inaugurated, if she wins the primary and the general election. That would make her the second oldest person ever to take office, behind Ronald Reagan.
Age aside, the two also would have large differences in their experience levels when entering office. When Obama ran for office, he wasn’t well known. According to USA Today, 50 percent of Americans had never heard of Obama in two years before the '08 presidential election.
In contrast, Clinton has long been a household name. Obama had served four years in the U.S. Senate when he won office. Clinton, on the other hand, was in the Senate for eight years, spent four years as secretary of state, and also spent eight years in the White House when her husband was president.
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