WAGNER: Come November, Hillary could win Hoosiers’ hearts

January 16, 2016

This is how presidential politics look through the lens of the national media: Donald Trump said something. GOP candidates are having tons of rallies in early primary states. Everyone on the right is chiming in on the headline du jour in a perfectly predictable way.

And then there’s Hillary Clinton, doing her thing.

She’s out there on the trail. But for some reason, chipping away at issues that matter to real people isn’t as sexy as a bunch of Republican dudes chipping away at each other’s opposition research files.

Clinton is running a solid state-by-state campaign to be our next president, but she’s not center stage. The Republican circus side show has occupied that space.

After all, she’s merely a former first lady, former U.S. senator and former Secretary of State, who has actual ideas about how to solve problems we all face every day.

Sure, there are the big-ticket items like terrorism and immigration, which she handles with the ease of someone who got dozens of briefings per day in her last job. But there’s also the stuff that the folks just living their lives can relate to: the intersection of mental health and public safety, the outlandish cost of college, genetic research into diseases that pull families apart.

It may sound strange, but overlooking Clinton’s policy-level appeal is a really good thing for Democrats.

In 2008, I fell hard for Team Hopey-Changey. I work in messaging, and I wanted to believe that a presidential candidate’s narrative could transform a generation of [younger] people—who either had doubts about or didn’t even care about politics—into a generation of politically engaged citizens.

It didn’t quite turn out the way I thought it would.

President Obama has been good for our nation. I’m proud to have worked for his administration. I believe he will be remembered fondly for his accomplishments.

But no mere mortal can expect to roll into Washington and change its entrenched ways, certainly not with a Congress that sometimes acts more like a room of petulant preschoolers at snack time than a distinguished branch of our government.

Hillary Clinton understands that you do not mess with hungry three-year-olds. You don’t give in to their tantrums. But you also can’t walk away. Instead, you have to find a way.

Her way is a connection to Americans that’s much more maternal than anyone gives her credit for.

She holds her own, takes a deep breath, counts to 10 and explains that there was a line for the potty at that debate.

Everyone laughs, realizing that this woman—this stateswoman, this lawyer, this public servant, this mother, this grandmother—is real. She can connect.

And so, as 2016 gets up and running, here’s my bold prediction: The presidential race will once again be in play in Indiana.

Despite the hype, I don’t know that the statewide races will be much to watch. My party is fighting the good fight, but we live in Indiana, and national Republican forces have a lot to lose if they lose here.

But as the GOP presidential nominee looks more and more like it will be Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, goodness me, this could be 2008 all over again—when President Obama became the first Democrat to win Indiana since Lyndon Johnson.

Because when the shine wears off the sound bites, the anger and the chest-thumping mansplaining, I believe Hoosiers will seek a better choice. And once they can actually hear what Clinton has to say, we might just be looking at another Indiana election night in the White House history books.•


Recent Articles by Jennifer Wagner / Special to IBJ

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