Hillary Clinton’s frustrated critique of her rejection by a portion of the American electorate has drawn criticism from fellow Democrats who need to win those parts of the country to keep their jobs in November.
And a note to the rest of the party: It’s the same type of area where Conor Lamb declared victory Wednesday morning that Democrats will need to win back (or win anew) if they ever want a House or Senate majority again.
Clinton was speaking in India and bemoaning a “phenomenon of disappointment,” in parts of the country. She said the US is not entirely represented by President Donald Trump when she said the states she won were the future of the country – diverse economic engines.
“I won the places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product,” Clinton said. “So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward. And his whole campaign, ‘Make America Great Again,’ was looking backwards. You know, you didn’t like black people getting rights, you don’t like women, you know, getting jobs, you don’t want to, you know, see that Indian-American succeeding more than you are, whatever your problem is, I’m going to solve it.”
The comments are not sitting too well with Democratic senators running for re-election in states Trump won.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown told Huffington Post: “I don’t really care what she said. I just think that that’s not helpful.”
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill told reporters on Capitol Hill when asked about Clinton’s comments: “Oh, come on,” adding, “You’re killing me here.”
Clinton’s former 2008 campaign manager was critical of the comments during an appearance with HLN’s SE Cupp.
“Look, this was bad. I can’t sugarcoat it,” Patti Solis Doyle said. “She was wrong and clearly it’s not helpful to Democrats going into the midterms and certainly not going into 2020. She’s put herself in a position where Democrats are going to have to distance themselves from these remarks and distance themselves from her, particularly those Democrats that are running in the states that Donald Trump won.”
Republicans, meanwhile, have tried to turn Clinton’s comments into a new narrative about Democrats.
The Republican National Committee and other Republican groups quickly circulated them.
In addition to the backward argument, Clinton tried to explain why she didn’t do better with women, who she said might be influenced by the other people in their household. She lost white women with 43% versus Trump’s 52% in 2016.
“(Democrats) do not do well with white men, and we don’t do well with married, white women. And part of that is an identification with the Republican Party, and a sort of ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should,” she said.
Clinton’s comments struck at the very question that splits Democrats right now. Lamb’s apparent victory Tuesday, slim though it may be, in a special election for a congressional district outside Pittsburgh suggests it is possible for Democrats to field the kind of moderate candidates that can win in mostly white districts that went overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016.
Whether the party should keep its focus on urban and suburban areas – the ones Clinton argues are forward-looking – or try to win back the areas that abandoned her in 2016 is going to be a huge debate in the party going forward.
Look for Joe Biden, who was born in Pennsylvania and who campaigned for Lamb last week, to carry the torch for the latter camp should he opt to run in 2020. He’ll speak to the same kind of moderate voters who Lamb tried to appeal to even as most 2020 Democratic prospects seem to be clustering on the liberal side of the party.
More immediately, Democrats will have to defend 26 seats and take some currently held by Republicans if they want a Senate majority in 2018. Ten of those seats are in states Trump won in 2016. Republicans are only defending 9 seats. And only two of the seats currently held by Republicans were won by Clinton. That’s an impossible map for Democrats in any but a truly wave year.
In the House, Republicans control 23 seats in districts won by Clinton. Assuming Lamb’s declared victory holds up, Democrats will need 23 pickups in order to win the House majority.
Which is all in the way of saying that they’ll likely need more moderates like Lamb – who said he would not support Nancy Pelosi as the Democratic leader and who represents a place that frustrates Clinton – if they want to control anything in Washington next year.