Hillary Clinton certainly has a flair for the ironic. "There may be some new voices in the Republican presidential choir," Clinton observed in Saturday's re-annoucement that she was running for president. "But they're all singing the same old song — a song called 'Yesterday.'"
Clinton was accusing Republicans of being trapped in the past in the same speech that she began by referencing a speech Franklin Roosevelt gave in 1941. And in doing so, she quoted a song the Beatles released in 1965 — before Republicans Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal had even been born.
The reference was also an indication that Rubio has already gotten into her head.
If you recall, back in April, Clinton announced her candidacy for the first time. A day later, Rubio launched his campaign, stating, "Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday. But yesterday is over, and we are never going back."
So now, in her do-over announcement, Clinton wanted to attack this vulnerability head on. She signaled that she intended to do so by portraying Republicans as supporting policies protecting the economic and social status of rich white heterosexual males in an increasingly diverse and inclusive society.
In the speech, Clinton revealed all of her vulnerabilities as a candidate. Despite decades of practice, she remains a weak public speaker. It was a long, meandering, and flat speech, topping 40 minutes — highlighting her painfully bad sense of humor. "You won't see my hair turn white in the White House — I've been coloring it for years," she joked.
Back in 1996, her husband ran for re-election against a septuagenarian promising to build a bridge to the 21st century. Here she was, 20 years later, running for office building a bridge back to Roosevelt.
Beyond that, the speech demonstrated that despite claiming decades of experience, she has little to show for it in terms of actual accomplishments — and those accomplishments she does take credit for can be easily exposed as fantasy.
"I've stood up to adversaries like Putin," she said, even though her time as secretary of state started with a botched "reset" with Russia. Is her argument going to be that Putin waited until after she left office to invade Ukraine?
She also said she "reinforced allies like Israel" even though she was harshly critical of the Israeli government as secretary of state, even having the department brag about how she berated Prime Minister Netanyahu during a phone call.
Then she offered this sad boast: "I was in the situation room on the day we got bin Laden."
I was in my apartment, and deserve just as much credit for the bin Laden operation.
Add this to the mounting scandals, polls showing a lack of trust for her, the historical difficulty of political parties winning three presidential elections in a row, and the deep bench of fresh-faced Republican options, and the GOP should be in prime position to win the next election.
But the next election will test whether demographic headwinds are too much for Republicans to overcome.
As I noted the first time Clinton announced in April, the election result will hinge on whether Clinton can maintain the coalition of voters that elected President Obama twice. He achieved margins among minorities and young voters that far exceeded the historical margins for Democrats. Is that because, as a youthful African-American candidate, he had a special bond with these groups? Or has there been a more fundamental shift?
Everything Hillary Clinton does between now and Election Day should be viewed through the prism of these two questions.
In the speech today, it was clear how she intended to win over these groups through policy and emotional appeal.
Though Republican candidates may be younger, she said, "They believe in yesterday."
She brought up Republican skepticism on climate change and opposition to abortion, saying "they shame and blame women rather than respect our right to make our own reproductive health decisions."
She blasted Republicans for supporting policies that would increase deportation of immigrants and for "turn[ing] their backs on gay people who love each other." She lashed out at Republican support for voter ID laws. "I'll fight back against Republican efforts to disempower and disenfranchise young people, poor people, people with disabilities and people of color," she said. And she argued that, "Fundamentally, [Republicans] reject what it takes to build an inclusive economy. It takes an inclusive society."
And she wasn't above playing the biggest identity politics card she has going for her. "I may not be the youngest candidate in this race," she said. "But I will be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States."
Contrasting herself from Republicans, she promised more funding for green energy, support of a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and automatic, universal voter registration.
On economic issues, she offered a grab bag of recycled liberal ideas, many of which Obama has already been pushing — including universal pre-K, mandatory paid leave and increased infrastructure spending.
Republicans have a lot of easy ways to contrast themselves from Clinton by offering a bold policy agenda. One that creates a healthcare system that offers more choice and puts consumers first, alleviates the burden of payroll taxes on the middle class, simplifies the tax code to spur economic growth, attacks the unholy alliance between big government and big business, and reforms entitlements to put the nation on a sustainable financial footing so that younger generations won't be burdened with debt.
They can also easily fight back against the advisability of Clinton's pandering. Mandatory paid sick leave, for instance, just means that employers have less money available to spend on salaries. The policy is essentially a mandate forcing workers to accept more of their compensation in the form of promised time off as opposed to higher wages.
Republicans have plenty of material with which to attack Clinton as inauthentic, corrupt, dishonest, out of touch, recycled from the past and in bed with Wall Street and large corporations, with a failed record in public life.
Hillary Clinton displayed today her tremendous weaknesses as a candidate. All she has going for her is the hope that pushing the right buttons on identity politics and promising new government benefits, Americans will overlook what they don't like.
When Republicans lost two elections to Obama, it was easy to explain away as a special phenomenon. In 2008, Obama was a rock star running against a boring old senator who represented an incumbent party that had presided over an unpopular war and financial crash. In 2012, he ran for re-election against a weak candidate who had trouble winning over his own party.
But in 2016, Republicans have the ability to nominate a formidable candidate to put up against a Democrat with lots of baggage. If they blow it, then it may be time to throw in the towel.