Page: How Hillary’s enemies aid her cause

Clarence Page
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In the business of low political blows, gun rights advocate Wayne LaPierre reminds us of Hillary Clinton’s best not-so-secret weapon: her amazing ability to drive her rivals and critics nuts.

“I have to tell ya,” said the National Rifle Association’s executive vice president and CEO to thundering applause at their annual meeting Saturday, “eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough.”

Oh? Well, at least no one can say he was playing the race card or gender card. He was playing the “demographically symbolic” card, leaving it up to his audience to figure out what’s so bad about being “demographically symbolic” anyway.

One wonders, for example, what Sen. Marco Rubio thinks about that. The Florida Republican threw his own hat in the ring for president on Monday with a speech loaded with demographic symbolism — and significance.

Staged at Miami’s Freedom Tower, Rubio spoke movingly about his own Cuban immigrant parents and a major theme of his political career: restoring the American dream.

And, in ways that reminded me of then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s rise eight years ago, Rubio turned his comparative youth and inexperience into an asset against Clinton, who declared her own candidacy a day earlier.

“Yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday,” he said. “But yesterday is over, and we are never going back.”

He delivered that message so movingly that one almost could forget that on major issues like Obamacare, climate change and President Obama’s executive actions on immigration and Cuba, he favors what many reformers would call steps backwards to the yesterday before Obama took office.

But as a fresh face, a rising talent and a conservative who aims to reinvent government while many of his fellow Republicans want only to shrink it, Rubio stands out as a significant, not just symbolic candidate.

Meanwhile, as her path to the Democratic nomination appears to be even more devoid of strong opponents than it was in 2008, she can keep her speeches brief while Republicans make her and President Barack Obama the invisible opponents in the room.

In other words, she can run a general election campaign, reaching out to moderate swing voters, while her Republican rivals battle each other for the opportunity run against her. For now she has a right to be confident, but she’d best not let it go to her head.

Clarence Page writes for The Chicago Tribune.

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