Mark Halperin on 2016: Hillary is 'Far and Away the Class of the Field'

Appearing on Tuesday’s edition of PBS’s Charlie Rose show, Game Change co-author Mark Halperin said Hillary Clinton’s poor performance during her recent book tour was nothing to worry about because “She’s still so far and away the class of the field.”

His writing partner John Heilemann agreed and added: “If you think about Hillary Clinton’s story over her life, there’s a lot of material there to work with. She has a compelling story to tell. She’s not yet told it.” Not yet told it? How many memoirs does Heilemann think Clinton needs to tell her “compelling story?”


The following are the relevant exchanges from the September 2 edition of PBS’s Charlie Rose show:

CHARLIE ROSE: Are you impressed or less than impressed by what Hillary Clinton has done so far, if she intends to run for president?

MARK HALPERIN: Less impressed -- I think the book tour and their failure to respond to some of the controversies involving their personal wealth I don’t think has spoken well of her skills or her operations. I don’t think any of it matters if she performs well going forward. I think she can erase it all, because she’s still so far and away the class of the field.

ROSE: On both sides?        

JOHN HEILEMANN: Yeah on both sides. Yeah. And there’s still time. And again, one of these questions in all these cases when the people do not -- when they underperform early, one of the good things about underperforming early is that you can -- it can either be a foreboding, it can be portentous, this is wow, we saw these things coming early when they had problems later, or they can turn out to be wake-up calls. And Hillary Clinton, you know, had a really rough go with  her dry, her pre-launch of her campaign. She may have very well learned a bunch of lessons from this and end up doing better.
ROSE: But the thing I’m looking for from Hillary Clinton, from whoever wants to be president, tell me in a way that I can understand and resonates, shows me a shrewd look at America today and its fortunes and how you combine, sort of, an understanding that makes the public believe that you’re the best way to meet the challenge of the future and that it’s human, as you said.

HALPERIN: And it derives from your life experience, and it’s got a little pixie dust to it, and Hillary Clinton challenges what is the original narrative and the original message and the original vision, because people want elections about the future. There’s that old Fleetwood Mac song.

ROSE: Elections are about the future, not a referendum on the past.

HALPERIN: Yeah and she’s, the bar is so high for her. You know she’s got a bar of technical competence of her staff, of her own performance, and it being about the future. Those are high bars, but in the absence of a Republican who can win 270 electoral votes, she may not need to clear those by a whole lot. She can graze them going over unless the Republicans find a stronger nominee.

HEILEMANN: But you think about -- you think about the, the thing you’re getting to, Charlie, which is the candidate’s job is to sort of to tell how -- their American story, and their story are meeting at a certain moment. If you think about --

ROSE: And that’s what Obama did in 2008.


HEILEMANN: And if you think about Hillary Clinton’s story over her life, there’s a lot of material there to work with. She has a compelling story to tell. She’s not yet told it.

ROSE: But on the other hand, she’s got lots of things that remind you of the past.

HEILEMANN: Well that is true, but there is a way in which biography can benefit you if you can spin it forward, and there’s a way in which it can drag you down. She obviously has to figure out a way to talk about -

ROSE: And if you can identify with history too. For someone to be elected president, that’s a powerful argument.

HEILEMANN: Yes, of course.

HALPERIN: That’s forward. It is.


HALPERIN: That’s forward. But that’s not enough, as we saw last time. It’s just not enough.

HEILEMANN: Well it wasn’t, last time she probably didn’t talk about it enough. But there’s, there’s - she’s got the material. She, she and her husband have in some ways lived, you know, the emblematic - I mean in some ways it’s a caricature, in a kind of a funhouse mirror thing. But they have lived kind of an incredible American life. They have been at the center of our lives for so long, and if she can distill that down into pixie dust and tell that story.

ROSE: She’ll be tough.

HEILEMANN: She’ll be very tough, but she has not demonstrated as a candidate in the past a great facility with doing that. So we’ll see this time. Or so far this time.

HALPERIN: She’s got plenty of time to do it, and she’s a better person, a better politician, a better candidate and a better leader than she’s shown this year.

HEILEMANN: Absolutely.

— Geoffrey Dickens is Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center. Follow Geoffrey Dickens on Twitter.