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Vintage Clinton on display

Hillary Clinton is about as subtle as a jackhammer. The Hill reported on her weekend trip to Iowa:

“As the former secretary of State took the stage at retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s, D-Iowa, final steak fry, she told the crowd: ‘Hello Iowa — I’m ba-ack!’

“Even though she and her husband were there to pay homage to the retiring Democrat and stump for the party’s candidates in the competitive state, Clinton cheekily acknowledged that another White House bid wasn’t far from her mind.

“‘And then, of course, there’s that other thing,’ she told a crowd that had chanted ‘Ready, ready,’ as she took the stage.

“‘Well, it is true I am thinking about it. But for today, that is not why I’m here. I’m here for the steak,’ Clinton laughed.”

How can we forget the Clinton laugh over unfunny, brazenly political lines? But her opening line does get to the nub of the matter: Again Hillary. Again the glass ceiling. Again the experienced one. It is not her age but her longevity, if you will, that is the most problematic thing and may be the most troublesome for the media. Frankly, it would be more interesting to cover Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. — which is how, to her dismay, other candidates who aren’t really contenders will get treated as such.

The challenge for Clinton is that she is largely about the past — settling scores, reliving the 1990s, restoring the excitement of 2008 and recapping whatever highlights from the State Department she can cobble together — and her recent past is chock-full of some big missteps. Yet elections are generally about the future.

Unless this will be a trip down memory lane — full of events for which voters under the age of 40 likely have little memory — she either is going to rely on older voters or old footage or will have to devise something fresh for a party that has been clinging to a status quo in place essentially since the Johnson administration. The Clintons might as well try to get back into their bell bottoms; they are of the same vintage as most of her ideas.

Even if she strolls through the Democratic primary for lack of capable opposition, is she going to wow the base and hold onto the young people disgruntled with economic prospects, the anti-establishment populists who treat her affection for Goldman Sachs like a case of leprosy and the working poor?

She will if the GOP runs a cranky you’re-on-your-own libertarian or patently unqualified commander in chief. There will be little reason to vote against Clinton if the GOP puts up an out-of-touch politician lacking in empathy for average Americans. But if the GOP runs a credible commander in chief intent on rebuilding the United States’ stature in the world, a relatable candidate with appeal beyond the entrepreneurial class, then she may have difficulty.

© 2014, The Washington Post