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December 11, 2018

All Eyes On Hillary Clinton

"If former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launches another bid for the presidency in 2016, she'll be a more able competitor than she was in 2008.”

The "If" is gone and on Saturday, she made her announcement to run and she already stands endorsed by a former US President — Bill Clinton.

When Bill Clinton made the remarks about Hillary running again two years ago, I can honestly say none of us really thought she would try again and we didn't believe she had a real shot at it. But that was 2013 and this is now — and now we know she is running and the reason I believe we need to watch her is because politics is about to be redefined yet again and with it a lot of other stuff outside politics.

I will be very interested to see how her opponents go after her and attack her ideas and policies without looking sexist or without coming across as attacking a woman. It's going to be a minefield. To see how Hillary navigates the sexist attacks that will come her way will be priceless.

More interesting will be to watch how media in the United States and everywhere report on her without making references to her hair or clothes and sticking with the fact that should she win, she will be POTUS. So her hair and her clothes will have little bearing on war, terrorism, the economy, jobs, the environment, foreign policy and even taxation. What I can't wait for is how things will unfold should she win. She still retains the title POTUS, what will we call Bill? FLOTUS doesn't work. 

Suffice it to say I'm hooked. This must be seen to be believed. I had always said that the United States would have a woman in the White House before they let a black man occupy that seat. I was proved wrong, very wrong in 2008. But Hillary is making a second bid for the biggest job on earth and win or lose, there will be lessons and defining moments all round for everyone.

Clearly, she will be running with the help, assistance and support of Bill Clinton and he has in the past been very candid about the lessons learnt from Hillary's first bid in 2008. Take out your note book and mark these two down.

Lesson number one for Bill: "You've got to have a plan for the future that relates to the future that relates to the people," Bill Clinton said. "This is not about the candidates as much as it's about having a plan for the future. And secondly, you have to have a strategy for presenting your true self to the voters in an environment where there are unprecedented opportunities for those who don't want you to win to paint a different picture of your true self."

In 2008, Hillary Clinton's bid was widely judged to have been outfoxed by the Obama campaign, which made a big splash on social media and staged an aggressive push for grassroots organisation and fundraising. And that lesson, Bill Clinton suggested, has been duly noted. I hope whoever is planning to run against Uhuru Kenyatta has noted this. "Big data helps, it really matters, and you have to merge high tech with grass roots," Bill Clinton has been known to say, conceding that Obama "had a better grassroots organisation in many states."

However, given that there are those already eyeing political seats that are currently occupied and there are those hoping to get second terms so that they can get it right, I think it's important to borrow from Hillary's last bid for office and also watch how she handles herself going forward. Lessons for the political class — current and future hopefuls:

You have to learn how to be today’s news. Political résumés, even those as impressive as Mrs Clinton’s, don’t win presidential elections — ask Peter Kenneth. For those running afresh against a sitting senator, governor or MP, you will need to differentiate yourself from the incumbent and woe unto you if that incumbent is already popular.

When there isn’t a popular incumbent, the trick is capturing message of change. However, as Kenyans, we have been sold that story for so long we are tired, sceptical and also weary of anyone who talks about change. We believe that the only thing that changes is which political party people are running under and what items they wear to the political rally. Change as professed by Kenyan politicians is cosmetic. Kazi kwako if your political think-tank decides to use "change" as your platform. We will ignore you. That's free advice right there. You're welcome.

But before a political (incumbent or new entrant) can decide what platform they are running on, the one real thing to figure out is the team that will run the campaign. For the incumbent, I dare say you will need to change your team. I can hear the usual hangers on hating me right now and their blood runs cold from the very thought that they won't get a second chance to eat. However, I will say this to the incumbent for free: "What got you here won't get you there." In fact, before the madness begins, buy the book by Marshall Goldsmith and read it cover to cover. If you can be bothered to read, call me, I'll break it down for you.

In the case of Hillary Clinton, it is clear that in 2007, she picked the wrong people to run her campaign, and it cost her. I hear Raila Odinga is running again and I want to say this publicly rather than do that thing Kenyans do and whisper about it behind his back, then smile at him in public knowing very well we have no faith in his think tank. Mr Odinga, your team screwed up big time in 2013.

Back to Hillary. This time, she can ill afford to repeat that mistake or have a campaign run by committee. Some political thinkers say she needs to select someone versed in modern politics, who can take control and prepare for a bitter campaign. This won’t be news to her, but as an political aspirant or an incumbent you need to know this. In the inner circles of the Clinton network, it is said that in late spring of 1992, when a presidential candidate named Clinton was struggling toward the nomination; all his associates seemed to have a piece of the action, requiring a high-level conference call with more than a score of participants.

An intervention ensued. A man called James Carville was put in charge of the campaign — no more committees. As such, Bill Clinton was elected president. The person who ordered that change was Hillary Clinton. Game on.

 

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