A renewal of the 2008 debate over Obama, Hillary Clinton, race and the Democratic Party began with a rather underwhelming presentation by an HRC booster determined to show how her demonstrated appeal to white voters would enable Democratic to expand the electoral battlefield in 2016. As you may recall, during the 2008 primaries she did especially well in the Greater Appalachian states where Obama has struggled so noticeably. But that, of course, was among white Democratic presidential primary voters, a relatively small universe and one that mostly stuck with Obama in the 2008 general election. It’s another question entirely as to whether Clinton or any other Democrat could significantly improve the party’s performance with white voters–particularly the non-college-educated “white working class” voters in culturally conservative parts of the country.
This discussion intersects with another one of note: is it possible that the robust turnout and overwhelming percentages Barack Obama achieved among young and minority voters will dissipate with anyone else–say, Hillary Clinton–at the top of the ticket? That’s one implication you could draw from the elevated percentages Republicans achieved among “Obama Coalition” voters in 2014–and in 2010, for that matter. Another, however, is that even in “Democratic demographic” groups midterms tend to disproportionately draw the more conservative voters; so there’s no particular reason to think a presidential election won’t produce comparable turnout patterns and party preferences.
A third major Obama/Clinton issue that will quickly emerge in the next cycle is the extent to which Obama’s depressed approval ratings (assuming they don’t bounce back) could be communicable to Clinton. There’s actually not that large a modern data set of successors to two-term presidents; some have won (George H.W. Bush, Al Gore–in the popular vote, at least), some have lost narrowly (Nixon in 1960, Ford in 1976); some have lost by quite a bit (Stevenson in 1952, McCain in 2008).
In all these discussions, it’s probably a good idea not to overemphasize what happened in the 2008 primaries, tempting as that will be. A lot has changed since then.