Morning Joe Panel: Hillary Doesn't Know Why She's Running For POTUS

Clinton compared to failed Ted Kennedy campaign of 1980

Friday's Morning Joe panel concluded that Hillary Clinton has no idea why she wants to be president. They likened her prospective campaign to Ted Kennedy's 1980 campaign, which was damaged when he couldn't tell Roger Mudd of CBS why he wanted to be president.

Hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, joined by panelists John Heilmann from Bloomberg News, Huffington Post's Sam Stein, and advertising executive Donny Deutsch, began with a reported statement from former Obama campaign guru David Axelrod. Axelrod warned that, "as was the case in 2007, [Hillary Clinton's] candidacy is out in front of the rationale for it."

Deutsch argued that Clinton's lack of a rationale was the reason Elizabeth Warren should be running. Heilmann contended Clinton had time, but she had to come up with something, and Scarborough recalled what happened to Kennedy in 1980:

Brzezinski:  (...) During a panel discussion former Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod urged the former Secretary of State to quote, "Get out of the cocoon of inevitability." He added quote, "I think the danger for Secretary Clinton is that as was the case in 2007, her candidacy is out in front of the rationale for it."

Scarborough: John Heilemann, you wrote the book on that campaign. Is that a fair statement?

Brzezinski:  Does it match?

Heilemann: Yeah, I think it's a fair statement. In the sense that--

Brzezinski:  It’s a good way of putting it.

Heilemann: In the sense that she did not have a clear rationale in 2007 other than it was her turn and she was the inevitable candidate. That was a huge problem for her throughout 2007. She eventually found the message, but too late in the spring of 2008. And right now a lot is demanded of her to come up with a message early, she’s not yet a candidate, etc., etc. She still has time, but I think that David's point is right in the sense that at this moment, beyond it’s now her turn, it’s her time, there's not a clear articulated rationale for the candidacy as of yet.

Scarborough: Donny [Deutsch]?

Stein: How do you get out of the cocoon of inevitability when you’re up by 40% and more in the polls?

Heilemann: You start by developing a rationale for your candidacy that people understand,

Brzezinski: Maybe you shouldn't have come out with a book.

Stein: How do you know that everybody assumes you are?

Deutsch: Elizabeth Warren has got to really stake out her turf because there's no assumption she will be the candidate. If you're Hillary Clinton you have to act as if it’s the same thing. You run a successful business, even when it's doing great, as if it's in trouble. And that's what you have to do with a presidential campaign also.  The great key to success in business is, even when you're on top, run it as if you're going out of business.

Scarborough: Run scared.

Heilemann: Ask yourself the question; right now if Elizabeth Warren decided tomorrow she was going run for president, nobody would have any lack of clarity about why she was running. You could explain that in two sentences. Right now, Hillary Clinton, you can't explain in two sentences beyond the fact that she is the dominant front-runner.

Scarborough: One of the famous moments, Mika, in presidential history over the past 30, 40 years was when Ted Kennedy was going to run in 1980 and everybody presumed he was going to destroy Jimmy Carter, and he was interviewed by Roger Mudd, who he considered to be a friend and Roger Mudd asked him the question, why do you want to be president? And it was the most pained, tortured, awkward response. He could not answer that simple question. And bluntly, his presidential campaign never really took off and never recovered. Hillary Clinton right now couldn't answer that question. If somebody got a microphone in her face and asked her, “Why do you want to run for president?” it might be the same thing. She couldn't even promote a book this summer without falling over herself.

The discussion continued, revolving around whether or not Barack Obama's presidency forces her hand when it come to issues.