Hillary Clinton’s increasingly confident campaign has begun crafting a detailed agenda for her possible presidency, with plans to focus on measures aimed at creating jobs, boosting infrastructure spending and enacting immigration reform if current polling holds and she is easily elected to the White House in November.
In recent weeks, as her leads over GOP nominee Donald Trump have expanded, Clinton has started ramping up for a presidency defined by marquee legislation she has promised to seek immediately. The pace and scale of the planning reflect growing expectations among Democrats that she will win and take office in January alongside a new Democratic majority in the Senate.
While careful not to sound as if she is measuring the draperies quite yet, Clinton now describes what she calls improved odds for passage of an overhaul of immigration laws — the first legislative priority she outlined in detail last year — and what could be a bipartisan effort to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, airports, rail system and ports.
How she builds relationships on Capitol Hill, especially with Republicans, will be one key measure of success in the first year or so, Democrats said. A second crucial element will be how effectively she organizes a White House staff to keep the focus on her policy priorities and minimize the controversies that long have dogged Clinton and her husband.
The most significant unknown — and one that would determine to a great extent her ability to govern successfully — is how poisonous the political climate might be after a defeat of Trump, who has already begun complaining that the election system is “rigged” against him.
“Her greatest challenge will be the environment in which she comes to office,” said a former Obama administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid view. “I don’t think any president has come to office underwater on their favorable image. This would be uncharted waters coming to office as an unpopular person. You don’t have a wellspring of goodwill to draw on, even in the first 100 days.”
Clinton named a five-member transition planning team last week — headed by former interior secretary Ken Salazar and including other familiar names in Democratic circles — that would eventually oversee the selection of Cabinet secretaries and thousands of lower-level officials. She also moved some top policy advisers over from her campaign to her transition team, a move that reinforced the notion that she is getting ready to govern.
Among other pledges, Clinton has said she would expand affordable housing, repair schools, rehabilitate failing water systems and connect every household to high-speed Internet by 2020.
She pledges to guarantee equal pay for women and improve affordable child care.
And a big, expensive one: make college tuition free for most families and debt-free for all while refinancing current student loan debt.
If Democrats do retake the Senate, longtime Clinton ally Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) is expected to become majority leader. He shares Clinton’s impulse to seek common ground with Republicans, said a Democratic aide familiar with their past discussions.
Already, for example, there has been talk on Capitol Hill about whether Clinton should pair her infrastructure plan with an initiative more palatable to Republicans, such as corporate tax breaks.
Of roughly 4,000 political jobs to fill, more than 1,000 require Senate confirmation. Internal vetting, security clearances and ethics checks can take months.
Former Utah governor Mike Leavitt, who served in Republican President George W. Bush’s Cabinet and oversaw transition planning for Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign, said it is not too early to begin identifying candidates for roughly 300 jobs that are deemed “critical,” many of which require Senate confirmation.
“The first task is you have to put a team on the field,” Leavitt said, “and the task of getting a senior person into the job goes far beyond just choosing them.”