Hillary Clinton, the former first lady who wants to return to the Oval Office as president, tried to give her faltering campaign a boost Wednesday by breaking with President Barack Obama and rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
"As of today, I am not in favour of what I have learned about it," Ms. Clinton said, characteristically leaving herself plenty of wiggle room should she decide later to back the trade deal that binds the United States, Canada and 10 other Pacific Rim nations in a pact that represents 40 per cent of global trade.
Ms. Clinton, despite unmatched name recognition and a vast war chest, has struggled to maintain her front-runner status in recent months, dogged by questions about her integrity and the use of a private e-mail server in the family mansion's basement when she was secretary of state.
Her break with Mr. Obama, who trounced her in 2008 when she last ran for the Democratic nomination and then made her his secretary of state, is the third time in the past few days that Ms. Clinton has taken positions that will be popular with the party's left-leaning fringe.
In doing so, she has positioned herself to battle Senator Bernie Sanders, the populist, self-described socialist who has invigorated the party rank-and-file with his plain-speaking campaign.
Ms. Clinton's rejection of the TPP represents another volte-face for the former secretary of state who touted the trade pact when she was in Mr. Obama's cabinet. She once extolled the TPP, saying it would be the "gold standard in trade agreements."
Her husband, Bill, was president when the North American Free Trade Agreement, linking Canada, the United States and Mexico came into effect, and the Clintons have traditionally been regarded as mainstream Democrats in favour of trade deals.
"I am not running for my husband's third term or President Obama's third term," Ms. Clinton said earlier this week as she stumped in Iowa, where the first votes will be cast early next year and where she was beaten by Mr. Obama eight years ago. "I'm running for my first term."
But with Wednesday's rejection, Ms. Clinton has put herself back among the rest of the Democratic presidential nominees, all of whom currently oppose the TPP as they jockey for favour from labour unions, environmentalists and other liberal constituencies whose support will be vital to securing the party nomination.
Ms. Clinton said the TPP, as drafted, doesn't "meet the high bar I have set," although her views may have little impact on whether it is passed by Congress.
Mr. Obama will rely on Republican majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to secure passage of the TPP.
Breaking with the President on the TPP was the third time in less than two weeks that Ms. Clinton has sought to please the Democratic left. To the delight of environmentalists, Ms. Clinton said she is opposed to Keystone XL, the long-delayed controversial TransCanada Corp. project pushed by Stephen Harper which Mr. Obama is expected to reject.
And she vowed executive action to impose gun control in the wake of the latest school massacre, a move rejected by Mr. Obama and as well as the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party as being unconstitutional. "This is not something I can do by myself," Mr. Obama said, referring to the need for Congressional action on gun control.
Ms. Clinton's opposition to the TPP means that in the first Democratic Party debate next week, none of the declared candidates, will support the trade pact that Mr. Obama regards as one of the great achievements of his presidency.
Similarly on gun control, Ms. Clinton seemed to think otherwise than Mr. Obama when she promised to close the "gun-show loophole" through executive action.