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I have a question about some phrase structure:

And there was arguably no more status quo of a candidate than Clinton, who has been portrayed as an ultimate Washington insider, having been a former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state in President Barack Obama's first term.

Is the original poorly written? Would this rewrite:

....there was arguably no candidate more status quo than Clinton...

be better?

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I'd argue that's not how you would use "status quo", since it refers to a situation not a person. Also, "status quo" is a noun, not an adjective. Ordinarily you could say Clinton is representative of the status quo, but not that she is status quo.

However, in context it makes sense:

"To me, it seems like a lashing out, like they wanted to teach the establishment a lesson. It says something significant about how many people are angry at the status quo," [said Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich]

And there was arguably no more status quo of a candidate than Clinton, who has been portrayed as an ultimate Washington insider, having been a former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state in President Barack Obama's first term.

The writer is using a kind of poetic license to reuse "status quo" from the previous quote as an adjective to describe Clinton. This is fine, and something you should learn to recognize as a twist on the usual grammar -- a mildly clever play on words.

The usual practice is to put the "twist" phrase in quotes, to indicate to the reader that the word or phrase is not used in the typical way:

there was arguably no more "status quo" of a candidate than Clinton

  • +1 But no matter how you slice it, the OP's rewrite was far superior. – joiedevivre Jan 27 '18 at 4:21
  • @joiedevivre agreed, it is better. – Andrew Jan 28 '18 at 3:19
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It's difficult to know what was going through a writer's head when they penned a particular sentence; in this case, I suspect that the writer was trying to incorporate a phrase with the same structure as lion of a man, (noun of a noun).

A man can never be a lion, but can personify the qualities of a lion. Ditto with Clinton:

Clinton was a "status quo" of a candidate.

We have something that is grammatically correct but already it does not sound natural.

We normally use more with an adjective, but it is also possible to use it with a noun, for example

More man than you'll ever be - Aimee Allen et al

Using a noun phrase in place of a noun in this construct is still grammatically correct, but even less natural.

The icing on the cake is negating the whole lot: the resulting sentence is still, amazingly, grammatically correct but it is far from a natural construction.

Your proposed alternative is certainly more understandable, but there is an easier way to improve upon the original: leave out the of, and put status quo in quotes to make it clear that we are referring to the previous occurrence and using it in an adjectival sense.

....there was arguably no more "status quo" a candidate than Clinton...

This construction is literary but fairly well understood, for example:

The death penalty is no more effective a deterrent than life imprisonment. Encyclopedia of Capital Punishment in the United States, 2d ed.

As a general rule there is no more honest a man on earth than a bookmaker. Rhubarb

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