2016 Democrats

Changing Donkeys in Midstream?

August 4, 2015

By just about any measure, Hillary Clinton entered 2015 as the biggest non-incumbent nomination favorite ever.

Prior to the current nominating system taking hold in 1972, candidates did not need to compete in all of the open caucuses and primaries (some states didn’t even have them), so it’s tricky to measure races prior to that date.

Modern polling didn’t exist much before then either, particularly the idea of having multiple national and state polls taken this far before the election.

So, trust me that Hillary entered the year as unopposed as any non-incumbent before 1972 and check the numbers Nate Silver compiled for Fivethirtyeight.com a few months ago for evidence since then.

In addition to her massive and unprecedented polling lead, Hillary also had an absurd amount of official endorsements (from governors, congressmen, etc.) something Silver has conclusively shown is crucial.

As a point of reference, the very unsettled 2016 Republican field currently combines for a fraction of the endorsements Hillary entered 2015 with on her own.

The trifecta of poll numbers (which also placed her ahead of all major Republican contenders in a head-to-head matchup), endorsements and a huge fundraising edge, created what looked like 90% odds for winning the nomination.

This was especially unusual because it’s an open election year with no incumbent on either side.  Often, potential candidates will avoid running against a popular, or even just not overly unpopular incumbent.  Several prominent Republicans passed on 2012, part of what created a standing room only 2016.

Beyond that, no Democrat was going to challenge Obama in 2012, so you would normally have a backlog of candidates wanting to run and no reason not to.

Usually, the outgoing Veep is the most likely successor and a strong contestant.  However, in choosing Joe Biden, part of the idea was that President Obama would enjoy the luxury his predecessor had with Dick Cheney; a VP not worried about running himself.

At no time between 2009 and last Tuesday did Biden look like a serious contender.  He polled worse than Hillary in matchups with Republicans.  He’s never come close to her in polling of Democrats.  He’s never shown any fundraising skill.  He’s older than Hillary and not female.

Oh, and he’s also run for president twice and collected about 12 primary/caucus votes.  When he ran in 1988, he was Marco Rubio’s age and considered a contender until he dropped out before Iowa due to plagiarism issues.  Soon after, he suffered a life-threatening brain aneurysm.

Twenty years later he tried again, and if he hadn’t wound up with the #2 gig, you could say it worked out worse than the first round. There are many successful, popular and respected American politicians who are just not considered presidential material.  Biden seemed the perfect example.

There are two possible reasons for a virtually unopposed nomination path.  The first is a very strong candidate, the second is the absence of an alternative.

At the beginning of 2015, Hillary had definite strengths but was not a historically strong candidate, with far more obvious drawbacks than the normal front-runner, never mind extreme front-runner.

However, the Democrats have NO bench.  This is hands-down, without doubt, the fewest choices a major party has had. Ever.

At the moment, the leading official alternative is Bernie Sanders.  We’ll analyze his qualifications as a candidate another day, but regardless of your opinion of him, he’s not a Democrat.

Presidential candidates are usually governors or senators.  People try running from the House sometimes, but it hasn’t worked since James Garfield in 1880, a time long ago enough that he was shot walking unprotected through a train station and died because the doctor who attempted to remove the bullet didn’t wash his hands first, killing him with a painful infection.

Democrats have one interesting senator.  Elizabeth Warren.  She’s extremely popular with the left.  In many ways, she combines what Democrats like about Hillary and Bernie and would make some noise if she ran.

If she’s changed her mind and is now interested, nobody is aware.  Apparently, Warren realizes that while she’s become an increasingly important and respected member of the Democratic caucus, that does not mean she would make a good president.  Nor is she apparently interested in holding the job.

President Chuck Schumer.  Yeah, didn’t think so.

Ex-Senator Jim Webb is actually a declared candidate.  You may not be aware of this, which is unfortunate, because he’s an interesting candidate with a wide range of experience, including having served as Navy Secretary in the Reagan Administration.

Unfortunately, his Democratic Party no longer exists.  Back in the days of conservative Democrats and Liberal Republicans, there was an actual contest to see which way a party would go for the election.  However much you think conservative Republicans would object to Christie, multiply x100 to see how the left feels about Webb (if they were forced to acknowledge his existence).

Governors are often the best place to look, and Republicans have located eight so far.  Democrats currently have two in the race:

ex-Maryland Governor Martin O’ Malley #Baltimore

ex-Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee #seriously?

O’Malley was a campaign worker for Gary Hart in 1984 and had visions of playing the out-of-nowhere contender in 2016, playing the role of his mentor to Hillary’s Walter Mondale.

Couple problems.  One, Hart did not win the 1984 nomination.  Two, Hart was not the ex-mayor of a city that recently experienced the worst riots of any major American city in the past couple decades, due to reaction to policing he once took credit for.

Not gonna make you read about Lincoln Chafee.

Andrew Cuomo, legacy New York Governor, was once considered a prospect to boldly go where his father temporized about but had never gone before.  Now he’s unpopular and fighting corruption issues.

The only other governor of any note is California’s Jerry Brown.  He’s actually decently popular and has experience running for president.  Of course, he’s old enough to have run against Bill Clinton (1992) and Jimmy Carter (1976, 1980).

The scary thing is I can type with a straight face that Brown would be one of the Democrats 5 best options.

Nobody wants to see John Kerry try again.  Al Gore anyone?  What’s Bill Bradley up to these days?

If you’re wondering why Dems have appeared so committed to Hillary, this is why.  If you believe in liberal/left wing/democratic socialist policies first, Bernie is your guy.  If you are an elected member of the Democratic Party or a committed self-identifying registered Democrat, your choice was Hillary, Hillary, Hillary or perhaps Hillary.

The second group outnumbers the first, so Hillary didn’t need to worry about Bernie for much beyond embarrassing results in Iowa or New Hampshire.

But now it looks like that home server thing might be a problem.

A year ago, I figured Hillary was virtually scandal-proof.  Forty percent of the country hated her, so it wouldn’t matter.  At least 40% would apparently support her no matter what.  The remaining 20% included ambivalent people who thought she was smart and tough, but also of questionable character.  The next controversy would just remind them what they already knew.

If Republicans ran a good candidate/campaign she’d lose, if they chose/ran poorly, she’d win.  Either way, it didn’t matter what new thing was dredged up.  Even I was tired of it and had conceded that Clintons just get away with things that others don’t.  Like wind blowing in off the icy water during a Chicago winter, it’s just something to accept and endure.

The stories about foreign countries and businesses making Clinton Foundation donations.  Seedy, opportunistic, entitled, conflict of interest, etc.  Not going to trip Hillary up either.

It wasn’t kosher, it’s extremely inconvenient for the message Democrats want to run on in 2016, but absent a “smoking gun” it wasn’t enough to make anyone pine for Biden, even after how he handled the death of his son Beau reminded us how much better we like Joe than Hillary.

But this home server thing is really a problem.

At first, this was just Hillary being a Clinton and not playing by the rules.  Again, entitled, a dumb idea, yada, yada, yada, but we’ve already each decided how we feel about her regularly doing things like this.

The big focus was on whether she’d deleted anything that proved an unsavory/illegal link between her conduct as Secretary of State and people paying her husband off.

Odds were she had, but again, who cares.  If the previous 23 years hadn’t turned you against her, this wasn’t going to.

But now it looks like there is concrete proof she sent messages with classified information through her home server.

This was likely from the beginning, but it didn’t sink in at first, partially because many of us wanted to ignore the latest Hillary Scandal.

However, now there’s proof and now the Chinese have hacked into a theoretically much better protected government database, so it looks really bad.  It also reminds us that while Hillary is smart and tough, she doesn’t have great judgment.

This is part of why her poll numbers face drifted down.  Smart and tough doesn’t trump corrupt and sloppy.

So the rumblings for Uncle Joe got a bit louder, but the Administration and most of the establishment is already all-in on Hillary.

We now come to perhaps the final test of whether Hillary can continue to defy gravity.  She held large quantities of classified information on her home server.

David Petraeus, ex-CIA Director and Iraq Surge Savior, had a few classified documents in an unlocked desk drawer.

Petraeus saw his career end.  Hillary wants to be president.

The Watergate burglary happened on June 17, 1972.  Less than five months later, Richard Nixon won one of the biggest landslides in American history.

A year later, his presidency was in flames.  Two years later, he was giving victory signs as he boarded Marine One to head into exile.

Six months from now voters go to the caucuses in Iowa.  It will be too late for alternative candidates to get on the ballot in many states.  The DNC and Democrat leaders are not likely ok with Nominee Bernie Sanders.

Hillary will continue to drag things out as investigators dig.  Republicans won’t push that hard.  One, Republican congressional leaders wouldn’t know how to go for the jugular if they were transformed into wolves. Two, strategically, they might prefer to have her implode later.

Hillary would not quit if a dead body was found in her basement with plenty of DNA evidence that she was the murderer.

Democrats would like to wait this out for 8-12 weeks.  If things get noticeably worse, they would break the glass on Emergency Joe.  If not, they’d keep their fingers crossed.

They do not want Biden and Clinton in the race at the same time unless it becomes clear Hillary is not viable.  No, proof of illegal possession of classified material in a home server does not yet meet that standard. #ClintonRules

If Biden jumps in, the press piles on Hillary even more.  Focus drifts a little from TrumpFest.  With Biden cutting into Hillary’s base, just a bit, all of a sudden Bernie might be able to win in states where voters sometimes have pigment.

Hillary would still be the nomination favorite, but her odds drop considerably.  The press has never liked her.  The press tilts heavily to the left.  These things cancel each other out somewhat.

With Joe as an option, she will catch heat like never before (including in 2008). Not a good time to have done something worse than what cost the most respected general in at least one generation his standing.

If there was ever a time for the mostly unfiltered Biden, it’s the Summer of Trump.

Democrats want to keep him in the stable.  They know he doesn’t have a great campaign team.  They know he’s not a great General Election candidate.  They know he’s a loyal Democrat who will usually do what’s good for the team.  They have counted on him ever since he took Robert Bork’s Supreme Court nomination down almost 30 years ago.

He’s been unwaveringly loyal to his president.  Joe always wants to do the right thing.  Big time pundits have weighed in. They think he might do it, but probably shouldn’t.  Hillary will win and he’ll look bad. Better to wait and see over the next couple months.

He’s in by Labor Day.

His son Beau wanted him in, his son Hunter wants him in.  Loyal Democrat, but family first.

It’s better for him to get in and step up the heat on Hillary.  Without him in, she probably survives and he doesn’t get to play.

It’s better for the country.  Without an option, too many are invested in helping Hillary survive something that would send almost anyone else to prison.

Even in it’s 50% chance of Hillary, 35% chance of Joe, 10% chance somebody talks Warren into the race, 5% Bernie Miracle.

Joe Biden will always bet on himself with 1 in 3 odds.  That’s what they are.  Don’t let the polls fool you.  He has a legit chance and won’t let it go by.

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