September 16, 2015
If you missed the absolutely wonderful 6-part look at presidential candidates of the past 70 or so years, and happen to have a fair amount of time on your hands, I heartily encourage you to check it out.
In the meanwhile, it’s there as a reference point. The goal was to see if there were any lessons in the 17 presidential cycles since World War II, any patterns that might apply to this year’s contestants.
Any good statistician will tell you this is a relatively small sample size. We reviewed all candidates to earn the nomination of either main party, plus those who were front-runners and fell short, and those who put a strong scare into the eventual winners.
That produced a total of 56 examples, with several candidates showing up more than once. For the purposes of this review of Democrat prospects, we’ll rely heavily on these findings. Some 2016 candidates have more in common with predecessors who did not qualify for the list, which tells us something in and of itself.
We’ll look at what I believe are the six most likely nominees with those reference points, plus a few from the deeper recesses of history.
And now the moment you’ve waited weeks for….exactly how crappy a candidate is Hillary Clinton?
Wanted to Be: Richard Nixon (1968)
Will Settle For: George H.W. Bush (1988)
Probably Is: Tom Dewey (1948), Richard Nixon (1962), Ed Muskie (1972), Ted Kennedy (1980), Walter Mondale (1984), George H.W. Bush (1992), Al Gore (2000), Mitt Romney (2012)
Unexpected Reference: Teddy Roosevelt (1912)
Hillary is not a strong candidate. In 2008 she was a very decent one. She’s way worse now. This is normal. Only the very best candidates improve. However, they also frequently win the first time.
Bush the Elder got worse each time, from 1980 to 1988 to 1992. Tom Dewey declined from 1944 to 1948. While Bob Dole improved from his halting effort in 1980 to his legit effort in 1988, that was his peak. By 1996 he was stale.
Two main problems plague these guys. First, they tend to have lacked a strong ideological or other message to begin with. They ran their first presidential effort based on some combination of experience, competence and intelligence, not charisma, vision and leadership.
Several years and another contest or two down the road, what they stand for is as muddy as the bottom of the Mississippi. To add some driftwood to our metaphor, they often start later rounds as a front-runner, being the next person up after they fell short the previous time. This adds caution to a lack of vision and direction, a lethal combination.
In the absence of decent competition, these candidates are often nominated, but they almost never win the general election. The one exception is 1988 George H.W. Bush. However, he had the benefit of the strong close to Reagan’s presidency.
While Bush flew around on Air Force Two and openly suggested he would be a third term for the Gipper, Hillary has a less popular incumbent (though Reagan was underwater in mid-1987 due to Iran-Contra, his aberration is normal poll position for Obama), and may face an opponent flying on AF2.
Bush also got to face the ineffectual Michael Dukakis in the fall. While there’s no guarantee Republicans will choose wisely, neither Donald Trump, nor the candidate strong enough to kill him off will let Hillary define them the way Dukakis let Team Bush bury him.
While Bush 41 is an unlikely comp, the New Nixon of 1968 is an impossible one. This was Hillary’s model, the candidate who lost a tough election to a great candidate and came back stronger 8 years later.
Beyond being a historical anomaly, Nixon had the benefit of running against the party seeking a third term. He was also a master political strategist while Hillary has trouble choosing adequate campaign personnel.
While Hillary plays the entitled presumptive front-runner, Nixon assumed he would need to work incredibly hard to win the confidence of the party after his loss. He campaigned tirelessly for Republicans in 1966 and helped them to their best midterm performance in a generation.
He hand-picked a group of young speechwriters and campaign aides, testing them in 1966 and continuing to train and develop them in the run up to 1968. He had an intellectually diverse, hungry team, and learned from his 1960 defeat how to delegate.
Does this sound like Hillary 2016 to you?
She does resemble a Nixon from the past. 1962 Nixon, loser in California to Pat Brown (father of Jerry). Entering the contest with a sense of entitlement (after all, he was running for governor as an ex-VP), he assumed the nomination was his.
Much as Hillary is dealing with Sanders, Nixon had to fight off a nomination challenge on the right from Joe Shell. He never regained his footing and lost badly in the fall, uttering the famous (if false) words “you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”
Famously paranoid about the press, Nixon actually managed to co-opt them a bit in 1968 making himself more accessible than usual. #NotHillary2016.
Finally one last and possibly very distressing historical comparison. Hillary’s candidacy was based on implicit support from President Obama. As much as he and the Clintons are frenemies at best, prior to Biden being a plausible alternative, you can see why the president would support his ex-SecState.
Obama may stay neutral, but if he strongly favors Joe, either overtly with an endorsement or covertly through his personal political apparatus, Clinton has little chance of winning. This is assuming the Obama Justice Department avoids prosecuting.
In 1912, the first year primaries existed, Teddy Roosevelt was one of the most popular ex-Presidents in American history. His hand-picked successor and now rival, William Howard Taft was a disappointing and unpopular incumbent.
TR challenged his protege and didn’t come close to unseating him, eventually mounting the strongest 3rd Party challenge in American history to make Taft the only incumbent to finish third in a general election as Democrat Woodrow Wilson won.
Though Roosevelt did not have the degree of open available delegates that Hillary does. Though he lacked the endorsements and was actually very unpopular with many party insiders (not a problem for Hillary), if one of the four faces on Mt. Rushmore couldn’t push past an incumbent for the nomination, Hillary can’t win it if Obama decides she shouldn’t have it.
Might Be: Harry Truman (1948), Alben Barkley (1952), Hubert Humphrey (1968)
There’s no exact historical match for Biden’s current situation. Since the era of the heir-apparent VP began with Richard Nixon, a Veep, whether incumbent or previous, is normally a prohibitive favorite.
The only modern exceptions were Dick Cheney in 2008 (chose not to run) and Dan Quayle 2000 (general laughingstock). For most of his vice presidential term it appeared Biden was a combination of Cheney and Quayle, not likely to want to run, and not a serious option if he did.
Back in 1952, Alben Barkley, Truman’s septuagenarian VP made a half-way effort to win the nomination, looking around for support late in the game when Truman was out and Adlai Stevenson hadn’t yet jumped in.
He was thwarted by labor leaders who worried Barkley was too old, something which proved out when he died of a heart attack in 1956 prior to the end of what would have been his first term.
Biden looks like a labor favorite, and contrary to Barkley, may wind up entering at the behest of the AFL-CIO. Meanwhile, while they are the same age, the difference in modern life expectancies means Biden would need to be in his late 80s for equivalent concern. Still, Biden may himself decide he’s not up to it.
Hubert Humphrey was a late-entering incumbent VP who operated in the shadow of the president, was tied to his policies, but also had a separate and independent brand. Like Biden would with Sanders, he faced a challenge from the left, in his case Eugene McCarthy and then George McGovern. Similarly, Humphrey failed in a previous attempt to win the nomination.
Biden has some advantages and disadvantages compared to Humphrey. If Biden beats Sanders in open primaries, he wins fair and square. In 1968, Humphrey won because of insider maneuvering and the Party went into the fall in shreds.
On the other hand, by the time Humphrey ran, he was unopposed on the establishment side. Unless Hillary drops out after New Hampshire, Biden has no such luxury. If as mentioned above, President Obama puts his finger on the scale, the difference between Biden and Humphrey shrinks.
Finally, Biden’s 1988 and 2008 presidential runs were charitably disasters, while in 1960 Humphrey just lost to a better candidate (JFK), but did a decent if unspectacular job himself. 1968 Humphrey was considerably younger and seen as a likely 1972 candidate (which he actually became), before LBJ got out 4 years early.
Biden is likely a weaker candidate than Humphrey was, but would have more support. He also doesn’t have to defend anything as controversial as LBJ’s Vietnam policy was in 1968.
The dream scenario for Biden is Harry Truman’s 1948 run. Should he win the nomination, that’s his model. After 16 years of Democratic presidential rule, the country was ready for a change. As the incumbent, Truman would normally have played defense.
Instead, he was the first and only insurgent underdog incumbent. Having spent the past 20+ years in politics, with his party in power for most of that time, it seems insane, but it worked.
Truman even sounded similar to how Biden has on the test stump the past week or two. Though he may use a plane instead of a train, expect to see a re-run of this old classic.
Biden gets away with exaggerations and mis-statements because people like Uncle Joe. Truman got by in the absence of TV satellites and You Tube. He could say what he wanted without fear of contradiction or inconsistency.
Assuming he thinks he’s up to it, Biden is a potentially formidable nomination candidate, and perhaps a very underrated general election one. Republicans did just as well in the 1946 midterms as they did in 2014.
Reminiscent of: Henry Wallace (1948), Estes Kefauver (1952), Eugene McCarthy (1968), George McGovern (1972), Howard Dean (2004)
There is no exact match for what Bernie is doing, but he borrows heavily from the above candidates. He shares many of their strengths, while avoiding several of their weaknesses. While he’s still an underdog for the nomination and would be one next fall, his similarity to the above group causes us to underrate him.
Henry Wallace had a very accomplished life, creating a revolutionary hybrid corn seed that dramatically increased farm production, before becoming Agriculture Secretary during the time FDR’s New Deal was throwing any and all ideas against the wall in an attempt to combat the Great Depression.
By 1940 he was the VP nominee. By 1944, he was an unacceptable option on the ticket with FDR a bad bet to survive his 4th term. In 1948 he challenged incumbent Truman as an Independent since he had no path to the nomination. Wallace basically ran as a socialist, and received support, financial and otherwise from members of the Communist Party. Originally considered a major threat to siphon off liberal support and make Truman’s election impossible, he wound up a virtual non-factor.
However, while Sanders calls himself a Democratic Socialist, he’s running on a platform that wouldn’t be out of place in a mainstream left-of-center European party. It’s not what Americans are traditionally used to, but Bernie is to the right of Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of Labour, which is basically the British version of the Democrats. Much as it’s unimaginable the party of Bill Clinton could choose Bernie, Labour’s centrist Tony Blair won the last of his three national elections less than a decade ago.
During the height of the Red Scare, the same year Richard Nixon made his career by bringing down State Department Soviet spy Alger Hiss, Wallace campaigned on sharing nuclear technology with the Russians. Unless Sanders starts taking money from Hamas and Hezbollah supporters and advocates giving Iran part of the American nuclear arsenal, he’s way more viable.
Estes Kefauver took on the establishment in 1952, running against Truman in New Hampshire and then after he dropped out, pushed things forward in other primary states. Nobody invited the freshman senator into the fray. However, he did very well anywhere people voted, poorly in the back rooms and cigar humidors. Like with Kefaver, many Democratic leaders wish Bernie would get out of the way.
Unlike Kefauver, Bernie can mathematically control his own destiny if he wins enough. Approximately 75% of delegates are awarded through open voting, so while he faces an uphill fight, the only thing potentially stopping him is not ultimately pulling African-American and Latino supporters on board, something he can fix himself.
Eugene McCarthy led the first modern grass-roots insurgent nomination campaign, bruising LBJ enough in New Hampshire to push him out of the race. He’s frequently mentioned as a Sanders comp and evidence of why even if Bernie does well at first, he won’t get nominated.
On the surface there are clear similarities. McCarthy was a sitting senator who while not absurdly unpopular with his peers, was hardly part of the leadership or in-crowd. He relied on a cadre of young, motivated volunteers, anxious to change direction from the current leadership, but not at all interested in voting Republican. If McCarthy, who had the element of surprise (nobody took him that seriously before NH), couldn’t win, how will Bernie?
Like the Kefauver comparison, there’s the math thing. McCarthy couldn’t grab enough open delegates under the pre-1972 system. Beyond that, he had to face the equivalent of Elizabeth Warren (Bobby Kennedy) in key primaries where he could have otherwise unified the opposition to Vietnam, before dealing with incumbent VP Hubert Humphrey.
Sanders may well face Biden, but he has an advantage Gene lacked. Biden will need to defeat Bernie head-on in primaries and caucuses. Humphrey did not enter any pre-convention contests. For mainstream delegates making the final decision, there was no proof the New Left-friendly McCarthy was more viable. Better to win or lose than not get on the field.
Finally, the incumbent president was dead-set against Nominee McCarthy. Picking a standard-bearer with a lead issue (Vietnam) opposed to the policy of the current administration from the same party will never happen unless the insurgent can win the open delegates unavailable to McCarthy. While President Obama certainly prefers Biden and quite possibly prefers Hillary, it’s not like Bernie’s platform is repealing Obamacare or scuttling the Iran deal.
When not claiming Sanders can’t get nominated because he’s like McCarthy, people say he can’t win the general because he’s like George McGovern. Again, surface similarities make the case, a deeper look argues otherwise.
Sanders would be the most liberal/progressive/whatever nominee since McGovern. He is filling a similar insurgent role. He is relying heavily on a strong start in Iowa and New Hampshire. He is far weaker below the Mason-Dixon Line. Mainstream Democrats have not endorsed him. McGovern’s nomination path was eased by Ed Muskie (already compared to Hillary above) and Humphrey (pseudo-Biden back for more in ’72) cancelling each other out.
All true. Their nomination paths are similar, but their fall campaigns would not be. McGovern won the nomination without coming close to winning the support of half the party, never mind most of it.
Impossibly, McGovern only grabbed 25% of the popular vote during primary season. Beyond Muskie and Humphrey (who got more votes than McGovern), George Wallace took approximately a quarter of voters for himself.
In 2016, Jim Webb is barely a footnote in the contest. Wallace makes Webb look like McGovern. While many Humphrey and Muskie voters pulled the lever for McGovern, Wallace voters went straight to Nixon. Unlike today, delegates were winner-take-all, so McGovern threaded the needle to win just enough support, competing against different candidates in different states.
Sanders cannot win the nomination unless he gains more broad-based support than McGovern did, which sets him up for a more successful general election run. Those Wallace voters are either dead or supporting Trump. The liberal Republicans who stuck with Nixon are either dead or already supporting Bernie as Democrats.
Speaking of Nixon, he was an absurdly difficult opponent. While the 2016 GOP nominee will run a gauntlet before meeting an eventual Democrat challenger, Nixon was a mostly unopposed incumbent.
John Kasich seems like one of the most moderate Republicans in the race. He would be a very difficult match-up for Sanders. Kasich is Ted Cruz compared to the 1972 Nixon, who in the 12-18 months leading up to the election instituted wage & price controls, created the EPA, travelled to China to meet with Mao, reached agreement on an arms-limitation treaty with the Russians, was close to ending the Vietnam War and pushed through the largest Social Security cost-of-living increase in American history.
Oh, and Nixon spent the previous couple years doing everything in his power to get McGovern for an opponent, with the idea of framing him (which didn’t require much work) as an extremist.
Bernie Sanders just spoke at Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell, one of the first major Evangelical GOP supporters. He’s not McGovern. Way better and more strategic candidate.
Howard Dean is the final obvious comp, the first serious Democratic contender in three decades to pick up where McGovern and McCarthy left off. With the help of strategist Joe Trippi and that Internet thing, Dean created the first 21st Century-style insurgent campaign.
He was undone by the lack of discipline in his volunteers, many imported into Iowa, as opposed to the more regionally local college students once used by McCarthy and his own temperament when he did “The Scream” in his Iowa concession speech.
Bernie is arguably the most disciplined candidate in the entire race (GOP or Dem). Unlike Dean who spent most of his career as a Doctor before entering politics, Sanders is a lifelong organizer and politician.
Meanwhile, the ’04 Dean techniques were refined by Obama ’08 and now benefit from huge advances in social media. Bernie’s ability to cheaply build a nationwide campaign architecture greatly exceeds anything previously possible.
Bernie shouldn’t start measuring the Oval Office drapes just yet, but DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE.
Wants to Be: Jimmy Carter (1976), Gary Hart (1984)
Probably Is: Bruce Babbitt (1988), Lamar Alexander (1996)
O’Malley worked on the 1984 Hart campaign and has often referred to it as an inspiration for his 2016 quest. Hart in turn was following the lead of Carter’s 1976 underdog success. Both candidates were relative unknowns to their Iowa audience until months and months of retail campaigning began to work.
The most recent CBS/YouGov Iowa poll puts the ex-Maryland governor at 5%, which is actually better than Hart or Carter were doing 4+ months before the caucus.
Still, O’Malley lacks Carter’s focused outsider image and is nowhere near as interesting to listen to as Hart. Either of those candidates would be a good fit for the 2016 atmosphere (though Carter was way, way too conservative for the modern Democratic Party).
Instead he resembles Bruce Babbitt, an also-ran from the 1988 Democrats and Lamar Alexander, a Republican hopeful in 1996 and 2000. The 1996 version is more relevant as it was his first effort.
Like O’Malley, each were ex-governors who served multiple terms. Both were similarly elected at a relatively young age. There’s a thin line between relatively successful governor and legit presidential candidate. If you are not leading a large state and do not have a distinct message, the odds are long.
Like his presidentially unsuccessful doppelgängers, O’Malley lacks insider endorsements and a true outsider attitude. You generally need one or the other to contend. Bernie Sanders is a more compelling insurgent, while Joe Biden is an easier swap for Hillary deserters.
It wasn’t a mistake for O’Malley to compete. There’s always a chance Sanders will fade, Hillary will implode, Biden will stay out and neither Elizabeth Warren, nor Jerry Brown are interested. If each of these things happen, O’Malley is your nominee.
More likely, he follows in the footsteps of Babbitt and Alexander to have a non-presidential political future. Babbitt served 8 years as Bill Clinton’s Interior Secretary, while Alexander is currently in his third Senate term.
Wants to Be: A Senator
Would Resemble: William Jennings Bryan (1896), Adlai Stevenson (1952)
The last candidate to win major party nomination without entering any primaries or even building an organization to win delegates at the convention was Adlai Stevenson in 1952. Even in the very old days it wasn’t common. Primaries did not exist before 1912, but that never prevented candidates or their boosters from maneuvering well in advance. Abraham Lincoln didn’t give his Cooper Union speech on slavery in New York City in early 1860 because he was curious what a Manhattan winter felt like.
Regardless of the nominating system in use, several candidates are always jockeying for position many months, if not years in advance. Usually, the ultimate nominee comes from this group. If planning and preparation didn’t help, candidates wouldn’t regularly torture themselves.
Once in a while, a compromise candidate was required. The best example of this is Democrats nominating John W. Davis in 1924 on the 103rd ballot. Picture a bunch of people in suits crowded indoors with poor ventilation during a humid summer week. Eventually they would have nominated the kid selling newspapers on the corner, but at least half the delegates would have died of dehydration before the convention would pick Al Smith.
Davis lost by a colossal margin, so they gave in and picked Smith in 1928. He lost badly too. No telling what would have happened if FDR hadn’t appeared for 1932. Compromise candidates are required when no candidate can lock up a majority of support, but one or two candidates have almost enough to get there but are completely repugnant to many of the delegates.
That’s not tremendously likely to happen in 2016. Most of the party establishment has already endorsed Hillary, so denying her the nomination after collecting plenty of delegates is off the table unless she’s indicted. If she’s not an option, it won’t be difficult to settle on Biden. If Sanders has the most delegates, but not enough for nomination, they won’t risk Berning the grass-roots to wisps by shutting him down.
There is an alternative scenario, one that created Stevenson in 1952 and Bryan back in 1896. Both years were open contests with a Democratic incumbent leaving office. Neither incumbent was popular at the time, Truman because of the stalled Korean War, Grover Cleveland because of the aftermath of the Panic of 1893 (Picture 2008 with absolutely no intervention, Too Big to Fail, etc., combined with a currency liquidity crisis).
Neither president had an heir-apparent. Truman VP Barkley as noted above, wanted to try, but was considered too old. 19th Century Veeps were not chosen with the idea of becoming successors. They often didn’t agree with the presidential candidate on policy and were chosen to placate a given sectional interest.
When declared candidates were found lacking, a vacuum was created. In a perfect world, a party wants to win and wants to be inspired. Winning a third or more consecutive term is difficult under the best of circumstances (Cleveland won the popular vote three times in a row from 1884-1892, but only served two terms because he lost the Electoral Vote in 1888). When the incumbent isn’t popular with a clear heir, it’s even tougher.
Bryan gave Democrats a way out of the trap. Midwestern farmers were choking on debt and the lack of liquidity in a strictly gold-backed currency. Nobody was going to convince the public to abandon precious metal-based currencies, but many wanted to add silver as an option. Cleveland was against this, Bryan strongly for it. Though the 36-year-old Nebraskan wasn’t considered a likely option a few months before, by the time he finished his “Cross of Gold” speech, Democrats had both a nominee and a full reboot.
As a respected senator in the Democratic caucus and with a national following among activists, if Bernie proves unable to go the distance, while Hillary and Biden cannot convince enough Democrats to stay the course, it’s easy to see a divided party settling on Warren as their best and most exciting option to retain the White House.
With Stevenson, the appeal was more stylistic than issue based. Though the New Deal had run its course as a new way to solve problems and the Great Society was more than a decade in the future, Adlai wasn’t advocting policies incompatible with either. After almost eight years of the plain-spoken Truman, many Democratic elites were looking for someone who sounded more erudite. After a rousing keynote address at the convention, they had their champion wordsmith.
Hillary and Warren are of similar age and the same gender. Almost 60% of Democrats or Democratic leaning voters are female. Hillary now says many of the things Warren has emphasized for years. However, those words aren’t the same coming out of the mouth of a record recipient of Wall Street money. Whether looking for a reboot or ideal messenger, Warren fits the bill. Previous versions of her played reluctant candidate too.
Both Bryan and Stevenson lost. That wasn’t on them. Bryan faced a good candidate in William McKinley and Mark Hanna ran a historically defining campaign for him. Democrats were impressed enough to give Bryan the chance to lose again in 1900 and 1908 (by increasing, but not embarrassing margins). He became the Buffalo Bills of presidential candidates.
Stevenson ran into Ike. Didn’t go so well, but nobody would have defeated Eisenhower, so like Bryan he got to play again in 1956, before JFK made him unnecessary in 1960. If Republicans nominate a strong candidate in 2016, Warren would probably find a similar fate. If they don’t, history says she could make it very interesting. She would have more chance of winning than Hillary.
Could Resemble: Jerry Brown (1976), Jerry Brown (1980), Jerry Brown (1992)
As of now, Jerry Brown is not a candidate for President of the United States. He also was not a candidate in September of 1975, 1979 or 1991, but was in by the following April each time.
The thought of someone who ran in 1976 being a candidate in 2016 sounds absurd, but we’re talking about the youngest and oldest governor in California history, someone elected in 1974 and 2014.
Though Brown is pushing 80, he’s in good shape and good health and would fit right in next to Sanders and Biden. Nobody talks about Donald Trump’s age, but he would take office several months older than Ronald Reagan did. More importantly, he’s a reasonably successful two-term California Governor (not to be confused with the controversial two-terms he served from 1975-83), with plenty of access to wealthy Silicon Valley and Hollywood donors.
Without the easy to assemble infrastructure available to sitting VP Biden, Brown is already too late, a trait he shares with the Ghost of Jerry Brown Past. As such, there’s little chance he enters anytime soon.
However, if Biden chooses to stay out, or enters and is less effective than most think or determines he’s not up to the rigors of campaigning. If Hillary continues to struggle, perhaps dealing with more serious email/server issues. If Warren continues to avoid even considering running. If Sanders seems unable to unify the party or pacify insiders….
Brown’s fourth tardy entry into a Democratic primary season is entirely plausible. Each of the previous times he was able to win one or more states, sometimes large ones, but got in too late to stop Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton from getting enough delegates.
He did surprisingly well all things considered, but the math didn’t work. If Hillary or Bernie have not collected enough delegates by the entry deadlines for large late-voting states, watch out.
If President Obama’s approval ratings are north of 50% next fall (somewhere they have rarely ventured since mid-2009), Biden is probably the strongest general election candidate. If they are south of 50%, particularly if below 45%, Brown would actually be the best choice.
He’s just the semi-quirky, authentic candidate that’s so trendy for this season. Unlike Biden and Clinton he was not a member of the Obama administration. Brown has the Sanders streak of independence going, but also has a decade and a half as governor of the largest state in the union.
As crazy as this sounds, the GOP is lucky they probably won’t have to deal with the 77-year-old guy formerly known as Governor Moonbeam. He’s possibly a stronger candidate than all of the current entrants, even if his only historical precedent is his younger self.
Until Biden decides in or out (at least in as a regular primary-contesting candidate) in the next few days, making predictions is difficult. History does show that regardless of what happens with her email and server, regardless of whether Biden enters or doesn’t, Hillary will struggle to win the nomination. It also indicates she is very possibly the weakest general election choice of the entire group.
The correct alternative depends on many (currently unknowable) factors, but regardless, Dems should choose Door #2 or Door #3 as soon as they have adequate info in the Spring. Their current presumptive front-runner is already revealed as a goat.
NOTE: Al Gore and John Kerry are not options. There is no precedent for someone who was as weak a general election candidate as they were getting another shot. There is no precedent for someone getting another shot this many years down the road. Kerry is tied to the Iran deal. Gore has built a bigger insider fortune than the Clintons. Democrats are more likely to pick a freshman State Senator from New Mexico.