May 14, 2016
In the mood for a new conspiracy theory/scenario? Sure, Hillary Clinton is still the most likely 45th POTUS, followed by Donald Trump. We’ll probably look back on the flight of fancy you’re about to read and chuckle knowingly at my attempt to find a way out of the Clinton-Trump morass that awaits us for the next six months.
But any crackpot idea that is technically feasible is worth kicking around for a few minutes. Especially when it is in the best interests of the party insiders (i.e. President Obama) who would need to approve.
Let’s review what we know. Hillary Clinton is the second least popular presumptive nominee in the history of polling. The only thing keeping her favored to win is her opponent.
Her email scandal is a legit issue. Some think it was just bad judgment, others think she should go to jail, but either way, documents were moved from the secure State Department server to her home server.
It’s very likely foreign governments were able to hack the server. Even if you believe nothing was classified at the time, and accept Hillary’s argument that after the fact classification is over aggressive, thousands of potentially embarrassing emails were available for hackers and rival governments to see.
We don’t know what was in the 30,000 plus emails that Clinton had wiped from her hard drive, but most of the others are now in the public domain. While many are mundane, others contain the type of gossip intelligence agencies spend money and resources to acquire.
We know several Clinton insiders spent time at the State Department before, during, or after they were involved with the Clinton Foundation. We know the foundation received large donations from foreign countries, and foreign business interests who also had dealings with the State Department.
We know Hillary made millions and millions of dollars giving speeches at $250,000 a pop. So did her husband. There are no transcripts in the public domain. If we weren’t totally distracted by Trump, you would never believe somebody with the above record could get elected in a normal year, let alone one that favors outsiders.
We know the president is not currently a drag on his party’s nominee. At the moment, Obama is significantly more popular than Hillary or Trump, if not at Eisenhower levels of acclaim.
No Democratic nominee would run away from him this fall, and Clinton has done more to tie herself to the outgoing president than any candidate in memory. Even against Trump, Democrats will need to rebuild as much of the Obama Coalition as possible.
They need young voters, African Americans, Latinos, and single women to turn out in order to win the Senate. If they stay home, even if Clinton does ok with married white women, she could easily face a GOP congress. Worse, Trump could beat her if Republicans are able to unite.
A stready stream of reminders about the Clinton Foundation, emails being hacked, Bill’s past indescretions and Hillary’s role in defending him, could easily turn some #NeverTrump voters into #NeverHillary.
As much as some Republicans are angry Trump may ruin the chance to defeat a weakened Hillary, Democrats will find themselves equally concerned about the reverse. Solving this is not as easy as swapping her out for Bernie.
While Sanders is doing better in polling against Trump, there’s the small matter of Hillary having won more states and more votes. The GOP will tell you it’s hard to get around those facts.
We’ve seen they have completely different constituencies. If you know a voter’s demographics, it’s easy to guess who they’ll support. Overall, Bernie is better liked among Democrats, but the voters still trust her more to win in November.
Crucially, Clinton does far better nationally among registered Democrats. While the scorn of Independents puts Hillary at risk in the fall, it’s hard to nominate someone based on non-party voters.
As much as Trump was similarly helped by open primaries, he did win a plurality of registered Republicans too. If they’d opted for Ted Cruz, we’d have a contested convention on the horizon.
Hillary has lost enough recent primaries to look weak, but Bernie is trailing in Oregon. A new poll from the Portland area Fox affiliate has her up 15. It’s a closed primary. It’s one data point and he may close the gap, but if Bernie can’t even win Oregon, he’s not a plausible nominee.
Beyond all of the above, super delegates and the president are not going to hand the keys to the party to a total outsider who has spent the past year railing against entrenched interests in the party. His peers like him better than Ted Cruz, but don’t have confidence in him as a standard bearer, commander-in-chief, or much else.
Enter Uncle Joe. He’s primed and ready. So is Elizabeth Warren, who has not dismissed the option of serving as Vice President. The tandem is the best way for Democrats to reach all of their objectives.
But how to get them on the ticket?
Step 1: Hillary ends the primary stage just short of the necessary earned delegates to secure the nomination. This will happen, even if she wins most of the remaining contests, due to proportional delegate allocation. The same math keeping Bernie from catching up hurts her here.
Step 2: Her super delegate endorsers, the ones who put her well over the number needed for first ballot nomination stay strongly in her corner. They don’t move to Bernie. Given her lead in earned delegates and popular vote, why would they?
Step 3: The FBI decides there’s a problem. This was always and remains a possibility. They’ve given immunity to the guy who set up her server. Guccifer the hacker was extradited to the U.S. The FBI has also interviewed everyone in Hillary’s circle. Many of these individuals (Huma Abedin, et al) are also on the campaign.
Many have assumed the Obama Administration would do everything in its power to shut down the investigation. But obstruction of justice isn’t wise, particularly to save an imperfect to bad candidate with a better choice available.
Something between an indictment and very negative findings could easily catapult Trump ahead in the polls. Even if Hillary isn’t inclined to take a deal and exit the race, there’s plenty to make super delegates nervous.
They can opt for Biden on a first ballot, preventing Clinton or Sanders from reaching a majority. Eventually, as with the GOP scenarios everyone spent such time on, the earned delegates become free agents.
Who would those party insiders prefer? A damaged Clinton, Independent Bernie, or Biden/Warren? A nod from POTUS and it’s done.
This sort of hijacking wasn’t possible on the GOP side. There’s no sitting president still very popular in his own party. There were several winner-take-all primaries to help Trump build a delegate majority. Far fewer super delegate equivalents.
The largest issue was lack of a compromise candidate or ticket. Parachuting Paul Ryan in would have thrilled some and horrified Trumpists. Candidates like Marco Rubio and John Kasich were disqualified by their primary losses. Ted Cruz is Ted Cruz.
None of those options were anywhere near as popular with Republicans as Biden and Warren are with Democrats. Most Berners would love having Warren on the ticket. Especially with Biden pledging to serve one term.
That would assuage Hillary supporters looking forward to voting for the first female president. Biden would prove similarly effective with African American voters and is arguably the most loyal VP in American history. Obama fans of any ethnicity have reason to appreciate him.
The white male Democrats who are not spectacularly progressive, have avoided Hillary in the primaries, and are a threat to vote for Trump are right in Biden’s wheelhouse. His biggest perceived defects were age and proclivity to say dumb shit sometimes.
Neither are an issue against The Donald, but his general likeability is a huge asset. Especially if Obama retains at least neutral favorability ratings, it’s hard to see how Trump could possibly win.
A fresher, more exciting ticket, would greatly increase the odds of a Senate takeover while making the House uncomfortably close for Republicans.
This probably won’t actually happen. Hillary is an obvious favorite for the nomination. But I’m as convinced as I was in August that Biden/Warren is the best possible outcome for the Democratic Party.
And they can make it so if they choose. It’s no accident Biden said out loud that he thinks he’d be the best choice. It wasn’t happenstance he noted Warren was his preference as running mate.
It’s tough to distinguish strategic Biden from goofy Uncle Joe, but he cleared a path for the president and party on gay marriage when it seemed like he’d just spoken out of turn. He doesn’t only speak because he enjoys talking.