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Every Other Democrat Who Might Run For President Is Waiting For Hillary

Hillary Clinton Speaking 2

While the Republican race for the White House in 2016 is likely to be a wide open and raucous race, with a field that could contain everyone from Rand Paul and Ted Cruz to Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, the Democratic field is essentially frozen in place because everyone else who might run is waiting to see what Hillary Clinton does:

Hillary Clinton’s phantom presence in the Democratic presidential-nomination stakes—neither in nor out—is freezing the rest of the field, creating formidable obstacles for other candidates needing to raise money and set up an organization.

When advisers to a fundraising group backing a prospective 2016 Clinton bid came calling in late January, hedge-fund manager and political heavyweight Orin Kramer said he met them in his New York office and agreed to write a check. When another potential candidate, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, tried to reach him, Mr. Kramer said he didn’t take the call.

“She’s Gladys Knight and all the rest of them are the Pips,” said Robert Zimmerman, a longtime Democratic donor, comparing Mrs. Clinton with potential opponents from both parties.

Possible 2016 candidates are in the crucial early stages of raising money, but they won’t likely set up formal campaign infrastructures until after this year’s midterm elections.

Even though she isn’t officially running, Mrs. Clinton retains huge influence with the Democratic Party’s fundraising and get-out-the-vote machinery. A super PAC called “Ready for Hillary” is recruiting Clinton campaign volunteers in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early-voting states. A group called Priorities USA Action is prepared to raise millions for her campaign, having made early overtures to donors such as Mr. Kramer.

That organizational advantage coupled with her renown as a former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state have prevented other prospective Democrats from getting a toehold in the race. One Democratic strategist describes a political environment “frozen” in anticipation of a possible Clinton bid.

“She, as much as anyone, knows that running for president is a very personal and weighty decision that people need to make on their own timeline, based on whatever factors they want to take into account,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a recent interview.

For any candidate with a surname other than Clinton, getting an early start is vital because few have the luxury of being able to wait until the last minute, given the complexities and expense of running campaigns.

Vice PresidentJoe Biden is considering a run, but he seems under no illusion about what he is up against. Last year, when he met with a Democratic fundraiser and talked about his possible 2016 ambitions, Mr. Biden made a modest request given his status as a sitting vice president: Please keep your powder dry, the fundraiser recalled him asking.

Friends of Mr. Biden’s want to start organizing on his behalf in New Hampshire. But as of early April, they hadn’t asked for a green light from his office. Daniel Eaton, a Democratic New Hampshire state representative, said he planned to ask Mr. Biden’s office for permission to begin mobilizing supporters and donors. “I don’t think the American people appreciate a party anointing anyone,” Mr. Eaton said. “They want it earned.”

Polls show Mrs. Clinton lapping the field of potential Democratic rivals, raising the possibility that she could be a rare candidate who takes the nomination without a fight—if she chooses to run.

That last fact, of course, is what makes for the vital difference between Clinton and anyone considering running for President in 2016, including the incumbent Vice-President. Thanks both to her name recognition and the huge lead that she continues to hold in polls of Democratic voters both nationwide and in early primary states, Hillary Clinton can afford to put off the action necessary to become a formal candidate for President much longer than anyone else can. She doesn’t really need to worry about “introducing herself” to the American people the way that a candidate like Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, or former Montana Governor Brian Schwietzer, to name just three people who have been mentioned as potential 2016 candidates, would have. She also wouldn’t need to worry as much about raising money as they would, and indeed there have been several reports that all of the various “waiting for Hillary” groups out there are essentially just waiting for her to make the formal decision, at which point they can relatively easily be transformed into formal parts of the campaign, or SuperPACs devoted to supporting her campaign. Even Vice-President Biden wouldn’t be able to rely on a network like that, and if he ran against Hillary he’d likely find that many of the establishment Democrats who might otherwise support a sitting Vice-President seeking the nomination are instead backing the former Secretary of State.

The standard response to the argument that Hillary is the inevitable Democratic nominee, of course, is to point to the 2008 cycle when it also seemed as though she was on a course to winning the nomination. What happened instead, of course, is that Clinton’s campaign ran headlong into the campaign of then Illinois Senator Barack Obama which not only had the benefit of the kind of popularity that is rare in politics to begin with, but also proved itself to be more adept at running a campaign that Clinton’s was. Is it possible that the same thing could happen again in 2016? I suppose it is, but it strikes me as being far less likely this time around. For one thing, it seems unlikely that there will be an Obama-like candidate in the Democratic field in 2016. At the very least, none of the names that have been mentioned to date seem like ones that could light a populist flame the way that candidate Obama did in venues throughout the country during the winter and spring of the epic battle between him and Senator Clinton for the nomination. For another, it seems fairly clear that Hillary Clinton has learned from her mistakes in 2008 as have he people most likely to end up running her campaign, many of whom were actually part of President Obama’s campaign in 2008. So yes, while it’s possible that Biden, O’Malley, Cuomo, or someone else could surprise the nation and beat Clinton for the nomination, it seems quite improbable at this point.

Secretary Clinton has made clear that she’s unlikely to make any formal moves on running for President before the end of this year, so I think we can expect to see the Democratic field remain frozen for much of 2014. At some point, though, those candidate who are not Hillary Clinton are going to have to taking the steps necessary to set up a campaign if they’re going to have any chance of winning at all. When that point comes, the really interesting question isn’t likely to be “Can any of these people beat Hillary?,” but “What happens to the Democratic field if Hillary decides not to run?”

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    I’m not sure I’m ready for the levels of sheer insanity that will come from the Republican Party once Hillary is elected.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    She has taken all the oxygen out of the room so everyone is holding their breath. At this rate, the nomination will be hers by default.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  3. C. Clavin says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    As much as I would enjoy seeing the torture of the Party of Stupid People…GOP…I’d really love for someone who’s not Hillary to run. But who?
    http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/top-10-democratic-presidential-contenders-for-2016-20121106
    I think Cory Booker is too young.
    Deval Patrick maybe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  4. wr says:

    I know this is what’s been keeping me out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  5. gVOR08 says:

    Per Doug’s post, looks to me like Jeb Bush is coyly talking about ‘maybe’, and ‘decide by end of year'; while also waiting for Hillary to decide.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @C. Clavin: Personally, I just want a contest. I don’t like it when people are just anointed. As to who besides Hillary? Haven’t the faintest idea. If it is Hillary… I don’t think we have enough drugs for all the crazy. And I don’t know who will need them more, them or me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: OOOhh oooohhh oooohhh, I know I know I know… Nancy Pelosi.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  8. Ben says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I’d really love for someone who’s not Hillary to run.

    Tell me about it. Between the Iraq war and reauthorizing the Patriot Act, her voting record doesn’t exactly fill me with warm and fuzzies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  9. Kylopod says:

    Even if a Hillary run effectively makes any other Democratic candidate DOA, that doesn’t mean it would be pointless for them to run. Many nominees in modern times have been candidates who failed to get the nomination in a previous presidential race. It’s more common in the GOP, but it has also happened several times on the Democratic side. As you say, politicians like Cuomo and O’Malley need to introduce themselves to the public, and what better way to do that than actually running? I wouldn’t say there’s no downside, since candidates can be damaged by the rough-and-tumble of a campaign, but running in primaries and losing doesn’t seem to have anywhere near the negative effect of actually being nominated and then losing in the general election. That’s probably why it’s much less common for a general-election loser to be nominated again (Nixon was the last one). Primary-losers seem to escape the “loser” label for the most part. Whatever else you can say about Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful 2008 bid for the GOP nomination, it did help launch him to front-runner status for the next open race–and the same is true of McCain in 2000, Gore and Dole in 1988, Reagan in 1976, and so on. It increased their name recognition and helped them build experience and connections. Therefore, with the exception of Biden because of his age, it’s probably a win-win for the non-Hillary Democrats to enter the race whether she runs or not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  10. Tyrell says:

    I hear a lot of Democrats who have nothing personal against Hillary, but look for a candidate who is more conservative or middle of the road. Someone with more experience; a Johnson, or Russell.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  11. Tillman says:

    Is it possible that the same thing could happen again in 2016? I suppose it is, but it strikes me as being far less likely this time around. For one thing, it seems unlikely that there will be an Obama-like candidate in the Democratic field in 2016. At the very least, none of the names that have been mentioned to date seem like ones that could light a populist flame the way that candidate Obama did in venues throughout the country during the winter and spring of the epic battle between him and Senator Clinton for the nomination.

    Obama only became “special” because of a convention speech, some books, and the fact that he wasn’t Hillary Clinton but a member of a different marginalized group.

    While it might be conventional wisdom in Washington that the nomination’s hers if she wants it, I still think there’s a large portion of the Democratic party willing to vote in the primaries against her if only in protest. Enough of them could lead to another upset.

    I have next to nothing against Hillary Clinton (except for her Wall Street connections). I’d just prefer someone else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @Tillman:

    Obama only became “special” because of a convention speech, some books, and the fact that he wasn’t Hillary Clinton but a member of a different marginalized group.

    That…and he voted against the Iraq War. You could have left the list at his Convention Speech, and his Iraq vote. Everything else was gravy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  13. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    Yeah…someone like Russell who opposed civil rights.
    You do realize all the Southern Democrats are now Republicans, right?
    And you think Johnson…designer of the “Great Society” is conservative?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  14. Kylopod says:

    @Tillman:

    Obama only became “special” because of a convention speech, some books, and the fact that he wasn’t Hillary Clinton but a member of a different marginalized group.

    That seems a tad simplistic as a way of explaining something that rarely happens–an insurgent candidate beating out an establishment one. Obama was hardly the first candidate to deliver some nice speeches, nor was he the first African American to run either.

    While it might be conventional wisdom in Washington that the nomination’s hers if she wants it, I still think there’s a large portion of the Democratic party willing to vote in the primaries against her if only in protest.

    The media sort of cried wolf on this one; after presenting her as the “inevitable” 2008 nominee for so long, they have little credibility in suggesting the same thing now. Still, there is at least one important difference now: the Iraq War has faded as an issue dividing the Democrats, and so far nothing has surfaced to fill its place. There still is the usual progressive/establishment divide, but it isn’t nearly as intense as it was in the 2008 cycle–and anyway, Obama’s rise wasn’t just a phenomenon of the left, he also attracted many independent and centrist types. That isn’t an easy feat, and it’s a big part of what propelled him to the nomination.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  15. superdestroyer says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    You can forget about competitive elections in the future. In the same person wins the Democratic Party caucuses in Iowa and the New Hampshire primaries, then that person will be the next president. Image how hard the media will have to work to convince Americans that there is any doubt in the elections and that average citizens should pay attention.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  16. Tillman says:

    @C. Clavin: He was against the Iraq war. He wasn’t a U.S. Senator when the vote to go into Iraq was made. Still, your point is a good one. That’s just nitpicking.

    @Kylopod:

    There still is the usual progressive/establishment divide, but it isn’t nearly as intense as it was in the 2008 cycle–and anyway, Obama’s rise wasn’t just a phenomenon of the left, he also attracted many independent and centrist types. That isn’t an easy feat, and it’s a big part of what propelled him to the nomination.

    That’s why I mentioned her Wall Street connections. Income inequality could be the divisive issue, and like the Iraq war, she talks one way but her record and associations come down on another.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. Tillman says:

    @superdestroyer: Crap, I can’t tell anymore. Are you the parody account or the real SD?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tillman:

    Real one. The parody account out more thought into it and didn’t just copy and paste.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Kylopod says:

    @Tillman:

    Income inequality could be the divisive issue

    I’d be very happy if it was. But somehow I doubt it. The Occupy movement notwithstanding, I don’t see economic inequality as producing the kind of widespread public anger that the Iraq War fueled. It just doesn’t have the same tangible properties as a war where thousands of Americans were sent to their deaths for a lie. In a sense its effects are all around us, but like water to a fish, it’s invisible to many people.

    Also, the 2004 race laid the groundwork for a strong anti-Iraq War campaign in 2008, first with Howard Dean (whose grassroots appeal and use of new technology Obama drew upon without adopting his caustic and divisive tone), and then with the collective eye roll over Kerry’s “for it before he was against it” approach to the issue. A successful populist challenge to Hillary would probably need more buildup than what I’ve seen so far.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. superdestroyer says:

    @Tillman:

    Do you really think that there is any candidate that the Republicans can nominate who stands a chance of winning in the general election in 2016. The last two Republican candidates have not been competitive. Given four more years of demographic changes and the media becoming even more friendly to Democrats, do you really think there is some special strategy that will make the Republicans competitive?

    If there is no serious challenger to Hillary Clinton, everyone will know who will be the next president a year before the January 2017 inauguration. I always thought that the U.S. would never vote for a 70 y/o woman. But as the U.S. heads toward being a one party state, it makes sense that the biggest candidate in the only relevant political party could be from any demographic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod:

    Even if a Hillary run effectively makes any other Democratic candidate DOA, that doesn’t mean it would be pointless for them to run.

    Agreed, but not for the same reason as you postulate. An insurgent who garnered the support of a not insignificant # of primary voters could pull her to the left.

    @Tyrell:

    I hear a lot of Democrats who have nothing personal against Hillary, but look for a candidate who is more conservative or middle of the road.

    Evidently you haven’t noticed: Hillary is the “middle of the road” candidate. Most of us liberals want somebody to the left of her.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  22. grumpy realist says:

    @Tyrell: How can you get more conservative or middle-of-the -road than Hillary and still be acceptable to Dems? She and Bill triangulated all over the place. Made my teeth ache.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  23. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I agree. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I was focusing on the personal incentives for individual candidates to run, not on the ideological direction of the party. I would like to see her challenged from her left for the same reason as you, but my point is that the challenger isn’t necessarily sacrificing him/herself for that cause; the same person may turn out to be a viable candidate in a future election (and may also end up as Hillary’s vp).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. superdestroyer says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Look at the approval ratings that bill Clinton left office with versus what President Obama will leave office with. President Bill Clinton benefitted from being able to throw the Congressional Democrats under the bus to cut deals with the Republicans. President Obama would probably be better off if the Republicans controlled the Senate rather than the split houses that exist now.

    However, I doubt if Hillary will be as good as triangulation as Bill was. The real question for Hilary is whether David Axelrod will be running her election effort since he is probably the most capable person in politics today.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Look at the approval ratings that bill Clinton left office with versus what President Obama will leave office with.

    Wow, now you can can predict poll results 3 years into the future too. (mind you, I don’t think this detracts from your other points which have validity)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. C. Clavin says:

    @superdestroyer:
    No…
    Clinton benefitted from Republicans willing to work for the good of the country
    Today’s Republicans actively work against the good of the country.
    My guess is that Congress then had much higher approval as well.
    It would be stupid to think the Congress isn’t rubbing off on Obama.
    But seeing how you’re predicting the future…will the Dow hit 17,000?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. PJ says:

    @Tyrell:

    I hear a lot of Democrats who have nothing personal against Hillary, but look for a candidate who is more conservative or middle of the road. Someone with more experience; a Johnson, or Russell.

    If you take your medicine, those imaginary voices in your head will stop.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Rob in CT says:

    She’s the heavyweight, and I don’t see anyone who is roughly analogous to Obama this time to swoop in and beat her. Obama was clearly a rising star in the years leading up to ’08. Who is comparable? Nobody I can see. I mean, hey, I like Elizabeth Warren too and all, but I think she’s been clear that she’s not going for POTUS (which strikes me as a good thing).

    I’m not a huge Hillary fan, but I don’t see anyone who can beat her and I’ll vote for her in the general, faults and all. I would’ve in ’08 too, even though I was really pissed about Iraq!, The Sequel.

    [LOL @ the idea of Hillary being some kind of radical]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  29. Ken says:

    superdestroyer 04/07/14: as the U.S. heads toward being a one party state”

    It’s like a compulsive tic, isn’t it? You literally can not stop, can you?

    @superdestroyer 04/02/14 : Of course, the U.S. will be a one party state

    superdestroyer 04/02/14: the real goal of the left is not only a one party state

    superdestroyer 04/02/14: not only will the U.S. be a one party system

    superdestroyer 04/02/14: However, if one wants to have a one party state

    superdestroyer 04/05/14: . The treatment of Mr. Eich shows how the U.S. will function as a one party state

    superdestroyer 04/06/14: it is a one party state

    superdestroyer 04/06/14 : , I get to see how a one party state operates

    superdestroyer 04/06/14: it is a classic one party state election

    And that’s just the past couple of days. Does anyone remember this post from James?

    James Joyner 11/08/12: This is your last warning on the one-party state meme. We’re all tired of it. Find some new material or take it elsewhere.

    Yeah, that was your last warning, dude. You’ll get no more chances.

    Superdestroyer 06/02/13 one party state

    Superdestroyer 06/09/13:a small fish in the coming one party state

    Superdestroyer 09/30/13: the real beginning of the one party state

    Superdestroyer 10/12/13 one party state

    Superdestroyer 11/04/13 pushing the U.S. into being a one party state

    Superdestroyer 11/04/13 as the U.S. becomes a one party state

    Superdestroyer 11/25/13:Latino voters in the coming one party state.

    Superdestroyer 11/25/13:s what do they think the U.S. will be like when it becomes a one party state

    Superdestroyer 11/25/13: most Americans seem to want a one party state

    Superdestroyer 12/14/13 the U.S. will soon be a one party state

    Superdestroyer 01/05/14 As the U.S. becomes a one party state

    Superdestroyer 01/18/14: as the U.S. becomes a one party state

    Superdestroyer 02/02/14 As the U.S. becomes a one party state

    Superdestroyer 02/06/14 a huge win for the Democrats, turn the U.S. into a one party state, and lower the standard of living of many

    Superdestroyer 02/20/14 one party state

    Superdestroyer 03/07/14 Just another confirmation that the U.S. will soon be a one party state.

    Well, maybe just a few more chances

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  30. Kylopod says:

    @Ken: To paraphrase Lewis Black, he’s got one-party-state Tourette’s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  31. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Ken: @Kylopod: It’s like the UN and North Korea, right now they are at “We’re really upset at you and not going to take it anymore” Level 8.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0