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Ready for Hillary?

A year and a half before the first primary votes are cast, the political press is looking for somebody, anybody to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. To the press corps, having a barely contested race for what’s essentially an open seat is like having a White House Correspondents Dinner without any celebrities.

The Democratic Party being what it is, the largest theoretical space for a credible Clinton challenger is to Hillary’s left. The woman who most often finds herself at the center [1] of these longings is Elizabeth Warren, the senior Democratic senator from Massachusetts.

Warren is admired by many of the activists who comprised Occupy Wall Street. An advocate for reining in financial speculation, she pushed for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and in a less corporatist administration—or in a political culture where she would have been less of a lightning rod—she might have become its first permanent head.

Instead Warren retook Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat for the Democrats, beating Scott Brown by a handsome but not overwhelming 54 percent to 46 percent. The idea is that she’s a progressive who isn’t beholden to Goldman Sachs, despite her support of the bank bailout, and who could crack Hillary’s fortress of women voters.

Elizabeth Warren isn’t the only possibility, however, which is convenient since she has repeatedly maintained she isn’t running [2]. Bernie Sanders, the independent socialist from Vermont, could provide an interesting Ron Paul-of-the-left dynamic. Unlike Warren, he has signaled he is open to running [3]. The New Republic published a piece arguing [4] a Sander campaign “could be excellent news for Democrats.”

Jim Webb is an intriguing populist possibility who hasn’t ruled out [5] a White House bid, though it’s worth noting he didn’t run for a second Senate term from Virginia and his comments about a 2016 campaign came as he was selling a book. Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer won with a similar brand of liberal populism in an even more Republican state and seems more likely [6] to run for president.

To get a sense of how unlikely any of these candidates would be to prevail if Hillary Clinton decides to run, look not toward Iowa or New Hampshire but New York. The bid to deny Gov. Andrew Cuomo the tiny Working Families Party nomination to protest his feints to the economic center went down in flames [7].

A quirk in New York State’s election laws allows small third parties of the left and right to stay relevant by allowing candidates to run for office on more than one party line. A Republican can win thousands of votes through the endorsements of the Conservative or Right to Life parties; Democrats do the same through Working Families and, to a lesser extent, the Liberal Party.

Enter Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham law professor who offered herself as a progressive gubernatorial alternative to Working Families members who view Cuomo as a “right-wing douchebag [8].” Mario Cuomo’s son has pushed corporate tax cuts, public employee pension reforms, and has more closely resembled Bill Clinton circa 1997 in his approach to the state budget than his father or even liberal Republican Nelson Rockefeller in his prime.

Cuomo decided to fight for the Working Families endorsement—while, according to a BuzzFeed report [8], reserving the right to crush the party if he was denied. This entailed lobbying other statewide Democrats to decline to run on its line if they ran a candidate against him, in an effort to jeopardize the minor party’s future ballot access.

“Let’s remember there’s a national debate going on right now about where the Democratic party is. Is it a party of Bill de Blasio and Elizabeth Warren?” a source was quoted as saying. “Or is it the party of Cuomo, Governor O’Malley and Hillary Clinton?” (The New York Times reported that de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, urged Working Families to back Cuomo.)

If a network of liberal activists and labor unions failed to hold firm against the Cuomo-Clinton establishment Democrats, what hope is there that the mainstream Democratic Party will? Teachout was a former aide to Howard Dean, who in 2003-04 spoke for many liberals’ disgust with Clintonian money politics and capitulation on the Iraq war. He briefly zoomed to the head of the Democratic pack, before fizzling out, winning only Vermont and the District of Columbia on the way to a John Kerry nomination.

Dean later employed his “50-state strategy” to win the Democratic National Committee chairmanship. More significantly, Barack Obama borrowed some of his organizing tactics to beat Hillary in 2008, the main reason people believe she can be beaten again.

But Obama combined the white progressives attracted to candidates like Dean, Bill Bradley, and Gary Hart with large majorities of black primary voters, a feat Bernie Sanders isn’t likely to replicate. The Iraq war issue was then much fresher. And the liberals who think the Clintons are too close to big business don’t have much to show for Obama’s administration—and George W. Bush’s administration to show for their votes for Ralph Nader in 2000.

Perhaps most importantly, Obama had by 2008 catapulted himself to a hero status within the Democratic Party that allowed him to compete with Clinton—who is broadly popular with liberals—on even terms. Brian Schweitzer hasn’t done that.

If Hillary Clinton shocks the media world and decides not to run, expect a freshly re-elected Andrew Cuomo to give the race another look. If she enters the race as anticipated, Cuomo vs. the Working Families Party is a good model for how she would defeat any progressive alternative.

W. James Antle III is editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? [9]

Follow @jimantle [10]

17 Comments (Open | Close)

17 Comments To "Ready for Hillary?"

#1 Comment By Moving On On June 2, 2014 @ 12:57 am

It’s hard to imagine a worse result for the country than Hillary Clinton being elected in 2016. The dead hand of a discredited and disreputable past reaching out to foul the future.

I fervently hope that some honorable Democrat defeats her in the primaries, putting an end to the dark chapter in American history that began with her husband and continued through Bush II and Obama.

Please let it be over.

#2 Comment By grey enlightenment On June 2, 2014 @ 5:59 am

At this stage we can probably narrow it down to one of four possible republican nominees. Any candidate that expects to win the nomination has to be cozy with big business to raise money. Look at Bill Bradly vs Gore in which gore, a moderate pragmatic democrat like Clinton, won because he was able to secure early financing and tons of media coverage.

#3 Comment By Mia On June 2, 2014 @ 8:09 am

It amuses me that a party that has never beaten Obama think that they are now good enough to beat a Clinton, simply because Clinton lost to Obama…especially since the GOP suffered plenty more losses against both Clintons combined.

#4 Comment By Mia On June 2, 2014 @ 8:12 am

Obama did in 2008 what the Tea Party hopes to do…defeat the establishment at the highest level. The only problem is that the Tea Party’s ideas are not new. I think Rand Paul is the most “progressive” out of the GOP side…he is their best shot.

#5 Comment By spite On June 2, 2014 @ 8:51 am

Hillary has some hawkish tendencies, whoever the Republican candidate is will likely try to out hawk her. Scary stuff ahead.

#6 Comment By Jack Ross On June 2, 2014 @ 9:02 am

First, a factual correction – the Liberal Party no longer exists, the Independence Party has taken its place as the entity whose exact reason for existing is mysterious at best. Personally I find the whole fusion system in New York to be a joke, perhaps never better illustrated than the real issue of contention with Cuomo being whether he would fight for a Democratic State Senate.

As for your premise – I think your right in the limited sense that Elizabeth Warren and a lot of the milieu typified by her and Working Families are playing a complicated game on Hillary’s behalf. But what, really, will Hillary have to run on when she finally declares other than her name? Let’s not forget the inevitable Presidencies of Ted Kennedy and Rudy Giuliani.

#7 Comment By Stephen P On June 2, 2014 @ 10:38 am

There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the “progressive” Democrats (Obama, Warren and de Blasio) and the “centrists” like Cuomo and Hillary. Whatever their campaign rhetoric, put them in office and they’re corporatist and pro-war (and it goes without saying, pro-abortion and 100% in support of gay interest groups). De Blasio has done nothing that Bloomberg wouldn’t have, and when Warren was in the Obama administration, she was as big of a bailout proponent as Wall Street could have dreamed.

Bernie Sanders is the only one of the bunch who would actually adopt an anti-interventionist foreign policy and progressive economic policies.

#8 Comment By philadelphialawyer On June 2, 2014 @ 11:04 am

“If she enters the race as anticipated, Cuomo vs. the Working Families Party is a good model for how she would defeat any progressive alternative.”

Not sure that I am seeing that. What is the “model” that Hillary can use? New York is New York, and has its own somewhat crazy election laws. But Hillary can’t keep third party candidates off the ballot in most States.

In any event, most, if not all, of the would-be challengers to Hillary you mention are Democrats, not Third Party persons. Thus, ballot exclusion in the general election is not really the issue, viz a viz these candidates.

Rather, it is in the Democratic primaries and caucuses and the seduction of the super delegates that Hillary hopes, and needs, to succeed. And, to ensure doing so, she probably needs to take a page out of Obama’s book, ie organize in every State (and be willing to get ugly in caucuses), woo the superdelegates early and often with campaign money and personal appearances on their behalf, sock puppet the blogs, have a strong and faux interactive, faux “grassroots” internet presence, understand and exploit the rules that govern delegate allocation, which are quite arcane and somewhat anti democratic. Also, organize hard in Iowa and NH and hope to thereby nip any rebellions in the bud, but also build a “firewall” in SC and Nevada.

In short, she has to play to win this time. Hire a better team and be willing to be quite ruthless and nasty herself, if need be. Last time, amazingly, she and Bill were painted as anti Black racists. Perhaps she needs to build up a “misogynist” file on all her possible male rivals, to be opened up if need be later on.

#9 Comment By CJ On June 2, 2014 @ 12:50 pm

It’s hard to imagine a worse result for the country than Hillary Clinton being elected in 2016.

Jeb Bush.

#10 Comment By icarusr On June 2, 2014 @ 1:07 pm

All Ms. Rodham needs to win is to NOT hire Mark Penn again.

#11 Comment By libertarian jerry On June 2, 2014 @ 9:06 pm

I’ve been voting in Presidential elections since 1964 when I cast my 1st Presidential vote for Barry Goldwater. Here was an honorable man who,at the time,was smeared by the Democrats because they pictured Mr.Goldwater as a deranged man who was going to at the most blow up the world and at the least drop all those bombs on Vietnam. So instead of an honorable man we got a total of 6 years of one of the most deceitful and corrupt Presidents in history….LBJ,plus 58 thousand dead Americans added to over one million Vietnamese civilians killed in a useless war. Since that time I have,when I do vote for Presidents vote usually 3rd party,especially Libertarian. After 50 years of voting I discovered that their is no real difference between the candidates in the one party with two branches; the Demopublican Party. In the end,the real power in America,especially after the assassination of JFK,are the powers behind the throne. The globalists,elitists and money men who endeavor to rule the world. No matter which main stream candidate gets elected President in 2016 it will be the same old same old with most of our elected officials nothing but puppets on a string.

#12 Comment By Kent On June 2, 2014 @ 9:20 pm

“It’s hard to imagine a worse result for the country than Hillary Clinton being elected in 2016.”

Ted Cruz.

#13 Comment By Roger On June 2, 2014 @ 11:14 pm

I’ve been pushing Brian Schweitzer for months now. Most people don’t know who he is.
He’s an economic populist governor who is moderate and occasionally conservative on social issues. He’s basically a non-interventionist on foreign policy, and has criticized Wall Street repeatedly. He called Obama a “corporatist.”

And unlike Warren and Sanders, Brian Schweitzer electable.

#14 Comment By Pete IA On June 3, 2014 @ 11:52 pm

If you’re wondering what a Hillary presidency portends, read Phil Giraldi’s current TAC piece on global corruption. Letting that couple and their sleazy entourage have a second crack at the public trough would be insanity.

#15 Comment By Scott McConnell On June 4, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

At least slightly curious by your Jim Webb mention. I think it was tragic that this interesting, smart, and unusual figure didn’t want to keep his Senate seat; would be curious to see him try to raise, or re-raise, his profile– on matters unrelated to book sales. Certainly there are issues– Iran, Israel-Palestine, Ukraine–where a realist foreign sensibility would be welcome and probably pretty popular. And he might find the Democratic Party more congenial to these views than Ran Paul will find the GOP.

#16 Comment By Scott McConnell On June 4, 2014 @ 12:08 pm

should have proofread my above comment: Rand Paul. . . receptive to these views. . . curious about. . . .

#17 Comment By Manelion On June 4, 2014 @ 8:08 pm

“It’s hard to imagine a worse result for the country than Hillary Clinton being elected in 2016.”

Barack Obama.