The Democratic presidential field is so weak that Hillary Clinton would be crazy not to run for president one last time. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
A year ago, it looked as if Democrats would have a plethora of interesting candidates. Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker and Julian Castro offered relative youth and racial diversity. Sen. Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota expanded the party’s appeal in the Midwest. Beto O’Rourke almost pulled off a historic upset in his Texas Senate race. There was energy and excitement.
Fast forward to the present. A trio of white folks in their 70s are leading the field. Sen. Bernie Sanders remains a wild-eyed socialist. He recently had a heart attack, but he still has more energy than Joe Biden. Biden’s advisers have decided that his best strategy is to talk as little as possible. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a plan for everything except how to pay for her plans. Her primary opponents have ignored the fact that she falsely claimed to be Native American in order to advance her legal career. President Donald Trump will show no such restraint.
Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that Democratic bigwigs aren’t happy with the field. They think Warren is too liberal to beat Trump. Sanders is more extreme than Warren, but rarely receives consideration as the possible nominee.
Party insiders worry that Biden is fading — and not just because of his lackluster debates and repeated gaffes. Iowa Democrats think he could fall to third or fourth place in their caucus. With $8.9 million in cash on hand, he has a money problem, too. Sanders has $33.7 million. Warren and Pete Buttigieg have around $25 million.
It’s not just the elites who have doubts. The more Democratic voters see their presidential candidates, the less certain they are about their vote. A recent Suffolk University/USA Today poll in Iowa found that 63 percent of those who supported a candidate said they could change their support. Biden led the poll with 18 percent support, but even more people, 29 percent, were undecided. That’s up from 21 percent undecided in June.
This situation is reminiscent of what Republicans faced in 2012. Remember the boomlets for Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain? GOP primary voters cycled through a series of lackluster candidates before Mitt Romney won the right to lose handily to Barack Obama.
Usually, political parties don’t have a candidate capable of besting a crowded field waiting in the wings. In 2012, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried. It didn’t go well.
Clinton is an exception and is reportedly interested in running again — if she thinks she could win. She can. There are logistical challenges to entering so late, but Clinton has significant advantages over the other candidates. The vast majority of Democrats voted for her just three years ago, at least during the general election. Unlike Biden, Obama has previously endorsed one of her campaigns for president. She has deep support within the African-American community. Clinton has the best electability argument of any candidate. She beat Trump in the popular vote in 2016.
Biden’s polling has been fading since May. Clinton’s entry would erode it further. If Biden isn’t the presumptive front-runner, he doesn’t have a compelling case to make. His candidacy would likely collapse with his supporters going to Clinton. Amazingly, in the modern Democratic Party, Clinton and Biden are the moderates.
If Clinton announced before Thanksgiving that she was running, I’d make her the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination.