Amy Walter, one of the astute political analysts over at Cook Political Report, opened a Pandora’s Box on Monday by asking and attempting to answer the question that terrifies Democratic operatives: “What if there’s no Hillary in 2016?”
The short-term answer is panic, mass desertion, rampant substance abuse, and night terrors among Democratic voters. Fortunately, Walter answered this question with a bit more perspective in mind.
While Walter conceded that most of the people around former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believe she is running, and her behavior and media schedule since the start of her June book tour is consistent with a presidential candidate’s. There remains, however, a specter of doubt about her commitment to another bid for the White House. Furthermore, Walter added, there is no shortage of liberal Democrats who are… unenthusiastic about the prospect of another Clinton candidacy.
With that in mind, Walter took a look at who might fill the vacuum that would be created if Clinton backs out of another campaign.
“[Vice President Joe] Biden starts as the frontrunner, but a very weak one,” Walter noted. “Even with Biden in the mix, most of the Democrats I spoke to said they saw a ‘free for all’ and a nomination ‘up for grabs.’”
Then there is Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley who has made it abundantly clear he has his eyes on the big prize. “O’Malley has the more liberal record, but he would still struggle to get the attention or hold the appeal of a [Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth] Warren, [New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo, or Biden,” Walter continued.
Walter’s next instinct is a telling and accurate one. She proceeds to examine how the Democratic Party, which has spent the last election cycle positioning itself a party focused squarely on identity politics, stacks up in terms of experienced minority office seekers. She found that the party is sorely lacking in potential African-American and Latino presidential aspirants.
Among black candidates, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker have the minimal qualifications to become the next Democratic nominee. Both, however, have limited experience and are closely associated with the Obama White House – a potential drawback should an affiliation with the outgoing president become a liability by 2016.
“Overall, however, the bench of well-known African-American pols who could run a national campaign is pretty thin,” Walter observed.
Moving on to the Hispanic demographic, Walter determined that GOP is in a better position to run a Latino politician in 2016 than are the Democrats. “For all the talk about the GOP’s troubles with Latino voters, they have a bounty of potential Hispanic candidates for 2016,” she wrote.
From Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to Governors Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval, the GOP has a wealth of qualified candidates with Hispanic backgrounds that could fill out a presidential ticket. “[W]hen you ask Democrats to name a serious Hispanic candidate for 2016 the only name that surfaces is former San Antonio Mayor and newly appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro,” Walter noted.
Walter concluded by conceding that hers is not “an exhaustive list.” I think she does not give herself enough credit. The Democratic Party has no shortage of competent politicians who could run for president, but the party’s base is far more interested in a candidate who can stake an authentic claim to personal adversity and the right combination of accidents of birth.
One of the unexpected results of the 2012 campaign was to create a Democratic electorate which is actively hostile to the party’s 2016 bench.