Let’s face it — this will be a short and slow news week. Everyone in Washington has bolted for the holiday exits; the only legislative story worth following as breaking news is in Texas, and even they’ve recessed until next week. It’s time to break out the wonkery and the speculative analysis, and ask a question that’s almost certainly 100% academic:
For Democrats, there is no fallback: It’s Hillary Clinton or probably a long bout of depression ahead of 2016. …
Democrats openly describe their surprise at seeing such consensus around a candidate so early. The hope of retaining the White House in an open-seat election is very real — and the letdown that will set in among Democratic activists and operatives will be very deep if Clinton takes a pass on a campaign, as she may well do.
She has said she has yet to make up her mind, but few in the party believe that. The Clintons’ ambition and the chance to make history as the first female president, they figure, will overpower any reticence about another grueling campaign or spending her golden years carrying the burdens of the world’s weightiest job.
But if they’re wrong, there is no obvious replacement. And the party would be looking at a mad scramble to fill the Clinton void.
Is there a chance that Hillary won’t run in 2016? Uh, sure, there’s a chance. If she doesn’t remain healthy or if Bill gets sick, she might take a pass. If the Benghazi scandal erupts in a way that personally implicates her, she may not have a choice but to retire.
Those cases aside, nothing will stand in the way of the Clintons and another attempt to regain the White House. Hillary didn’t run for the Senate in 2000 to get a lifetime sinecure in the nation’s cushiest club. The Clintons have planned on re-entering their former digs under Hillary’s power since before they left under Bill’s. The only reason they aren’t there now is because Democrats dumped her for another Senate backbencher with a little more charm instead of giving her the coronation Clintonistas expected.
The near-certainty of this run comes across in the hilariously hysterical responses given to Politico’s Maggie Haberman when she raised the question to Democrats. “There is no plan B,” said one, while another said, “There’s Hillary, and then there’s, like, Plan K.” Really? There aren’t any Democrat governors like Andrew Cuomo or Deval Patrick, or perhaps even John Hickenlooper waiting in the wings? Haberman also mentions Maryland’s Martin O’Malley and a 2004 retread in Howard Dean. If Democrats truly thought there was a chance Hillary wouldn’t run, they wouldn’t be so anxious to dismiss their own bench (which, by the way, also includes Joe Biden, at least according to Joe Biden).
There’s nothing wrong with a flight of fancy in speculative analysis, but there are few certainties in politics more solid than the Clintons’ ambitions to live in the White House. For them, there is no Plan B.