Most of the straight while male fence-sitters come from the pragmatic corners of the Democratic Party, and they may want to position themselves as less susceptible than the early declared candidates to knee-jerk pandering to the left. Polls show that most Democrats are not inclined to put primary candidates through an obstacle course of purity tests, so there is likely room for such a candidate. But trying to seize the pragmatic mantle comes with a risk, especially for the straight white men. Hectoring others about what’s politically realistic could easily get a candidate tagged as a “mansplainer.” Moreover, any attack by a white man against a woman or a minority—be it from the candidate or from his supporters—would be extremely dangerous to wage, especially if those attacks come from the relative right of the party.
One question that will be particularly tough for any male candidate: Why shouldn’t the next president be a woman? After all, just among the five female members of Congress already in the field, Democratic voters can choose among different ideologies, geographic and demographic backgrounds, and types of experience. With so many qualified choices, shouldn’t the male candidates just get out of the way?
The hard truth is, there is no good answer to this question. The most obvious response, that the candidate feels he is best person for the job, runs the risk of sounding condescending. Magnanimity toward female candidates is fraught as well.