Elizabeth Warren was out in Iowa this week, ostensibly stumping for her party’s candidates in the midterm elections, but wherever she goes people have to wonder if she’s prepping for a presidential run. This prompted a discussion among the Morning Joe crew – for the umpteenth time – as to Warren’s true ambitions. But more to the point, what the lack of competition may be doing to Hillary Clinton’s prospects, assuming she winds up running.
The segment in question comes at around the 4:20 mark in the video below in case you want to fast forward.
Mika: (Quoting Jennifer Jacobs) I think it’s fair to say that the crowd of Iowa Dems absolutely loved Elizabeth Warren’s debut speech here of the 2016 Presidential cycle.
Joe: So, is she gonna run, Mika?
Mika: I don’t know. I really don’t. Because I think Hillary Clinton has this. But she’ll definitely be in the conversation.
Joe: Yeah, if Hillary doesn’t, she’s certainly putting herself in the position where she can.
Willie Geist: Joe, do you think the idea of clearing the field… of Hillary clearing the field is ultimately bad for her? And for Democrats? The fact that you have someone like Elizabeth Warren who has a good message that a portion of the country seriously relates to can’t even be talked about in serious terms until Hillary Clinton decides? Why not talk about everyone equally right now?
Joe: I think it’s really bad for the Democratic Party that they are placing the crown on somebody two years out, saying that you are going to be the heir apparent. What we’ve seen with Hillary, what that makes her do is move more to the center, more to the center right, she gets cozier with Wall Street because she doesn’t think that anybody is going to challenge her on the left. She gets cozier with a foreign policy position, again, and I’ve been calling her a neocon for years. And if she’s not a neocon, she’s certainly one of the most militaristic Democrats that I’ve ever seen. She’s always one of the biggest hawks in the room and I find it stunning that the Democratic Party will not even allow a challenge to this sort of warmed over conservatism that she presents.
I think that’s a double sided blade. On the one hand, I do agree that a lack of competition can make a candidate soft and leave them ill prepared for the attacks to come during the general election. One of the big criticisms against Hillary’s 2008 campaign was that she had never before faced any serious opposition and was caught completely flat footed when the Obama campaign began throwing the kitchen sink at her.
But Joe’s argument – that she’s drifting safely to the center without a serious primary challenge – doesn’t ring true for me. One of the huge criticisms of the GOP “clown car” in previous outings was that the poorly funded, but very conservative candidates drove the eventual nominee so far to the right that they couldn’t walk back to the center well enough to capture moderates in the general election. If there’s any validity to that theory, then doesn’t Hillary benefit by starting out where she would likely want to end up anyway? To be chased to the left of Warren, Clinton would need to be in Bernie Sanders territory which could sink her entirely.
Short of an upstart insurgency by Warren, Bernie Sanders or someone else. we may never know. Here’s the video.