A good way to get proven wrong in commentary is to discount the ability of a Clinton to land on his or her feet. Hillary Clinton, seemingly the Ra’s al Ghul of the Democratic Party, still remains at the forefront of the 2016 “presumptive candidate” list. With her team looking at an April entry into the race, and with her building a formidable team behind the scenes, Ms. Clinton is ready to make one last run for the White House.
Already dogged by scandal, Ms. Clinton knows that her chief rival for the Democratic nomination is herself. To put it differently, Ms. Clinton is wearing glass armor painted to look like steel. Her power comes from inevitability and momentum. Barack Obama shattered that armor in 2008 but Clinton, the able blacksmith, has reforged her candidacy in the crucible of money and influence. But there are already whispers that Clinton’s candidacy may not be so solid as it seems.
It looks unlikely that Clinton will be the only candidate in the Democratic 2016 field. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who served as two-terms in Annapolis as he guided the state sharply to the left on social issues, looks poised to mount a challenge to Hillary from the left. While this would seem like an eerie reminder for the Clinton camp of 2008 when a young first-term Senator from Illinois made the same play, O’Malley is no Obama. Rather, Hillary benefits from having a nominal challenge from the left as she moves to the center to court moderate votes in the general election. O’Malley, attempting to garner the type of support he’s seen being thrown at the feet of Massachusetts liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren, is pounding the pavement in Iowa with a message to any Democrat who will listen about the evils of Wall Street and other hard-left mantras. O’Malley, keenly, is aware that Clinton’s involvement with Wall Street and banking is a major dent in her otherwise flawlessly reconstructed armor.
O’Malley may very well be able to garner fifteen percent of the vote in the Democratic primary if he is the only one running against Mrs. Clinton. In fact, he could even get as high as one in five voters. Especially disaffected liberals who see the coronation of Mrs. Clinton in the same way Republicans decried the establishment coalescence behind Mitt Romney in 2012.
Clinton should welcome a challenge from someone like O’Malley, a good showman without the deep command of the issues or real national prominence.
Mrs. Clinton’s big problem, however, is whether her own hubris and brewing scandals have caused her glass armor to begin to cut into her otherwise haughty self-assuredness. There are other fish in the deep beyond the small players like Martin O’Malley. One such lurker is the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden.
While Biden has been universally derided for his gaffes and plain spoken mannerisms, Biden is a formidable player on the left. Not only is he a sitting two-term Vice President, but he is also a perennial candidate for the Presidency. The top spot has been Biden’s ambition since he was in the Senate. A Clinton nomination in 2016 effectively ends the 72-year-old Biden’s search for a path to the Oval Office.
And why shouldn’t Biden run? Clearly he has gotten advice and pressure behind the scenes that he should do what’s best for the Party and allow Mrs. Clinton her ascendancy, but acquiescence does not appear to be a Joe Biden character trait. Especially in light of the fact that Clinton has begun to stumble with increasing regularity, it could be that Biden has seen through to the reality that Clinton is just as vulnerable as any potential candidate for the nation’s top job.
Biden’s entry into the race would ignite a firestorm. Not only would it completely reshuffle the cards on the left, but it would also mean that Democrats who had been content to sit back and let the Clinton candidacy rise or fall on its own may contemplate an entry into the race. This is where the Elizabeth Warrens of the world will make their play. An entry by Biden and Warren would be a titanic shift in the Party. Clinton, not otherwise prepared for a hard fought primary season, will be forced into triangulation and strategizing while her opponents all focus their attacks on her.
It remains to be seen just how much the left has begun to turn on the inevitable Hillary Clinton candidacy. On the one hand, most polls show Mrs. Clinton with a significant advantage over her potential Republican opponents in important battleground states. However, on the other hand, positive opinions of Mrs. Clinton have begun to fall. This is, in no small part, a result of negative media portrayals and the pining of some on the left (seemingly on a daily basis) for a new voice in the Party.
The point of this piece isn’t to say that the glass armor mirage of Hillary Clinton has shattered and that it is open season on her candidacy. To the contrary, Clinton has assembled some of the most formidable names on the left to manage her bid for the White House. Both Mrs. Clinton and her husband have shown resilience during every stage of their nearly thirty years in the limelight of American politics. To ever count the Clinton’s out is a mistake.
However, this is likely Mrs. Clinton’s last shot at the top. While this will certainly mean that she claws every step of the way no matter who she has to overcome, she also has to deal with the heavy burdens of her past. To that end, the Clinton Foundation, which, though it does charitable work, immediately fails the smell test regarding donations and projects during Mrs. Clinton’s time as Secretary of State. Moreover, while the email scandal merely shows Mrs. Clinton’s contempt for the media and the inquiries of the American people, the cavalier nature with which she approached what could have been major breaches of national security are not comforting in the twenty-first century when a major concern of Americans is the safety of their families.
In short, Mrs. Clinton’s control of her campaign thusfar has reeked of the way politicians dealt with scandals in the 1990s: a shrug and “I do not recall.” Such contempt and the growing disaffection on the left is bound to lead to chaffing under the inevitability of a Clinton candidacy. To that end, while certainly not a foregone conclusion, it may be that the left has seen through Mrs. Clinton’s glass armor and has decided it’s high time to pick up some stones.