Hillary Clinton has dominated the Democratic presidential discussion like few other candidates before her. Two years out from the Iowa caucuses, she already has a top-tier super PAC, a grassroots organizing machine, dozens of big donors ready to open their wallets, and massive support from Democratic voters. It’s unprecedented in modern politics, veteran Washington operatives agree.
But her inevitability masks a potential weakness within the Democratic Party: the lack of a deep bench of future national leaders. For a coalition that prides itself on diversity, the list of presidential hopefuls is filled with white men: Vice President Joe Biden, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer. With Clinton, the party that nominated Barack Obama in 2008 is now looking to the past for their presidential hopeful.
Furthermore, the Democratic dependence on Hillary Clinton hampers the development of a Democratic farm team. With Clinton expected to take up so much room in the post-Obama party, is there much room for anyone else?
Parties typically develop national leaders and future candidates through the primary process. This is especially true for Republicans, who have famously nominated the runner-up in the previous cycle’s primary contests nearly every election since 1976.
By 2016, it will have been eight years since Democrats have had a contested primary, and if Clinton is effectively anointed the nominee and wins the presidency (still two big ifs), it will have been 16 years by the 2024 cycle. That’s a long time without the incubation chamber for national leaders that primaries provide. A run, or even the anticipation thereof, draws media attention and voters’ interest, boosting the potential candidate’s national profile.
Republicans have developed a farm team of up-and-coming elected officials considering presidential bids. Just look at leaders in their 40s who, if not candidates themselves, can at least serve as national surrogates for the party. In the Congress there’s Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, along with 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. In the statehouses, there’s Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Most have positioned themselves as part of a new generation of reformers.
The story is very different for Democrats. There are just two well-known potential 2016 candidates in their 40s: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey. Ask Democratic strategists for examples of other younger up-and-comers, and you’ll hear names like Julian and Joaquin Castro, the congressman and San Antonio mayor, respectively. And California Attorney General Kamala Harris is always touted, despite her limited political experience.
That’s not only the fault of Clinton’s shadow. The 2010 Republican wave wiped out many Democratic officeholders, including many governors, who are traditionally the primary pool of presidential contenders.
Since Clinton promises to be a formidable candidate, this may not matter in the short-term. And even if she doesn’t run — which those close to her insist is possible — her decision will open the floodgates for a slew of potential candidates who have said they will not jump in as long the former secretary of State is running.
“If Hillary doesn’t run, there are a lot of substantive potential candidates,” one Democratic strategist noted. There are plenty of good options among those who have already expressed an interest in running — including Biden, who is the overwhelming non-Hillary favorite in early polling — and probably others we’re not even talking about yet.
Still, many Democratic players think the party’s voters will demand a woman to lead their ticket in 2016, or a person of color. If true, that would diminish most of the remaining likely candidates.
The obvious options dwindle from there. There’s Gillibrand and Booker, along with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is rumored to be eyeing a bid. There’s Elizabeth Warren, though the Massachusetts senator repeatedly said she won’t run.
What happens beyond 2016? It’s a long way off, but building a farm team of young, compelling leaders takes time, and Democrats may want to be asking themselves that question before it’s too late.
What We're Following See More »
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."
The government alleges the company put eight “software-based features” on diesel engines in nearly 104,000 Ram pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees from the 2014 to 2016 model years, which allowed the vehicles to emit fewer pollutants during EPA lab tests than during normal driving conditions.
At an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, former CIA chief John Brennan said he saw information on Trump-Russia contacts that were worth a further look. "Having been involved in many counterintelligence cases in the past, I know what the Russians do. They try to suborn individuals," Brennan said. "And they try to get individuals, including U.S. persons, to act on their behalf, whether wittingly or unwittingly. And I was worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons, and so therefore by the time I left office ... I had unresolved questions in my mind."
"President Trump is moving rapidly toward assembling outside counsel to help him navigate the investigations into his campaign and Russian interference in last year’s election, and in recent days he and his advisers have privately courted several prominent attorneys to join the effort. By Monday, a list of finalists for the legal team had emerged, according to four people briefed on the discussions."