If Hillary Folds, what Democrats wait in the Wings?

Hillary Clinton’s selection as the Democrat standard-bearer in 2016 has never really been in doubt… until now. The tepid sales of her latest book, however, coupled with some gaffes and a creeping sense of déjà vu, could well signal a crack in the armor of her inevitability. Maybe things would be different if Hard Choices had been a “tell all,” instead of an “excuse all.” Readers are more likely to invest in a political tome that promises at least a few pithy tidbits, as opposed to one that laughingly attempts to evoke pity for the “dirt poor” former U.S. President and his long-suffering wife. Face it: Americans have a short attention span. Except for those in her dedicated inner circle, old Hill isn’t generating the excitement she used to. 

One wonders if the Democrat hierarchy is noticing this sea change. And if so, what are they proposing to do about it?  Right now, Ms. Clinton appears to be polling better than any presumed GOP contender with presidential ambitions,. But that could change once the Republicans start presenting themselves to the voters. And her overall disapproval ratings are discouragingly high.   

We hear constant chatter from Democrats about internecine warfare within the Republican Party ranks. Aside from being wishful thinking, it underscores the fact that team GOP has plenty of challengers sitting on its deep bench. Contrast this to what’s out there for the Democrats. President Obama likes to talk about having all options “on the table.” But if you scour the Democratic leadership, there’s not much on immediate display when it comes to presidential candidates. 

Biden is too old, among other faults. Anyone who takes Joe seriously has no sense of humor!  Then there’s New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: competent enough, maybe, but weighted down by a lack of charisma and an abundance of personal baggage, including an ex-Kennedy wife.

Okay, so who else is there?  Well, maybe Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. If you’re thinking of another Senator Warner (John) from the same state, who was married at one time to Elizabeth Taylor, he’s a Republican, and not the one!  Then there’s Elizabeth Warren – no, not Warner – the darling of the progressives, and no doubt a staunch supporter of the drive to divest the Washington football team of the name “Redskins.” It may be tempting to suppose that the United States could have its first woman and first Native American president in one feisty package, but she won’t fly. 

So who is left in the pantheon of aspiring Democrats? There’s Duval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts. But the novelty of having a black man in the White House lacks the attraction it once did. 

At this point, since no other possibilities spring immediately to mind to add to  the list of  liberal wannabes, allow me to take a  short break  to google the category. Okay, I’m back. I came across the names of three Congressional Democratic leaders whom I have never heard of before. Mea culpa. They are George Miller, Bob Casey and Joe Courtney. Then there is Barbara Boxer, my own U.S. Senator. She is less popular than Diane Feinstein, my other U.S. Senator, though the latter lost some cred from her gun control rant. Also in the female column is diminutive Patty Murray of Washington state, perhaps best recognized as the “Mutt” to Paul Ryan’s “Jeff” in the Congressional budget negotiations.

Incidentally, the Mutt and Jeff comic strip appeared for the last time 31 years ago this month! That was actually nine years after another Democrat leader, Senator Patrick Leahy, was first elected to Congress representing the people of Vermont. That’s also the state where Howard Dean served as governor, before he ran in the Democrat primary and was swatted away like a pesky gnat by ultimate presidential hopeful, John Kerry. Come to think of it, could Secretary of State Kerry be in a fallback position should Hillary be rejected by her party again?  (There might even  be some left over “Elect  Kerry”  signs and posters , but John Edwards’ name would have be expunged.)

Other Senators have been around for ages, like Dick Durbin of Illinois. But Americans appear to be fed up with Chicago-style politics. And then there’s NY Senator Chuck Schumer, who would be the first Jewish candidate for president. One can’t hold him responsible for being born and bred in the Big Apple, but  he’s not an appealing figure, and he has generated a lot of resentment in his role as  inveterate Republican-basher. At least Hillary can put on the charm! 

One more name came to my attention: that of Mark Begich of Arkansas. I don’t know anything about the guy, but his picture shows him to be a lot younger than the above choices. The downside, of course, is that he comes from the Clintons’ home territory. Challenging Hillary would be tantamount to treason.

Perhaps readers can make other suggestions in the event that I’ve overlooked some latent star in the liberal firmament -- like Joe Manchin of West Virginia.  But, of course, he’s from a poor, sparsely-inhabited state; and he’s way too conservative for the powerful left-leaning base of his party. 

So vulnerabilities aside, Hillary Clinton may be the Democrat pick after all.  Not because she’s the one and only, but because she’s the only one!