WASHINGTON — The current front-runner for the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has had a rough couple of weeks — facing even more scrutiny following the revelation she used a personal email system rather than the government-run account while serving as the United States’ lead diplomat.
Clinton’s use of private emails seems to have violated State Department rules put in place in 2005 and may have even been illegal, violating the Federal Records Act.
Should controversy continue to linger, and all indications are it will, the personal emails could derail her presidential bid. If the media choose to continue to press on the issue, Clinton’s front-runner status will be in jeopardy, especially if an alternative emerges on the Democratic side.
That may be Clinton’s saving grace, as an alternative has yet to emerge. Unlike the Republican side of the equation, Democrats don’t have a deep bench of rising stars. Last month’s Conservative Political Action Convention was a parade of up-and-comers, including governors, senators and even non-officeholders like Ben Carson and Donald Trump.
On the other side of the aisle, alternatives include Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.)
Should Biden run, he would have history on his side. Prior to Biden, all three of the past five vice presidents that have sought their party’s presidential nomination, former Vice Presidents Walter Mondale, George H.W. Bush and Al Gore, have been successful.
However, Biden may put that streak in jeopardy in that he would essentially be running for President Barack Obama’s third term. As Obama’s vice president, it would make it more difficult for him to run away from Obama’s policies, whereas anyone else, perhaps with some exception Hillary Clinton, wouldn’t have the same baggage.
Biden also has a tendency to be a punch line. In a presidential campaign, the media may not be as forgiving to presidential candidate Biden as they have been to Vice President Biden. In six-and-a-half years, Biden has committed a number of gaffes and been in the middle of a number of awkward situations.
During Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, Biden disappeared from the forefront, having seemingly gone on hiatus after he said 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was “going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street.”
“He is going to put y’all back in chains,” Biden said at the campaign event in Danville, Va., which led to some to suggest he was intentionally using racially charged words.
There is also the question of Biden’s ability to raise the amount of money it would take to be competitive in a presidential contest. In 2012, both Romney and Obama raised in excess of $1 billion for their respective campaigns. Biden has yet to show he would be capable of raising such an amount.
Even with Hillary’s struggles, Biden still finds himself behind her and Warren in most of the online gambling sites.
One Democrat worth taking notice of is former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. He appears to be on the rise after receiving a standing ovation at a Democratic Party event in the early primary state of South Carolina over the weekend.
O’Malley is perceived by Democrats to have been a successful governor. However, after two terms in Annapolis, O’Malley’s hand-picked successor, then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, lost a close race to current Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Some have suggested the loss in a deep blue state like Maryland was a blow to the O’Malley machine and casts doubt on his ability to win a national contest.
That leaves us with Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Warren strikes all the right chords with the typical Democratic Party activist and primary voter. As a first-term senator, Warren has yet to publicly express any interest in running for her party’s nomination, but there have been some subtle signs, including compiling email lists for a possible bid and even bucking her own party in a number of votes last year because she considered them to be too favorable for Wall Street.
Where Biden and Hillary Clinton don’t check boxes, Warren seems to do so. She out-raised her 2012 opponent, then-incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown, by nearly $9 million. And whereas Clinton seems to have the cloud of corruption following her, Warren is relatively new to political scene.
Should she run, we’d certainly have to revisit her claims on Cherokee Indian heritage, but that is seemingly small compared to Biden’s gaffes or allegations of impropriety surrounding Hillary Clinton and fundraising for her husband’s Clinton Foundation, which took foreign money while she was secretary of state.
Warren has some peculiar ideas about the role of government in American lives. Last year, she argued that U.S. Post Offices should offer banking services to those who don’t have personal banking. She would also would crack down on payday lenders, peg student loan interest rates to what banks pay when they borrow from the Federal Reserve’s discount window and other things that may have unintended consequences to the U.S. banking system.
A Warren candidacy would also have the unintended consequence of bringing Republican voters out to the polls. If there were an ideologically pure candidate in the 2016 cycle, Republican or Democrat, Warren would likely fit that description best among all the candidates in the entire 2016 slate.
However, history shows these ideological candidates don’t particularly fare well in national elections. Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican nominee, only received 38 percent of the national vote in his run against Lyndon Johnson. Eight years later, the Democrats went with the candidate out on its left flank in George McGovern and lost the presidency to Richard Nixon with only 37 percent of the vote.
The lesson here is that although a Warren presidency would be scary for conservatives, a Warren candidacy might be a blessing in disguise for them.