Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why the rush to 2016? -- Aug. 21, 2014 column


Woo-hoo! She’s heading back to Iowa!

News that Hillary Clinton will attend Sen. Tom Harkin’s steak fry on Sept. 14 set off yet another wave of “she’s in” speculation among her fans.

Clinton has avoided the Hawkeye State since Barack Obama cleaned her clock in the 2008 Democratic caucuses.  She came in an embarrassing third, behind the now disgraced John Edwards.  

But both the queen of Democratic politics and her consort – that’s Bill Clinton -- will speak at Harkin’s 37th annual steak fry in Indianola, the last before the Iowa Democrat retires. It’s the event of the presidential preseason in Iowa, whose caucuses will launch the nation’s 2016 presidential contest. 

The way Hillary’s supporters see it: If Clinton is going to Iowa, she must be running for president. If she’s running, she’s the Democrats’ runaway choice. And if she’s the Democratic presidential nominee, hello, history.

Whoa, hoss.  We’ve seen inevitable Hillary before, circa 2006. Anything can happen.

The steak fry is a long 18 months before the caucuses, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 1.  The 2016 election – in which there may be a good Republican presidential nominee this time – is more than two years away. Let’s all take a deep breath. Americans don’t do coronations.

Even the most admired woman in America should have to make her case for the presidency to her party.  

Now is the time for Democratic activists to look at their options. Working a few steps from the president for eight years ought to count for something. A vice president used to have a leg up on the competition if he chose to run. 

Biden says he’s weighing his decision, but he’s not gaining traction. He served in the Senate for 36 years, including as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, but none of his former colleagues have endorsed him for president.
“It’s Hillary’s moment,” senators say, although many likely would decide, absent Hillary, that it’s Biden’s. One person who speaks highly of Biden is his boss.

“I think Joe would be a superb president,” Obama told Evan Osnos of The New Yorker. “He has seen the job up close, he knows what the job entails. He understands how to separate what’s really important from what’s less important.”

Perhaps most telling was this: “He’s got great people skills. He enjoys politics, and he’s got important relationships up on the Hill that would serve him well,” Obama said. Osnos’ profile of Biden was in the July 28 issue.

Poor Joe. He’s reduced to wishing weatherman Al Roker a happy birthday and cracking wise on the “Today” show.  How about Roker as head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration?

“Look, if I were running the administration or the next one, I’d have you in it,” Biden said Wednesday on the show. “I mean, what the hell?”

And that brings us to Biden’s big challenge. Can he overcome his motor mouth and gaffes?

The good news for Biden is that Americans have short memories and most have forgotten about his brushes with plagiarism in law school and on the presidential campaign trail in 2007. He dropped out after he appropriated phrases from other politicians’ speeches.

In the Obama White House, Biden has worked mainly behind the scenes on foreign policy hotspots, but he could take a more visible role after the midterm elections. If the Senate were to split 50-50, he would be the tie-breaker and power broker.

Two Democrats who apparently see a president in their shaving mirror are Martin O’Malley, governor of Maryland, and Brian Schweitzer, ex-governor of Montana. In addition, if Clinton declines to run, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and others might step up.

Among Republicans, the smart money is on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, although he has been almost as coy as Clinton about his intentions. Analysts also mention Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Biden said in February his chances of running for president were 50-50. Having run twice, Biden is taking his time. He says he will campaign for Democratic candidates and raise money around the country, including Iowa and other early presidential states.

Whatever happens, Biden will be in a position to make his case.

©2014 Marsha Mercer

1 comment: