In my capacity as a blogger, talk radio host and political consultant, people constantly ask me whether Hillary Clinton – whose memoir "Hard Choices" came out today – will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. Up to this point, I have resisted the temptation to give in to the conventional wisdom, which is often wrong. In 2007, the pundits and prognosticators were nearly unanimous: Hillary Clinton would be the next Democratic nominee. Then, of course, some guy named Obama came along.
There are good reasons to keep an open mind about the inevitability of a Clinton nomination. Obama’s stunning upset demonstrated that politics is a crazy business. It should also remind us that Democratic nomination campaigns often wear down frontrunners and catapult unknown challengers into the limelight. Who in 1975 thought that Jimmy Carter would be nominated in 1976? How many pundits in 1991 thought Bill Clinton would capture the Democratic nod in 1992? Not many.
But the Hillary Clinton juggernaut is slowly wearing me down. Early polls showed Clinton with a modest lead over Obama, but polls this year show that the former secretary of state crushing the only potential challenger, Vice President Joe Biden, who rivals Clinton in name recognition. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., could raise money and attract the support of the many economic populists who distrust Clinton’s strong ties to Wall St., but she has ruled herself out of the race.
The ideal opponent to stop Clinton would be young and have gubernatorial experience. But it’s time for the Democratic governors who are talking about the race to either keep up with her pace or pump the brakes and wait their turns. Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and current Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley are potential opponents, but no one knows them and they haven’t done much if anything to organize the early caucus and primary states or raise the money they need to take on Clinton.
Then there’s the element of time. Once the midterm election is over, there will be only 14 months until the Iowa presidential caucus. If anybody wants to take Hillary down, they should start raising money and begin organizing Iowa soon. I don’t see anybody doing that.
Hillary has a ready-made structure, Ready for Hillary, that she can walk into when she’s ready to campaign openly. With a campaign infrastructure already in place, universal name recognition and the capacity to raise a ton of money quickly, she has all the time in the world. This is a luxury that her potential Democratic challengers don’t have.
Clinton intimates say that Hillary will only run if she feels confident she can make it all the way to the White House. She can. The Republican race is mess, with lots of candidates but little potential. The candidate who could have been tough for Clinton, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is walking wounded. There’s also Jeb Bush to reckon with, if he runs. But a Clinton should win any brand name battle of the families because of the unpopularity of the last President Bush and the popularity of the last President Clinton.
Despite, or maybe because of, the relentless Republican onslaught over Benghazi, a new national survey by ABC News and The Washington Post demonstrates the former secretary of state’s popularity. Six in 10 Americans approve of Hillary Clinton’s performance as secretary of state. Two-thirds of the public believes that Clinton is the strong leader. Her numbers on honesty (60 percent) and new ideas (59 percent) aren’t too shabby either.
The emerging Democratic coalition of white women, minorities and young voters will play an even bigger electoral role for Clinton than it did for Obama in 2012. Women will turn out in droves with the chance to make history and elect the first female president. The GOP’s resistance to immigration reform will galvanize Latino support for Clinton, and Hispanics will be an even bigger part of the electorate than they were in the last presidential election. The same is true of millennial voters, who strongly supported Obama in 2008 and 2012.
There will be a competitive race between Hillary Clinton and her Republican opponent because there are many Americans who hate Hillary Clinton. But it will be her race to lose, because Americans admire the strength that allowed her to survive and then thrive during decades of difficult times.