Is there really this much angst among some factions of the Democratic Party establishment that former vice president Joe Biden won’t be able to carry the torch and vanquish his progressive-left opponents? If you read several media reports in the past few days, following the October debate, then it would appear that way. Some chatter now indicates that as many as six other names are being floated to drop in the 2020 Democratic primary if Biden continues to flounder or starts to irreversibly lose support.
Among the names being mentioned by some Democrats unhappy with the largest field of candidates in modern history include former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former first lady Michelle Obama, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Attorney General Eric Holder, former Secretary of State John Kerry, and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.
All of this is mostly sourced from reports in a New York Times story that would have you believe there is very widespread unrest over the current crop of Democratic candidates:
Mr. Biden’s lackluster debate performances and alarmingly low cash flow — he has less than $9 million on hand, not even half of some of his rivals — has fueled the Democratic disquiet. But if the causes of the concern are plain to see, what exactly can be done about it is less clear.
And even some of those being wooed acknowledge that it can be hard to discern between people just being nice and those who genuinely want them in the race.
Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Bloomberg have both told people privately in recent weeks that if they thought they could win, they would consider entering the primary — but that they were skeptical there would be an opening, according to Democrats who have spoken with them. [Emphasis added]
Former Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who associates say has wondered aloud about whether he should have run and has found it hard to watch Mr. Biden’s missteps, has also been urged to get in. But he still thinks the former vice president, who was once his longtime Senate colleague, is the party’s best nominee.
Another Obama administration official who weighed a campaign at the start of the year, former Attorney General Eric Holder, is considering a last-minute entry but has conceded it may be too late, according to a Democrat familiar with his thinking.
Let’s go ahead and strike John Kerry, Sherrod Brown, and Mike Bloomberg from the list. The field is/was already filled with their respective lanes or similar personalities. Want a billionaire activist? You’ve got Tom Steyer already announced. Want a U.S. Senator with Midwestern values? You’ve got Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota still standing. Want a former Obama administration official? You’ve got Joe Biden, for better or worse, and if he falters, John Kerry or Eric Holder aren’t going to fare much better.
That would leave former first lady Michelle Obama as a wild card and a potential game-changer, but’s she shown no real inclination at running in 2020.
There is, however, one other name on the list that seems a more plausible possibility.
The most noteworthy news from the above article concerns Hillary Clinton’s continued interest in joining the race. According to people who have spoken with her, she would consider entering the 2020 race if there was an opening for her. What would that opening look like? Would Biden have to fall 10 points? 20 points? Would he have to drop out for Hillary to consider joining? We don’t know exactly what she means by an opening.
Maybe the rumblings and mumblings from Democratic Party establishment figures are more about scaring Biden into action, perhaps looking for some shakeups in his campaign staff or strategy.
Would Hillary really join even if there was a wide-open option? I still wouldn’t bet on it after reading more:
Mrs. Clinton, after largely staying in the background of the Democratic primary, has been more vocal this month, promoting a book she wrote with her daughter and taunting Mr. Trump on Twitter. She also opened a feud with Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii by claiming the long-shot candidate was being supported by the Russians, as a potential third-party spoiler in the general election.
Democrats who have recently spoken with Mrs. Clinton say she shares the same concerns other party elites have about the field — worried about Mr. Biden’s durability, Ms. Warren’s liberal politics and unsure of who else can emerge to take on Mr. Trump. But these people, who spoke anonymously to discuss private conversations, say she enjoys the freedom that comes with not being on the ballot.
She may enjoy staying in the public eye, but as the story notes, people close to Hillary still say she enjoys the freedom of being out of office. Getting back in, at this point, would be re-running the 2016 election all over again, “Crooked Hillary” memes and all.
The real issue some Democrats have is fear of pushing too far left, specifically on Medicare for all, as Sen. Sherrod Brown warns:
The Ohio senator said he was confident Democrats would eventually rally behind their nominee, but he warned the party not to embrace a single-payer health care plan that eliminates private insurance.
“I think it’ll be a hard sell to the public if we go into the general election for ‘Medicare for all,’” said Mr. Brown, citing the risk of alienating union workers who would lose their negotiated plans.
The long and short of the battle within the Democratic Party means this process is going to get much, much dirtier heading into early next year before it gets better. If Biden is at all in danger of losing Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina, you can be assured that one or more of the names mentioned in the NYT story will be ready to launch a campaign almost at a moment’s notice.
For now, Biden is on probation with some jumpy Democratic Party establishment heads. Get your act together, Joe, they’re saying, before Iowans head to their caucuses, or something might have to change.
If Hillary 2020 does happen, then we all get to re-live the 2016 election in all its glory.