Yes, yes, yes, speculating about the 2016 Presidential election before Barack Obama has even begun his second term is a silly business. But so what? Silly things can be fun things.
So Jonathan Bernstein attempts to answer a good question: if Hillary runs, would she knock most of her erstwhile rivals out of the race before the contest even reaches Iowa?
His answer is sensible: maybe. But I think I’d be a little more certain than that and rate it probably.
In 2000, after all, Bill Bradley was the only candidate to challenge Al Gore’s inheritance and Bradley’s campaign never looked like prevailing. Now Hillary isn’t quite as obviously “next in line” as Gore was but, for a large part of the Democratic base, the difference between 2000 and 2016 is, in this respect, close to insignificant.
There will, I suspect, be a feeling that, now that the United States has elected its first minority President it is time – beyond time – it selected its first female Commander-in-Chief. For many Democrats that was a powerful argument in 2008; it will be even more potent in 2016. And, if this proves the case, it will be difficult for any male candidate to defeat Hillary. History and all that jazz will be on her side. (She’ll enjoy the benefit of not being part of Obama’s second-term too.)
So difficult, in fact, that some potential challengers may well choose to sit this one out.
That said, there are difficulties. Hillary will be 67 in 2016. Not ancient but she’d be the republic’s third oldest President (after Reagan and William Henry Harrison). Then there’s the present Vice-President. Joe Biden will be 73 at the next election but it’s not impossible to suppose he will think he retains enough vim and pep to have a third crack at the top job. (Republicans should hope he hopes so: running against Biden makes their “time for a change” message an easier sell). Of course, a Biden candidacy would dampen any quiet concerns folk felt about Hillary’s age.
And the biggest question of all: will she want to run? Perhaps not but if she does she’s immediately going to be considered the front-runner and will start the race at such short odds that some of the younger putative candidates – Andrew Cuomo, Martin O’Malley and so on – may be persuaded there’s little chance of defeating Hillary and, thus, little point in running.
After all, it took an exceptional set of circumstances – and an exceptional candidate – to deny Hillary in 2008. If she wants to run, how likely (at this stage!) is it that comparable circumstances will arise to thwart her in four years time?
Of course, early front-runners don’t always prevail (Hart 88!, Clinton 08!) but, assuming she runs, I’d rate Hillary’s chances of knocking much of the competition out before the first votes are cast a little higher than just maybe.