In my most recent post, I discussed many possible scenarios
leading to the Republican nomination for president. There
appeared to be no hurry to discuss the Democratic scenarios
since the long-time frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, seemed to
have her party’s nomination locked up, especially after Vice
President Joe Biden recently decided not to enter the contest.
But wait another minute (or so)!
Poll numbers in Iowa, where Mrs. Clinton had been comfortably
ahead of Mr. Sanders, have suddenly tightened to perhaps a tie.
Sanders is still ahead in New Hampshire. Non-candidate Biden
is now pointedly praising Mr. Sanders, and MoveOn.org, the
radical yet influential (with grass roots Democratic voters) blog,
has publicly endorsed Mr. Sanders.
There are only three serious liberal party candidates left in
the field, including Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland
Governor Martin O’Malley. The latter has singularly failed to
excite his party’s voters after months of active campaigning.
Mrs. Clinton continues to face serious questioning about her
service as U.S. secretary of state during President Obama’s first
term, including an expanding FBI investigation of her public
conduct. Her poll numbers, while ahead of her rivals, have been
“soft” until now, including weakness in such a Democratic state
as Minnesota. Criticism of the private conduct of her husband,
the former president, has been renewed, even as he has joined the
campaign trail on her behalf in New Hampshire.
Nevertheless, most pundits (including this one) had finally
concluded that Mr. Sanders was simply too far off the center to
come back to seriously challenge Mrs. Clinton once the campaign
reached its second stage when primary and caucus voting
actually takes place.
Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats have few scenarios left.
The first is that Mrs. Clinton does win the nomination. A very
unlikely scenario is that, with Mrs. Clinton continuing to fade,
the party establishment rallies behind Mr. O’Malley, This is
possible, but Mr. O’Malley has not even been vetted in the media,
and having been the mayor of Baltimore as well as governor of
Maryland, he could face a critical evaluation of his tenure in
those positions. Another unlikely scenario would be for the
unelected delegates to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia
next July to combine with the few uncommitted delegates to block
a first or second ballot nomination, and then draft either Joe
Biden or Elizabeth Warren in a brokered contest.
I have not, of course, yet mentioned the most likely scenario,
assuming a political nosedive for Mrs. Clinton, that is, the
nomination of Bernie Sanders. The reason this would be the
most likely scenario is that the deadline for entering most
primaries and caucuses is either now past or very soon to do so.
Should Mrs. Clinton’s support continue to erode, or suddenly
collapse, Mr. Sanders and Mr. O’Malley would be the only other
persons on the ballot in most of the later primary states. If
indeed, Mr. Sanders won overwhelmingly the delegates in the
later primaries, it is difficult to imagine how the Democratic
political establishment could nullify that result with a backroom
“deal” at the convention without alienating much of their own
Now I hasten to caution that Mrs. Clinton, as of this writing, is
still the frontrunner. The new poll numbers for Iowa are not the
same as caucus votes. She still has a large organization and
many resources. In less than three weeks, however, Iowans will
register their preferences, and a few days later, the voters of
New Hampshire will do the same.
Surprises could yet be in store in stage two of both major party’s
presidential contests. We have known for some time that voters
are upset, and that 2016 might not be politics as usual, but at the
outset, more than a year ago, it was widely believed that there
would be one or both a Clinton and a Bush on the November
ballot. Recently, it has seemed there would only be one, but the
possibility that neither would be their party’s nominees is the
ultimate contrarian 2016 outcome.
Political winds, suddenly chilly, are clearly blowing this winter.
Hold on to your political hats.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.