Now Warren May Have to Run

The Hillary email scandal changes the calculus surrounding Elizabeth Warren’s consideration of a White House bid. Until now, getting into the race would be seen by the party faithful as a betrayal. In the name of personal ambition, she would have hurt the chances of the obvious nominee — Hillary. She would have paid a price reminiscent of that which dogged Ted Kennedy for challenging Jimmy Carter in 1980. Democrats blamed the defeat of that year on the splits and fissures caused by the Kennedy candidacy and retaliated against him in the Senate.

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But now, Democratic loyalists are increasingly being thrown into a panic. What happens if Hillary gets knocked out? What if she can’t run? Or if she is so damaged that she can’t win? What would the Party do then? Nominate Bernie Sanders?

By her stubborn refusal to play by the rules, she has triggered a document hunt for her emails which will consume this year and too much of the next one, fanning doubts about her viability as a candidate.

So now Elizabeth Warren may subtlety change her posture from “I won’t run” to “I’ll let my supporters introduce my name so that if Hillary falters, our party has an alternative.” She will still profess her preference for Hillary as the nominee, but, with the filing deadlines looming ever closer in the key states, she will likely let her name be introduced simply as a fallback should Hillary get into trouble. And, as Hillary digs herself deeper into scandal by her pig-headed stubbornness, Warren will look better and better.

Indeed, her candidacy will have been triggered by a real and honest draft as worried Democrats cast about for an alternative to a damaged Hillary or become increasingly concerned about what is in the emails she is so anxious to conceal.

In a sense, her position may become analogous in a way to that of Gerald Ford after Nixon appointed him to be vice president in the aftermath of Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation. Ford could not advocate Nixon’s impeachment and, indeed, had to show his strong and loyal support for the president who had appointed him. But the fact that he was there, waiting in the wings, was a vast comfort to a nation and party concerned about whether the president would survive the Watergate investigation.

Warren, of course, will have been self-appointed to the post of alternative-in-waiting, but the tightrope she might walk will be much the same as Ford’s prior to Nixon’s resignation.

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