Debates Threaten Hillary Candidacy

The Democratic Party debates among presidential candidates — now slated to start in May or June of 2015 — pose a serious threat to Hillary’s candidacy. Her ability to suck up all the oxygen in the Democratic Party’s universe has succeeding in denying all but the most perfunctory coverage to her opponents. But the debates will change all that.

Dick Morris 3

Democrats who oppose deeper involvement in Iraq or who scorn the crony capitalism of the Wall Street-Treasury Department-Federal Reserve-White House relationship will find their views echoed by the likes of former Senator Jim Webb, Senator Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., and former Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland. These leftist alternatives to Hillary will gain traction when the average Democrat gets to see and hear them in the presidential debates.

David Axelrod, chief advisor to President Obama, made the astute observation that the sense of inevitability surrounding Hillary’s bid for the 2016 nomination has outstripped the rationale for her candidacy. In his words, her tactics have outpaced her strategy.

But the hardest thing to do is to convince the media to open its mind once it has slammed shut around the idea that Hillary will win the nomination. Based on public opinion polls, this conclusion stems from the fact that nobody knows much about Hillary’s opponents, nor has Hillary had to defend her positions in the cut and thrust of debates.

There is a great temptation to see 2016 as a repetition of sorts of 1968. As Lyndon Johnson (read: Hillary) moved on “inevitably” to win the nomination, the leading candidate who could stop him, Robert F. Kennedy (read: Elizabeth Warren) would not run. Into the breech stepped an unknown Senator, Eugene McCarthy, D-WI, (read: Jim Webb).

McCarthy had to wait for the actual ballots to be cast in the first presidential primary in New Hampshire to show his political strength and Johnson’s vulnerability. But Webb won’t have to wait that long. It is easy to see how the former Virginia Senator (or one of the other two challengers) could enter the debates with Hillary down by something on the order of 60-10 and emerge with big gains, now losing by only 45-25.

Such a turnaround would be heralded by the sensationalist media as an upset, almost as striking as that which would take place had actual ballots been cast. Webb, or one of the other challengers, would suddenly be on the map, get money, and attract media attention.

The sense of inevitability of Hillary’s nomination would be shattered.

Even if Hillary parries attacks over her campaign donations (crony capitalism) and her backing of the war in Iraq (circa 2002 and 2016), the very fact that the issues are raised will tend to divide her vote. The left will rethink its blind commitment to her candidacy and challengers will have new appeal.

Yet Hillary cannot either cancel or not attend the debates. Were she to fail to show, the failure would cost her much more than any performance in the debate might. Voters expect candidates to debate and will not tolerate those who refuse to appear.

Until Hillary’s seemingly insurmountable lead has weathered the debates, she cannot be considered inevitable. As the sentiment against the Iraq War and Wall Street grows, the left will expand and disaffection with Hillary will increase.

Will this all attract Elizabeth Warren into the race as Kennedy was energized in 1968? Or will she stay out and leave the battle to one of the current alternatives? Either way, Hillary is not a done deal.

Also see,

Why Dems Lack Working Class Appeal: It’s Immigration, Stupid

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