Election 2016

Where Are All the Democratic Presidential Candidates?

Passing on the shit storm?


angus modi armid/flickr

Hillary Clinton is running for president, right? She pulls 60-ish percent in polls of Democrats this early out, holding an "unprecedented" lead in New Hampshire, which she won by less than 10,000 votes over eventual nominee Barack Obama. Like most putative candidates, she says she doesn't know if she's running yet. But who else is there to run on the Democratic side? A "Draft Joe Biden" campaign's been started, progressives are looking for their next great hope, but the Democratic bench appears bereft of candidates. Republicans will certainly have more senators running for president than Democrats, but there's not a lot of Democratic governors loud on the radar yet either. Why? What's happened to the Democratic Party?

After 2002 midterm elections, some political pundits were ready to write off Democrats as a "permanent minority." Two years later saw the second-consecutive photo finish for a presidential race, with John Kerry, the blandest candidate Democrats could find, losing to incumbent George W. Bush by a close margin. Pretty good showing for a "permanent minority" with an awful candidate. After Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election by a larger margin than any presidential candidate in a generation, Democrats were ready to hoist a permanent minority label on Republicans. 2010 saw a return to the historical trend of the president's party losing in his first midterm, fueled by the unpopularity of Obamacare, the largest (only?) major legislative initiative pushed by the Democratic Congress of 2009-2010. Barack Obama's re-election in 2012, the weakest showing of any incumbent president who won a re-election, led to talk of a demographic shift that, you got it, would relegate Republicans to a permanent minority.

A year and a half from Election Day 2016, however, and there aren't many serious candidates for the Democratic nomination. In one-party, mostly Democratic cities the mayoral primary is the most important election of the cycle because the general election doesn't matter. Obviously not so for 2016. Hillary Clinton—the Democratic candidate everyone expects to run—is polling ahead of any potential Republican challenger but as the Republican primary race takes shape, that lead is declining"Everyone" may know Clinton but they don't know her positions. Without a primary process to vet her positions, Clinton, if she's the nominee, will be at a disadvantage.

Hillary Clinton is as close to a pre-selected candidate as this cycle'll see. Conventional wisdom suggests Republicans choose their nominee based on whose "turn" it is following the previous election. Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney all finished second in the primary race the cycle before they were nominated. Yet this time it's Democrats with the seemingly pre-selected candidate. It's actually nothing new. Clinton played the same role in 2008 but paid millions of dollars to campaign advisers who didn't understand how primary processes work. In 2004, Kerry seemed a fait accompli and 2000 was Al Gore's year. Walter Mondale, the 1984 candidate, was Jimmy Carter's vice president. Bill Clinton may have come out of nowhere, but 1992 was a year few Democrats wanted to go up against a then-popular incumbent president. Democrats may be just as fond of coronations as Republicans, and more so this cycle.

Vox.com claims Clinton remains the only serious potential candidate on the Democrat side because she'"crushing the opposition." Or she could be sucking all the air out of the room, preventing anyone else from lighting a match. Hillary Clinton is a different person from her husband, but historically her run might most closely resemble the third term sought by former president Teddy Roosevelt in 1908. He lost the Republican nomination despite winning a series of primaries and went on to lose to Woodrow Wilson as a third party candidate, finishing ahead of the incumbent Republican.

Clinton announced her candidacy for the 2008 election in January 2007, feeling the pressure of candidates like Barack Obama and John Edwards, who were also looking to enter the race early. Al Gore, the presumptive 2000 nominee, announced his campaign in June 1999. He faced one opponent, Bill Bradley, who almost defeated him in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton is a weaker candidate than Al Gore, who lost the 2000 election. She isn't running from a formal position like Gore was, nor is she tied to a highly popular incumbent who presided over relative economic calm (well, she's tied to her husband—but he left office 16 years ago, and most people understand she's not her husband). After Gore lost, Democratic strategists criticized him for distancing himself from Bill Clinton, who, while popular, was also scandal-ridden. His wife is scandal ridden, too. She left office as secretary of state in 2013 and returned to the news cycle with an almost unbelievable story about using her own personal server to send State Department emails in brazen disregard for nominal transparency measures. She's far from a perfect candidate and far from a shoe-in for the presidency. So where are all the other Democratic candidates?

Joe Biden could well run. A draft campaign by former staffers has already been launched. There also draft campaigns for Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.). Former Sen. Jim Webb's name has been floated as "anti-Hillary" candidate as well. And Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) joined a call by Super PAC "Ready for Boldness" to find the progressive non-Hillary candidate. A few more senators might join that race. Barack Obama went from the Senate to the White House, but he had enough glamour to get him there. None of the current crop of Democrat senators seem to have that quality, and it only helps with a successful campaign, not a successful presidency.

What about governors? Andrew Cuomo, the two-term governor of New York, says he's not running and is actually acting like it. California's Jerry Brown turned 77 this week. More importantly for both men, and most of the other 16 Democratic governors around the country, they're dealing with serious fiscal crises in their states, and there are no solutions that don't upset some component of the Democratic base that's also exacerbated the problem. Teachers unions hate Cuomo even as he argues his budget is the most "pro-teacher" in the state's history. A slew of unions lined up to fight Brown's attempts at pension reform. His budgets have been boons to the unions, choosing to ignore the debt disaster fast approaching. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley may run for the nomination, too. He served two terms as governor of  Maryland, and voters in the traditionally-blue state elected a Republican to succeed him. The state faces up to a $1.2 billion budget shortfall this year. O'Malley's emerged as one preference of Democratic voters if Clinton doesn't run. In Chicago, meanwhile, that same progressive wing looking for a non-Hillary candidate came out in full force to support Chuy Garcia over incumbent mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, because Emanuel has chosen not to completely ignore his city's fiscal problems. Bill Clinton may have managed to balance a couple of budgets with a Republican Congress, but Hillary Clinton isn't even trying to pretend to be a candidate of fiscal restraint.

A long time ago, back in 2008, Barack Obama paid a lot of lip service to fiscal discipline. It was hopeful but ultimately malarkey. Whether Obama ever believed in fiscal discipline is irrelevant—he didn't practice it, spending the first two years of his presidency spending money with the promise of lowering the unemployment rate in a way the spending never did. That fiscal recklessness may have something to do with the lack of Democratic candidates. In 1992, few Democrats wanted to run against George Bush. In 2016, few Democrats appear to want to run against Barack Obama, and he's left a legacy any Democrat will have to repudiate at least in part in order to win. Obamacare is flawed and the healthcare system is still "broken." "Bush's wars" continue in Afghanistan and even, through the campaign against ISIS, in Iraq. Politicians, Democrats and Republican, continue to promise constituents the moon and spend like they're actually going to deliver it. Promising more isn't just dishonest; it's delusional. It takes a lot of economic illiteracy not to see that. Candidates lined up in 2008 to succeed George W. Bush. He may have left a mess but it was at least perceived by his potential successors as a solvable one. Eight years' worth of mess later, candidates are unsurprisingly harder to come by.

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  1. I wonder if they are waiting for one of the Clinton scandals to damage her so badly she has to drop out. Or for her to literally be indicted for the email crime. Maybe they are privately lobbying Obama’s Justice Department to prosecute her.

    Then they can all jump in without the Clinton hit machine going to work on them.

    1. That’s my guess. They are all hoping she falls over a cliff, but none want to (be seen) pushing her.

    2. What makes you think the Clinton hit machine won’t go to work on them anyway? The reason Obama put her in as Secretary of State was to keep her from undercutting his presidency so she wouldn’t be a threat to him in 2012. The Clintons are after power…if they can’t get the White House, they use the same tactics to strong-arm their way into whatever position of influence is available to them.

      Maybe the Democrats are all sitting out because a) Obama is a bad act to follow with all of the damage he’s caused, b) Hillary is going to run despite her scandals (because she knows it’s her last shot), and c) they want to see her get destroyed in an election because they don’t actually like her any more than Republicans do and want shed of her baggage. It then gives them the ability to play the identity politics victim card in subsequent elections by claiming that Republican voters are anti-women because they wouldn’t vote for Hillary.

  2. A link to work by Postrel. Today was a good day.

  3. Where Are All the Democratic Presidential Candidates?

    The top three Democratic candidates are two. Number one: Hillary.

    Any other questions? No? I thought so.

  4. Cuomo is going to get caught up in the scandal in the legislature up there, and O’Malley can’t be considered credible after a Republican succeeded him in true blue MD.

    If the Dems had a scintilla of integrity and priorities other than using other people’s money to buy votes they’d be rushing to nominate someone like Wyden, but they are who they are so…,

    1. O’Malley’s chief qualification is that he looks like a catalogue model. His name wouldn’t even be coming up if he looked like Ed Rendell.

    2. I would love to see a Wyden / Paul conflict in the general. Or hell, a Paul / Wyden ticket.

  5. After Obama they can’t nominate a white guy. They either have to commit suicide with Hillary or find another minority/female candidate to run. The Democrats sold their soul for brief advantages in identity politics and now the devil’s come around to collect.

    1. It’s enjoyable to watch and well-deserved for those who simultaneously stand on the grave of MLK while ignoring his exhortations to judge people based on their actions, not genetics.

    2. That’s true. Other than taxing and spending the Dems believe in identity politics these days. They’ll go down the list (elect the first woman, the first Asian, the first Hispanic, the first openly gay) for the next few Presidentials.

      1. They’ll go down the list (elect the first woman, the first Asian, the first Hispanic, the first openly gay) for the next few Presidentials.

        Unless this presidency/campaign season chops down that fruit bearing tree.

        Sure would suck for the party to get half way in to the “Historically elect the first woman!” campaign only to have the historic first black man’s DOJ (be forced to) indict her.

        1. There’s no way that an Obama AG is going to indict Hillary. She could be caught red handed giving the network secure information for the Pentagon to the North Koreans and she’d get a pass. The AG is a now a strictly political office with two functions. Protect all the president’s favorites and punish the president’s enemies.

          Politics doesn’t mean much, but loyalty does. Had Menendez -D not gone against Obama on a number of things, they never would have indicted him. All Hillary needs to do is keep her mouth shut and don’t disrespect ‘the man’ and she’s good as gold.

      2. There’s got to be a category for Sheriff Joe in there, isn’t there? The “first truly greasy scumbag you wouldn’t leave in the same room as your daughter”? Wait, no! Bill got that one.

        How about “first president with a bad hair plug job”?

    3. Bullshit. A white guy named Bill Clinton would wipe the floor with any GOPer.


      2. I guess he’s eligible to serve for 2 more years, right?

      3. B-b-b-buttplug, Clinton was our first black President.

      4. A white guy named Bill Clinton would wipe the floor with any GOPer.

        Awww….a WeigelCrush….on Billy Jeff!

        Sorry plug……you’ll just need to keep using the Clinton shaped dildo and dream….remember….it’s okay to dream…..always okay to dream!

      5. Are you sure your real name isn’t Bill Clinton’s Fleshlight?

        1. Eeeew!

          /teenage girl

      6. Nah. Not now. 70 years old, for one thing.

        But, the big thing is the scandal in the wings waiting for him. He flew to Jeffrey Epstein’s sex island where 14 year olds were kept as unwilling participants in sex parties.

        His role will come out soon. Or, and maybe this is as likely, Epstein dies of a sudden heart attack, or commits ‘suicide’.

        Being a cheater is one thing, especially when you’re married to Hillary. But, having sex with 14 year olds? That won’t fly anywhere.

        1. I dunno – – I think there are a lot of folks on the D-side who would excuse anything. They’d say it had nothing to do with her, that it was his personal life, and then would start the excuses of “it really not being such a bad thing when you really think about it”. Same folks that would make excuses for Obama even if caught peeing on a statue of MLK.

      7. By GOPer do you mean a somewhat non-attractive female with big saggy tits and a ass to match?

    4. Whatever happened to Julian Castro? He was allegedly the next up and coming after he left San Antonio.

      1. He’s busy sending illegals to red districts.

  6. Well Ed, that’s whole lot of purtty words.

    Nice how you ended with a paragraph of depressing stuff.

  7. Guys guys guys, there’s no reason to even discuss democrat nominees once Obama declares himself king!

  8. I want a Rand Paul vs Brian Schweitzer general.

    I fear what we will get instead of my electoral fantasy.


    2. By the way, it was awesome the way Betsy Rothstein schooled your dumb ass again, little bitch.

  9. I’m putting my money down now: Bush v. Clinton ’92 ’16. Clinton wins comfortably, though not in a landslide.

    1. I fear you are right.

      1. It’s easy to predict election outcomes here at reason. Just go with the opposite of whatever John says.

        1. God I can’t even imagine the pre-2016 election day catawalling about how if we don’t vote for jeb we’re unlibertarian.

          1. How many Reason writers will swoon to Hilary’s glamor and go “hey, it’s about time we elect a woman”.


    2. “I know what it is you saw, for it is also in my mind…”

      1. So does this make Hillary Sauron and Jeb Saruman? Or vice versa?

        1. At this point, what difference does it make?

    3. And all the chubby lefty male interns will be lining up to get her to shove a cigar up their buttholes.

    4. Clinton vs Walker. Clinton wins and is impeached in office. Cuz she’s baaaad.

      Her health is bad too. She might die in office.

      Paul Ryan wins in 2020. Goes for 8 years.

      1. I agree with a rough version of this. Possible different Republican names.

    5. Where does this line of horseshit come from? Hillary is DOA in ’16. We can talk about how the media shilled for Obozo (which was, and remains, crudely obvious), but when you get down to the nitty gritty of who is actually going to show up to vote for her, this claim falls apart. Black participation in ’08 and ’12 was historical (and by a huge margin), but how many of them will go out to vote for an old white hag? Crickets.

      The same is true of women. You all seem to assume that all the women are going to run out and vote for Shrillary (because you know nothing about women), but I am here to inform you that they won’t.

      If she makes it to the election, what voters she draws will be the diehard leftoids–college idiots, ball-tucking betas, and gross-ass feminists. Thankfully, that motley demographic of losers does not yet possess the numbers to put someone in the WH without the blacks and Hispanics (who will not vote for a woman either).

  10. My Aunty Mackenzie recently got a nearly new blue Toyota Venza by working part time online… website here ????????????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  11. I just got paid $6784 working off my laptop this month. And if you think that?s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over $9k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. This is what I do…


  12. Hillary locked up the big money years ago. She’s been busy hiring many of Obama’s operatives who made her campaign fall apart in 2008. Most potential challengers will be running from far behind.

    Due to the party’s weakness on the state level in 2010/14 in swing states (let alone red states), there are no D governors with a proven track record to win on tough terrain.

    And it’s not like the shit storm is limited to the D side. The Rs look likely to have the ridiculous primary spectacle of 2012 play out again.

    1. The R field might be crowded again, but it’s leaps and bounds better than it was a few years ago. Other than the one serious candidate that nobody liked, it was a parade of mediocrity in 2012 (Tancredo, Santorum, the pizza tycoon, etc.).

      Plus, the entrance of Cruz and Paul into the race could force the more Rockefellerish candidates (Bush, Rubio, Christie if he runs) into a more libertarian direction at least an inch or two.

      1. Hopefully there will be less of the “I was born in a log cabin” bullshit this time around. The last few Republican primaries have been pretty ridiculous due to degenerating into contests to see who can wear the most denim and thereby prove he’s the biggest hick.

        I frankly wouldn’t mind a more elitist Republican party; return to their roots from their half of the 20th century.

  13. Apparently, the mayor/governor Carcetti form The Wire was based on O’Malley. In order to discredit him, all his opponent would have to do would be to run clips on Carcetti being a hypocrite, putting his career before the city/state’s well-being.

  14. Apparently, the mayor/governor Carcetti form The Wire was based on O’Malley. In order to discredit him, all his opponent would have to do would be to run clips on Carcetti being a hypocrite, putting his career before the city/state’s well-being.

  15. Hillary wants to know what difference it makes where they are

    1. She doesn’t actually want to know, it’s a whiny rhetorical way to get people to stop asking.

  16. They don’t want to be accused of sexism for running against the “first female president.”

  17. cycle’ll


    My teachers always advised me to read my words out loud before committing them to paper.

  18. If you like your balls, you can keep them.
    Hillary for President 2016

  19. Minor correction, but T. Roosevelt’s third run was 1912 as a bull moose progressive. Very interesting election, in the historical context. Breaks lots of assumptions and patterns. Except that the Democrats still held the Solid South.

  20. What about Evan Bayh?
    A) Very popular left-leaning governor and senator from a conservative Indiana.
    B) After leaving the Senate by choice, he’s worked in several positions that would make him appealing to conservatives (oil & gas as well as other businesses). In fact, he could easily run as either Republican or Democrat because he straddles the fence on a lot of issues which would make him appealing in a general election (but probably challenging in a primary on either side).
    C) He was smart enough the boondoggle of the Presidential election in 2008 despite popular support (no one who won in 2008 from either side was going to end up popular), and also to avoid defeat in the 2010 election when he would’ve lost simply due to the excessive partisanship.

    He might not make the very vocal extremists on either side ecstatic, but he would actually do the right thing and would be well-received by the record number of people who don’t claim political party membership (more than 40% of the voting public).

  21. “Draft Joe Biden” campaign’s been started

    “Daft Joe Biden” – now there’s a campaign slogan.

  22. Problem for Dems is every candidate other than Hillary is to far left, such as Elizabeth Warren and therefore unelectable. Democrats won in 2008 and 2012 for two reasons. First GOP picked horrible candidates and second media was in tank for Obama. Obama was never put under the microscope as Palin in 2008 and Romney in 2012. Harry Reid admits he stood of floor of Senate and flat out lied, yet media ran his speech day in and day out. When attack in Benghazi came up in debate, Candy Crowley jumped in to defend Obama which hurt Romney. Democratic party has moved farther and farther left with each loss in Congress because they are all that remain. Media convinced themselves in 2008 country was center-left and did it again in 2012 only to be brought back to reality in 2014. The only way for GOP to lose in 2016 is to pick Jeb Bush or some other establishment hack.

  23. I don’t think the Democrats have a clown car to fit candidates like Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann.

  24. Some of the lesser known Dem candidates might have a tough time raising money. The Dem’s anti-corporate rhetoric is beginning to grate on Wall Street. Some of their heavy hitters are vowing not to donate to Clinton.

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