Amid a stream of unfavorable news reports about Hillary Clinton’s emails, the ongoing Benghazi probe, and the dealings of the Clinton Foundation, there is growing buzz among leading Democrats that Hillary Clinton may expect a stiff challenge to her once certain grasp on the party’s presidential nomination next year.
Possibilities range from past presidential nominees John Kerry and Al Gore to “newbies” such as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
But strategists say the most successful challenge would come from a left-wing candidate and a women. Elizabeth Warren fits the bill but has vowed not to run. Or so she says.
Massachusetts Sen. Warren has become the darling of the left. Her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement earned her criticism from President Barack Obama, but her successful Senate effort to block the bill has earned her more plaudits from party comrades.
For now, Clinton’s lone opponent for the nomination is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who votes with Democrats in the Senate.
A just-completed Quinnipiac poll showed that among voters in Iowa, Clinton leads Sanders at next year’s first-in-the-nation caucuses there with 60 percent support to 15 percent.
But given recent developments and some nationwide polls, this could change rapidly.
The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed the former secretary of state rated favorably by 42% of likely voters nationwide and 42% unfavorably. This is down from March, when the same poll showed Clinton’s favorable-unfavorable at 44%-36%.
Here are some “Hillary challengers” being mentioned:
1. John Kerry, 71, Clinton’s successor as secretary of state, was the nearly-successful Democratic nominee against George W. Bush in 2004. The former Massachusetts senator remains a sentimental favorite among his party’s liberal grass roots and can always count on needed funding, thanks to wife Teresa Heinz Kerry (widow of the late Republican Sen. John Heinz, heir to the ketchup fortune). No friend of the Clintons, Kerry delivered a key endorsement to Obama at a critical point in the ’08 nomination battle with then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. Some Obama acolytes are said to be courting Kerry, who came within the electoral votes of one state (Ohio) of unseating Bush in ’04.
2. Al Gore, 67, also evokes warm sentiments among grass-roots Democrats, many of whom believe he actually won the disputed 2000 election against Bush. It is no secret that Bill Clinton’s vice president has grown distant from his ticket mate and, like Kerry, he supported Obama over Hillary Clinton in ’08. Working against a “Gore II” bid are his divorce from wife Tipper, unfavorable reviews for recent speeches on his personal crusade for climate change, and some weight gain. Climate change continues to animate the Democratic left, so Gore remains viable.
3. Jerry Brown, 77, incredibly, is governor of California today and its oldest governor, 40 years after becoming the Golden State’s youngest governor. Once ridiculed as “Gov. Moonbeam” for his meanderings about outer space, Brown has lost three past bids for the Democratic nomination. Now legally termed out from ever running for governor again in 2018, no one rules out a fourth Brown bid for the nomination.
4. Andrew Cuomo, 57, was just re-elected to his second term as governor of New York and, having served as Bill Clinton’s housing secretary, has good relations with the Clinton family and its political organization. The son of the late New York Gov. Mario Cuomo —a beloved liberal icon in his heyday — the younger Cuomo has tried to hold the line on spending in the Empire State to the consternation of the left. Known for his hair-trigger temper, Cuomo lives with girlfriend Sandy Lee. With the indictment of Democratic Assembly Speaker and close ally Sheldon Silver, recent polls show the governor's popularity plummeting.
5. Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, 69, insists he’s running, but as nationally-syndicated columnist Michael Barone noted to Newsmax, “he won his only Senate term [in ‘06] with anti-war Northern Virginia liberals who don’t want him as president now." A best-selling novelist, decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran in Vietnam and briefly secretary of the navy under Republican President Ronald Reagan, Webb stunned Old Dominion Democrats by unseating Sen. George Allen in ’06 only to announce his retirement in ’12.
6. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, 52, dubbed during his stint as mayor of Baltimore as the Democratic Party’s “hottest political property since Jack Kennedy” by Chris Matthews, is seriously exploring the race. Working against him is a record number of tax increases while he was governor and his chosen heir losing the governorship to Republican Larry Hogan in a state that went 62 percent for Obama.
7. Rahm Emanuel 55, is an intriguing prospect, months after being re-elected mayor of Chicago over a spirited left-of-center challenger. Once top political adviser in the Clinton White House and Obama’s first chief of staff, Emmanuel as mayor took a hard line against demands of striking teachers. Uber-agent brother Ari could bring in heavy Hollywood endorsements.
8. New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio, 54, an unabashed leftist, has sparked recent speculation about running. He recently made a tour through the Midwest touting a progressive agenda. De Blasio’s black wife and son, whom he proudly points to as a modern mixed family, could draw significant black votes in Democratic primaries.
9. Deval Patrick, 58, was the first black governor of Massachusetts (he left office in January) and one-time head of the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice. Reportedly a personal friend of President Obama’s, the former governor made news recently with a spirited defense of the rollout of Obamacare in his state. Obama proved that a black candidate in the Democratic party starts with an enormous base.
10. Joe Biden, 72, brings out one intriguing common denominator among political scientists and Democratic operatives Newsmax spoke to: not one so much as mentioned the name of the vice president, who no doubt would like to be a candidate. Biden, who will be 73 in 2016, is the second-oldest vice president in history after fellow Democrat Alben Barkley (Harry Truman’s vice president, who was 74 when he left office). Said to be disliked by Obama and his entourage, Biden is popular among rank-and-file Democrats.
For the moment Hillary Clinton looks certain to be the nominee. But she appeared to be certain this time in 2007 when a freshman senator from Illinois stunned the political world in Iowa. It could happen again.
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