The revelation Tuesday that Hillary Clinton did not have a secure e-mail account while secretary of state has mushroomed into a major news story.
Coupled with growing questions about how much she may have done to court foreign contributors to the Clinton Foundation while in the Obama Cabinet, a separate question now plagues skittish Democrats: who will seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 if Hillary Clinton, for whatever reason, is not a candidate?
Two months ago, Democratic operatives deemed this question unworthy of a reply. At a December press breakfast in Washington D.C. hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, veteran Democratic pollster Celinda Lake was asked about a possible presidential bid by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
"She isn’t running," replied Lake, noting later (and without hesitation) "there is only one candidate for the Democratic nomination."
Last week, three historians spoke to Newsmax about a Democratic race for president minus Hillary Clinton.
The closest thing in U.S. history to Secretary Clinton and the Democrats today is that of Theodore Roosevelt’s widely expected nomination for a return to the White House in 1920.
"In 1919, TR was more than just a lock to be the 1920 GOP nominee," historian David Pietrusza, author of the widely-praised "1920"
on the presidential election that year, told Newsmax. "He was the lock to be president. Hillary never enjoyed that level of ‘inevitability,’ but the situation may be somewhat similar."
Following Roosevelt’s unexpected death at age 59 on January 5, 1919, Pietrusza noted, "his absence left the Republican field to a bunch of "second raters," as one observer put it: Governor Frank Lowden of Illinois, Gen. Leonard Wood, Senator Hiram Johnson of California, and Ohio Senator Warren Harding, plus a still-untested Herbert Hoover.
Their nomination contest ended with no clear winner and, at the national convention in which the phrase "smoke-filled room" was coined, Harding emerged as the nominee.
Comparing the GOP in 1919 without Roosevelt to the Democratic Party in 2015 without Hillary Clinton, Pietrusza said "Democrats have a much weaker back-up team—[former Maryland Gov. Martin] O’Malley, [Vermont Sen. Bernie] Sanders, and [former Virginia Sen. Jim] Webb.
"New York’s [Gov.] Andrew Cuomo and [Sen.] Kirsten Gillibrand seem interested in the White House. But Cuomo faces ethical problems related to the recent downfall of [State Assembly Speaker] Sheldon Silver. Gillibrand may provide a touch of glamor to the race but lacks depth."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.), who is the subject of a national "Run Warren Run" online draft movement, "moves up to the head of the class if Hillary is out," Pietrusza told us.
"She will have the all-out backing of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party," he added, "They are already out in droves for her."
On Thursday, Robert Reich, secretary of labor under Bill Clinton and a longtime Clinton family friend, called on Warren to make the race.
Pietrusza’s view of a flaccid Democratic field without Clinton was echoed by Michael Barone, nationally-syndicated columnist and father of the "Almanac of American Politics."
"The [Democratic Party’s] problem is a limited pool from which to choose," Barone told Newsmax, "It’s about the way it was from 1860-to-1960. Then it was unthinkable for Democrats to nominate either a Roman Catholic — which they did with Al Smith in 1928 and lost badly — or a Southerner, Woodrow Wilson being from Virginia, but making his career in New Jersey.
"Today, there is Martin O’Malley, whose chosen successor as governor lost in a state that went 62 percent for Obama; Andrew Cuomo, who's living with a woman not his wife which is kosher in New York, but not nationally; and Jim Webb, totally out of sync with the Democratic primary electorate. He won his only Senate term [in ‘06] with anti-war Northern Virginia liberals who don’t want him as president now."
"And there’s Bernie Sanders, from the Number Two Obama state. Ben and Jerry is a niche, but not a nationally viable brand."
As for Warren, Barone believes "she's reluctant to run because of [the controversy over her claims of] Native American heritage."
Irwin Gellman, whose much-awaited second volume in a biography of Richard Nixon ("The President of the Apprentice") comes out in August, said that "there will be a major league problem for Democrats with Hillary Clinton out of the race. The Clintons have sucked so much money out of the system that, without Hillary in the race, they leave an incredible vacuum for those who seek the Democratic nomination."
An intriguing common denominator among the three historians Newsmax spoke to: not one so much as mentioned the name of Vice President Joe Biden, who no doubt would like to be a candidate but has fared poorly in the polls against Clinton.
The only vice president older than Biden (who will be 73 in 2016) was fellow Democrat Alben Barkley, 74, in 1952. That year, a group of labor leaders led by Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers issued a statement saying Barkley was too old to be the nominee to succeed retiring President Harry Truman.
"The Republicans have problems," said Barone. "But nothing like the Democrats will have if Hillary doesn't run—or if her current and possible future troubles render her unelectable."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.