John is worried that the Hillary Clinton email scandal has erupted too soon, leaving plenty of time for the Democrats to ditch Clinton and substitute a better candidate. The time exists, but I’m not sure the better (i.e., more electable) candidate does.
Jay Cost doubts that the scandal will cost Clinton the nomination. The nominee, he says, will be selected by five groups of voters: (1) upscale liberals, (2) the white working class, (3) African-Americans, (4) Latinos, and (5) financiers.
In 2008, Clinton couldn’t get over the hump with a coalition of (2), (4), and a portion of (5). Instead, Barack Obama trumped her coalition with (1), (3), and a portion of (5).
This time around, there is no Barack Obama. Joe Biden, Martin O’Malley, and Jim Webb have only narrow appeal. Elizabeth Warren’s appeal is potentially broader, but given her attacks on Wall Street, she will not make inroads with the financiers.
Does the email scandal change this dynamic? Cost doesn’t think so. It doesn’t make the rest of the field stronger, nor will it cause financiers flip to Warren.
But does the scandal weaken Clinton with any of the five core Democratic groups? It seems to me that, at most, only some working class whites (and journalists who dislike secrecy) even see a scandal here. The rest of the base probably views Clinton’s conduct as an understandable reaction to prior attacks against the Clintons. Remember, we’re talking about hardcore partisan Dems.
The biggest problem I see for Clinton is the possibility that financiers and others in the party’s brass become nervous about Clinton’s strength in the general election. In this scenario, they night well signal their willingness to support, or at least countenance, a challenge to Clinton.
Who might make a serious challenge? Cost suggests Al Gore. He acknowledges that Gore ” is not a natural campaigner, and he may be rusty.” However, “he fights like hell, knows how to raise money, and could steal enough from the party’s various groups to be a real threat.”
Cost also mentions Deval Patrick, the African-American former governor of Massachusetts. He notes that Patrick “could rebuild the Obama coalition” and “is close to some of Obama’s top strategists, who know how to do just that.”
Warren is another possibility. Wall Street won’t back her, but if Clinton looks weak, Warren might find wealthy benefactors willing to funnel money through a Super PAC. And she already seems capable of raising serious money through the “netroots.”
Nonetheless, Cost concludes:
While Clinton has been weakened by the latest news, the Democratic field is so lackluster, and top Democrats so averse to another lengthy battle, that it probably does not matter. Of course, Clinton is not worry-free: Warren could pull off the political equivalent of a 7-10 split; Gore or Patrick could toss in; more damaging revelations could come to light.
But her core strengths this cycle have mostly to do with the party’s weakness — and even if the recent news has diminished her, she still towers over the rest of the party.
True, but she looks more and more like a paper tower.