Donald Trump may be doing his best to make life miserable for Republicans, but that doesn’t mean that Hillary Clinton has had an easy time of it recently. Quite the contrary; her campaign has been busy blundering from one disaster to the next. And now, Democrats–who must be watching the Clinton campaign with a sense of horror, and must be wondering whether Clinton learned anything from her 2008 presidential run–are beginning to look towards alternatives to Her Inevitableness.
For starters, let us note that Bernie Sanders now leads in Iowa. Yes, you read that right. A self-described “socialist” is now leading the putative next president of the United States in Iowa:
Hillary Clinton’s Iowa edge is gone.
Bernie Sanders leads the former secretary of state for the first time among Iowa Democrats likely to caucus in February, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll unveiled Thursday morning — the latest in a string of surveys that show a tightening race in the Hawkeye State.
The Vermont senator’s advantage is within the margin of error — he took 41 percent compared with Clinton’s 40 percent — and another 12 percent said they would support Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to declare his 2016 intentions. (Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley picked up 3 percent, while no other candidate registered above that mark, and 3 percent were undecided.)
But the shift is a significant one, coming on the heels of polls showing Sanders edging Clinton in New Hampshire, too. Together, the results suggest a candidate reeling from the controversy over her emails and struggling to put down a rebellion on her left flank.
While Clinton remains the front-runner for the nomination, and pollsters caution against reading too much into one survey, the results reflect serious movement for Sanders: He trailed the former secretary of state by a 52-33 percent margin in Quinnipiac’s last poll of Iowa’s likely Democratic caucus-goers, in July.
This has to be humiliating to Clinton. Few people actually believe that Sanders can win the nomination–fewer still believe that he can be president. And yet, he is now giving Clinton a run for her money in Iowa.
I suppose that it ought to surprise absolutely no one that Joe Biden seems to be looking seriously at the prospect of throwing his hat into the ring. It also ought to surprise absolutely no one that Democrats are casting about for other potential saviors, now that the USS Clinton seems to be taking on lots and lots of water:
If Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new apology for her private email server fails to reassure jittery supporters, it could amplify the chatter among some Democrats who have been casting about for a potential white knight to rescue the party from a beleaguered Clinton candidacy.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Al Gore: Each has been discussed among party officials in recent weeks as an alternative to Mrs. Clinton if she does not regain her once-dominant standing in the 2016 presidential field and instead remains mired in the long-running email controversy, with its attendant investigations.
On Monday, Mr. Biden, who has spoken publicly of pondering a run, looked very much like a candidate at a Pittsburgh union gathering and Labor Day parade. And some Democrats were intrigued by word that Mr. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee, had met recently in Nantucket, Mass., with David M. Rubenstein, a billionaire co-founder of the Carlyle Group — and the sort of Washington wise man Mr. Kerry might consult if he were mulling another run. (Friends say he isn’t.)
It is not just Mrs. Clinton’s weakness in the polls that has generated talk of other alternatives, but also the strength of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is routinely drawing huge crowds at campaign events. That has been disconcerting to Democratic officials who believe that Mr. Sanders, a socialist, is so liberal that his presence at the top of the party’s ticket in 2016 would be disastrous.
“If party leaders see a scenario next winter where Bernie Sanders has a real chance at the Democratic nomination, I think there’s no question that leaders will reach out to Vice President Biden or Secretary of State Kerry or even Gore about entering the primaries,” said Garnet F. Coleman, a Texas state lawmaker and Democratic national committeeman.
Even if none of those Democrats were to announce candidacies this fall, some party officials and strategists suggested that Mr. Biden could be laying the groundwork for an 11th-hour rescue mission during the winter primaries if Mrs. Clinton’s campaign began to implode. Similarly, Mr. Kerry’s friends say they believe he would hear out party leaders if Mr. Sanders appeared likely to capture the nomination and they implored Mr. Kerry, who would have to resign as secretary of state, to try to block him.
For the record, I don’t think that John Kerry is going to run for president. Biden might, but I would bet against a candidacy occurring. But regardless of whether saviors are in the offing, the fact of the matter is that the Clinton candidacy is in lots of trouble. If Republicans can get their act together, and if Clinton does not right her ship soon, then the GOP can take the White House. (Of course, this depends on having crazy Republican candidates leave the field so that the sensible ones can work on expanding the appeal of the Republican party, but that is another post for another day.)