Some Democratic leaders are privately scouting around for someone to replace Hillary Clinton if she stumbles again in California and/or the FBI detects a crime in her email scandal.
For months now, poll after poll have registered the judgment of the American people that they want neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump as the next President, but the two major parties seem unable to steer away from this looming pileup, forcing voters to choose between two widely disdained politicians.
The Republicans are locked in after Trump’s hostile takeover of the party’s selection process, but the Democrats have one final chance to steer clear,on June 7 when they hold several primaries and caucuses including New Jersey and California. If Bernie Sanders can upset Clinton in California – and/or if Clinton’s legal problems over her emails worsen – there remains a long-shot chance that the Democratic convention might nominate someone else.
As far-fetched as this might seem, some senior Democrats, including reportedly White House officials, are giving serious thought to how the party can grab the wheel at the last moment and avoid the collision of two historically unpopular political figures, a smash-up where Trump might be the one walking away, damaged but victorious.
Two Washington insiders – Democratic pollster and political adviser Douglas E. Schoen and famed Watergate investigative reporter Carl Bernstein – have described panicky meetings of top Democrats worried over Clinton’s troubled campaign, with Schoen also describingprivate talks about possible last-minute alternatives.
I’ve heard similar tales of hushed discussions – with the fill-in options including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry or Sen. Sanders – but I still believe these fretful leaders are frozen by indecision and don’t have the nerve to pull Hillary Clinton’s hands off the steering wheel even to avoid disaster.
But at least I’m not alonehearing these frightened whispers. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Schoen, who served as a political aide to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, wrote: “There is now more than a theoretical chance that Hillary Clinton may not be the Democratic nominee for president. …
“The inevitability behind Mrs. Clinton’s nomination will be in large measure eviscerated if she loses the June 7 California primary to Bernie Sanders. That could well happen. …. A Sanders win in California would powerfully underscore Mrs. Clinton’s weakness as a candidate in the general election.
“Democratic superdelegates — chosen by the party establishment and overwhelmingly backing Mrs. Clinton, 543-44 — would seriously question whether they should continue to stand behind her candidacy. …
“Mrs. Clinton also faces growing legal problems. The State Department inspector general’s recent report on Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state made it abundantly clear that she broke rules and has been far from forthright in her public statements. The damning findings buttressed concerns within the party that Mrs. Clinton and her aides may not get through the government’s investigation without a finding of culpability somewhere.
“With Mrs. Clinton reportedly soon to be interviewed by the FBI, suggesting that the investigation is winding up, a definitive ruling by the attorney general could be issued before the July 25 Democratic convention in Philadelphia. Given the inspector general’s report, a clean bill of health from the Justice Department is unlikely.
“Finally, with Mrs. Clinton’s negative rating nearly as high as Donald Trump’s, and with voters not trusting her by a ratio of 4 to 1, Democrats face an unnerving possibility.”
Besides the lack of trust, voters simply don’t like her. On Wednesday, the Real Clear Politics poll average of Clinton’s favorable vs. unfavorable numbers were 37.6 percent to 55.8 percent, an 18.2-point net unfavorable.