And if she says no?

HillaryClinton_2326613bLast week, NPR was suggesting that Hillary Clinton will announce in January whether or not she plans to run for president. She is certainly behaving like someone who intends to be a candidate, and it is the near unanimous opinion of commentators and insiders that she will, and that she is a prohibitive favorite in the Democratic primaries. But what if she doesn’t run?

Being favorite in the primaries is a place she has been before. That was in the much better circumstances of fighting an open election after eight years of Republican governance. The president and his party were unpopular and the nation wanted change. The same may well apply in 2016, but now the president’s party is also her party. Change would mean the Democratic nominee losing. 

Eight years ago she already had a formidable rival: then Senator Barack Obama was building an impressive campaign. There is no-one even close to establishing the same position this time. Joe Biden is in the race, but no-one sees him as a rival to Clinton. Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland is putting down a marker – vice-president, cabinet secretary or future candidate – but not a serious contender in 2016. But much else has changed in the past eight years. Candidate Clinton is eight years older, she has become a grandmother, and a generally well-received term as Secretary of State gives her the option of exercising considerable influence writing and speaking, without the 24/7 pressures of a campaign.

This column has speculated in the past that if Clinton declined the race then Andrew Cuomo and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren would face off in a very entertaining contest. But is there any reason to suppose that is in her mind?

Behaving like a candidate – including a weekend visit to Iowa – makes sense. If she genuinely has not decided then it is sensible for her to keep her options open. There is one clear effect of her lack of clarity. Most Democrats are staying out of the race. Cuomo and Warren, for example, dismiss any talk of being candidates. If Clinton were the decline the race only a year before the Iowa caucuses it would be hard for someone entering that late to put a campaign together. Only someone with high name-recognition and a wide fund-raising base could do it. That works for Cuomo and Warren, but probably not for former Montana governor, Brian Schweitzer. It is even possible that this is Clinton’s plan. She is close to Andrew Cuomo. His status as governor of a major state with excellent business connections means he could put together a team very quickly. Others would founder, and that may be what Clinton wants.

Republicans would not be ready to fight a lesser known candidate. There is an enormous bank of opposition research on Clinton, but almost nothing on other candidates. That could certainly help whoever did emerge as Democratic nominee.

Of course Democrats face the same issue. The Republican race is wide open, and also awaits the decision of a legacy candidate. The most personally talented Republican who might be in the race is Florida’s Marco Rubio, but he is close to former Governor Jeb Bush, and until Bush makes an announcement the Republican race is unclear. 

qlQuentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at brandjacknews.com

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