With Hillary Clinton already locking up massive amounts of cash for a presumptive 2016 presidential run, members of the hard left may be looking for an alternative. Many Democrats remain uninspired by Clinton’s progressive record – her most leftist period came during her early days as First Lady, and resulted in part in a 1994 Republican Congressional landslide – and have urged other candidates to jump into the race to provide a boost for a further-left agenda.
Polls show Clinton defeating all comers in potential primary matchups. But polls also show that her appeal stems largely from her status as a female rather than her actual accomplishments. There are some who have suggested that President Obama would actually prefer to see Clinton lose the 2016 race, thus preparing the way for a potential Michelle Obama presidential run as early as 2020.
In any case, the media love a good horserace. Here, then, are the top 8 possible contenders against Hillary Clinton:
Jerry Brown: Brown has raised some $20 million for his gubernatorial run, an enormous sum given that he has weak opposition in the race. He has already vowed not to run – at age 77 in 2016, he would be the oldest person in the race. But he clearly wanted to do so, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Mark Barabak. In January 2014, Brown stated, “No, that’s not in the cards. Unfortunately.”
Note the “unfortunately”: Brown thinks he is best qualified to be the next president, and touts his record as governor of California, in which he has massively raised taxes in order to avoid record debt. Brown’s support from the environmental movement is generally strong, although he has argued with them over his signature bullet train proposal, over which he has attempted to suspend environmental laws. To appease environmentalists, he has moved to curb fracking within the state.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): Fauxcahontas, as she has come to be known by her opponents, ran into controversy during her Senate run in 2012 over her claims of Native American heritage. But that hasn’t dampened enthusiasm among many on the left for her populist leftism, which rests on bashing big business and banks. Her last campaign run garnered her some $42 million in donations.
Like Brown, Warren has pledged to serve out her term, which would take her until 2019. She stated, “I am not running for president. I am working as hard as I can to be the best possible senator that I can be and to fight for the things that I promised during my campaign to fight for.” Warren has even signed a letter backing Hillary’s run for the presidency. But Barack Obama once said many of these same things. Then he became a two-term president.
Bill De Blasio: Well regarded as the most leftist mayor of a major city, De Blasio has earned ire from members of the general population of New York City for his mishandling of bad weather. But his attack angle, which includes targeting Wall Street and utilizing class warfare rhetoric, has made him a force on the national left. Peter Beinart of The Daily Beast wrote, “The deeper you look, the stronger the evidence that de Blasio’s victory is an omen of what may become the defining story of America’s next political era: the challenge, to both parties, from the left. It’s a challenge Hillary Clinton should start worrying about now.”
Deval Patrick: Last week, President Obama himself recommended the two-term Massachusetts governor for the nation’s top job. “Deval would be a great president or vice president,” Obama said. “Deval’s done a great job and I think signals that he could be very successful at the federal as well. It’s wise for him not to foreclose it because he’s an enormous talent and I know he’s still got a lot of energy and vision left in him.”
Patrick, who graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law School, has been plagued with corruption charges in his tenure as governor. Patrick is not a deeply popular governor the way Brown is – his approval rating is approximately 52 percent while Brown’s is at 60 percent. But Patrick has an advantage Brown doesn’t: race. A significant percentage of Democratic primary voters are black, a built-in advantage for President Obama that could translate over to someone like Patrick.
Eric Holder: That same racial advantage could carry over to Eric Holder, who could claim the mantle of the Obama administration as well as the Clinton administration, given his experience in both. His approval rating is extraordinarily low, with less than a quarter of Americans approving of his job performance as of Attorney General. He would certainly be an unexpected pick – but he’s also a political knife fighter, as his enemies have learned.
Brian Schweitzer: The ex-governor of Montana is bored but popular with the left. He is already exploring the possibility of running against Hillary on an anti-Obama ticket – an anti-Obama ticket from the left. “My mother, God rest her soul, told me ‘Brian, if you can’t think of something nice to say about something, change the subject,” he recently told the Washington Post about Obama.
Schweitzer openly stumps for socialized healthcare, is pro-gun, and hates NSA surveillance programs. Some have likened him to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) from the left; he campaigns on so-called “prairie populism.” He has already visited Iowa in preparation for a campaign.
Andrew Cuomo: Cuomo has not ruled out running against Hillary Clinton in 2016, but he hasn’t been making moves in that arena either. According to campaign strategists like New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley, the answer is “no” and “nope.” But Cuomo’s high-profile embrace of gun control, coupled with his handling of Hurricane Sandy, have put him on the national radar. And, of course, his father’s prominence has made him yet another famous child political star.
Rahm Emanuel: The assumption has been that if Hillary runs, Rahm won’t. But the mayor of Chicago isn’t likely to sit around if he feels that Michelle Obama is breathing down his neck in his home state. One theory has it that Hillary actually won’t run and is just keeping donors in line for Emanuel. “Maybe in the lead role, maybe the running mate. Hey, he’s already been in the White House anyway,” one strategist recently said to the Washington Times.
Emanuel has a reputation for playing hardball, and his blustery tenure as Chicago mayor has opened the door to higher politics, although his approval rating is quite low. That seems to matter less and less with coastal donors who are in love with the Emanuel family, from brother Ari (Hollywood) to brother Ezekiel (Obamacare).
Joe Biden: Biden’s running. He’s running way behind, but that won’t stop the delusional vice president from throwing his hat in the ring anyway. He has already tied himself closely to the Obama administration, and hopes that those ties will trump the Clinton machine. Should Hillary slip, Biden could become a serious contender despite his well-earned reputation as a gaffe machine.
Someone Else: It could be someone few have heard of, like California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a black woman with a high-profile issue (same-sex marriage, which she singlehandedly won in California by refusing to defend Proposition 8 in the state). It could be someone larger (Al Gore, anyone?). But there’s room for another option.
Will Hillary Clinton win the nomination in 2016? She’s still the presumptive frontrunner. But that’s because of her gender and her last name. Should another Democrat arise with a more inspiring vision and a better backstory, Hillary is far from invulnerable.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.