There’s a saying in the NFL: “Next man up.” It means that if somebody gets hurt — whether it’s the star quarterback or an obscure cornerback — the next person needs to move in and do the job. No questions, no excuses.
After this week’s punishing losses, the Democratic party finds itself searching for several “next men.” Its problem is that there aren’t many people on its bench.
Consider the 2016 presidential field. It’s an embarrassment of riches for Republicans. Candidates may include sitting governors (Walker of Wisconsin, Christie of New Jersey) and senators (Paul of Kentucky, Cruz of Texas) as well as retired governors (Rick Perry, Jeb Bush). There will also be other hats in that ring.
For Democrats, though, Hillary Clinton literally stands alone. Her closest competitor — trailing in early opinion polls by 50 percentage points — is Vice President Joe Biden. Like Hillary, he’s eligible for Social Security, an Obama administration veteran who’s spent virtually his entire adult life in Washington. Hardly a breath of fresh air.
The same thing holds true at the congressional level. Look at three of the open Senate seats pocketed by GOP candidates: West Virginia, Iowa and Montana. If outgoing Jay Rockefeller (first elected in 1984), Tom Harkin (first elected in 1984) and Max Baucus (first elected in 1978, resigned this year to become ambassador to China) had run again, each of those states may well have remained blue. But everybody must retire eventually — even Strom Thurmond left office after turning 100.
One upcoming Democrat thinks he has the answer. “The way we rebuild is really by having a deep investment in our local city council races and state races, by really starting to recruit and pipeline strong local candidates,” Arizona Rep.-elect Ruben Gallego tells Politico. “That’s where your good congressional candidates in the future are going to come from.”
Perhaps. But that simply highlights that there seems to be a missing generation of Dems getting ready to run. After Tuesday, Republicans will run more than two-thirds of state legislatures. There are 31 Republican governors, and just 18 Democrats. Republicans will hold the governers mansions even in deep blue Maryland and Illinois.
The future belongs to the young. New GOP senators include Tom Cotton (37), Cory Gardner (40) and Joni Ernst (44). They join a body that already includes Ted Cruz (43), Mike Lee (43) and Marco Rubio (43). The conservative future is bright. As for the political left: it’s fallen, and just wants to find someone who can get up.