Littwin: Help wanted in Hillaryland
January 28, 2015
If you haven't heard the news, let me be the one to break it to you: Hillary Clinton is definitely running for president (OK, you knew that), and the two leading contenders to be her running mate are reportedly Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Colorado's own senator … Michael Bennet.
I'm not making this up. It was right there in Politico, under the byline of Washington insider Mike Allen, who got it from people deep inside Hillaryland, where the talk is that Bennet and Kaine have the inside track. (Others mentioned: Sen. Cory Booker, HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, California AG Kamala Harris.)
OK, I don't believe it either. I have no idea why there would even be speculation about a vice president at this point, except that on the Democratic side, there's nothing left to speculate about.
Clinton is a lock to win the presidential nomination. Elizabeth Warren apparently isn't running. Joe Biden isn't running. Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb and Martin O'Malley might be running. You get the idea. At this stage, Clinton's primary challenge is, as another Democrat likes to say, to get people fired up. It's early, but so far, it has been a really slow burn.
All the excitement is on the Republican side, where the list of candidates and would-be candidates and won't-be candidates and shouldn't-be candidates is nearly endless and endlessly varied. So the Clintons get a story in Politico — in which they say Hillary plans to be nicer to the press this time — and would-be running mates get leaked as, I guess, a sign of faith. The problem is, did anyone even notice?
If you remember, around this time in the 2012 cycle, the talk was of Joe Biden getting dumped from the ticket and Hillary Clinton taking his place. The basis for that story was that the principals were Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. Kaine and Bennet don't quite measure up.
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But there it was. The Politico story lays out the Hillary 2016 game plan, and somehow the plan could put Bennet a heartbeat away. I was kidding with a Bennet staffer about it and asked who was in charge of picking out the drapes. He said he was pretty sure it was blinds.
Funny. But Michael Bennet? Seriously?
I don't think so.
Bennet is smart, sharp, moderate in his politics, moderate in his affect, an insider, a policy junkie. He can raise enormous amounts of money, which is how he got stuck with the job of keeping Democrats in the Senate majority (let's just say, it didn't work out so well). In other words, he's a lot like Hillary Clinton, who needs someone to run with who's not like her at all.
I've been waiting to write the reasons that any John Hickenlooper speculation for higher office is all wrong. I've been dining on it for months, which may explain why I don't get invited out that often. Hickenlooper gets plenty of national media attention, even as he struggled to hold the governor's seat against Bob Beauprez, of all people. The Hick shtick works with national media. It works with fellow pols, who elected him head of the National Governors Association. It wears well, and then it doesn't.
You can see why a Democratic candidate would pick someone from Colorado, a purple state — like Virginia — that Democrats desperately need to keep blue. You can see why Hickenlooper's name comes up, unless you've seen him up close in mid-stumble. But how did Bennet sneak ahead of his old boss?
Here's the thing about Bennet: He has run in only one election, and he barely won that one, against Ken Buck, of all people. The experts who get paid to judge these things have placed Bennet's Senate seat as one of the more vulnerable in 2016. I'm guessing he'll be re-elected — come on, Scott Tipton as senator? — and move up the Senate leadership ladder. He's got talent. But does he have talent?
You can see, though, why Clinton wanted to make some news. There are two big political stories out there, both from the Republican side. One was the Iowa kickoff in which Rep. Steve "Cantaloupe Calves" King — Iowa's immigrant-bashing version of Tom Tancredo — hosted a forum for which about a dozen 2016 contenders showed up.
The bigger story took place in Rancho Mirage, California, where the Koch Brothers revealed that their network planned to raise $900 million for the 2016 campaign. That's more than twice as much as they put together in 2012. It's similar to the kind of money that the campaigns raise. In fact, it makes the Koch Brothers — along with their big-money donors — a party unto themselves.
Cory Gardner was there along with the other new Republican senators to thank the donors for all their help. Marco Rubio was there, too, saying that the big money had no impact on policy. And Ted Cruz was there, saying that Democratic attacks on the Kochs were "grotesque."
Imagine what Elizabeth Warren would do with that. Now imagine Hillary Clinton.
Now you can see the problem, which a moderate senator as running mate just doesn't solve.
Mike Littwin writes a column for the Colorado Independent. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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