Good morning, everyone, I come before you today bearing a distant early warning of incoming 2016 speculation and hype. Secure your stocks of bread and toilet paper right now, because a blizzard of breathlessness may be moving into your area.
Today's campaign susurrations involve former senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom I'm contractually obligated to remind you is the presumed Democratic frontrunner in the upcoming Democratic primary. Via Politico's Mike Allen (courtesy of a "Democrat familiar with Clinton's thinking" and "one adviser") comes the news that Clinton is "strongly considering delaying the formal launch of her presidential campaign until July." Unless she doesn't! (More on that in a moment.)
A Democrat familiar with Clinton's thinking said: "She doesn't feel under any pressure, and they see no primary challenge on the horizon. If you have the luxury of time, you take it."
"She doesn't want to feel pressured by the press to do something before she's ready," one adviser said. "She's better off as a non-candidate. Why not wait?"
The argument for waiting, apparently, is that by doing so, Clinton has time to avoid the spotlight and stay out of the fray. "Polling by both Democrats and Republicans," writes Allen, "shows that one of her biggest vulnerabilities is looking political." Which is kind of a problem, since no one in the recent history of America has quite managed the trick of running for political office without looking political. (Though virtually every person elected to any office erroneously believes that they have done exactly that.)
What's more, the apparent danger in waiting is that she could "fuel complaints that Clinton sees the nomination fight as a coronation." Though it should be noted, the only people making such "complaints" would be her opposition, in an effort to generate "optics" on the basis of which political reporters and pundits could use their ersatz eyeballs to make broad assumptions about public opinion as a substitute for actually engaging with the public and its collective opinion.
Still, it's worth noting the tendency among purported "political experts" to say hilariously vacuous things, such as, "She's better off as a non-candidate." If we presume that this person plans to support her candidacy in some material way, this is a deeply strange thing to say! (Which makes me think this source has no such plan, to be honest.) Every so often you get a hot campaign story that features people who do not talk as if they are actual human beings with a meaningful connection to our shared tradition of spoken language.
We can, however, ferret out a few grains of real significance. For instance, this is a good occasion to re-familiarize yourself with our new, byzantine campaign finance laws and recall that as long as you have not declared yourself a candidate, you can coordinate with whatever super PACs you want, in any way you please. For more on this, please see Mother Jones' Patrick Caldwell's explanation of this teensy little loophole in the alleged "firewall" between candidates and super PACs.
Another impact of Clinton delaying her announcement, to which Allen never really alludes, is that the Democrats will field a nominee in any event, whether or not Clinton runs. But Clinton's leviathan presence, lurking outside the universe of "candidates who have announced their intentions," casts a shadow over any other would-be nominee's ability to run a credible campaign of his or her own. This is the whole "freezing the field" phenomenon -- in which Clinton's potential candidacy keeps other campaigns from attracting top talent and the tallest dollars, because those resources presumably want to wind up with the candidate who has the most advantages.
People first started talking about Clinton's field-freezing back in January 2013. That was way too early to have that discussion, but now that we've really officially entered that time period when would-be Democratic contenders really are competing for the best staffers and top donors, this matters. Should July roll around and Clinton decide not to run, all the other Democratic hopefuls will have to scramble to ramp up their campaigns, starting the race many months behind the GOP field in a multitude of ways.
That is: if Clinton waits until July. Remember when I said, "Unless she doesn't?" Let's circle back to that part. Allen reports, "One option being considered would be to announce an exploratory committee earlier -- perhaps in April, at the beginning of a new fundraising quarter, in the timeframe when insiders originally expected her to launch her campaign."
So one of the options being considered is to get Clinton into the campaign while leaving her with an escape hatch. In this way, Clinton is no different than, say, Jeb Bush. The thing is, once she forms an exploratory committee, all that talk about remaining a "non-candidate" and avoiding "looking political" goes right in the bin, because like it or not, she'd look political and effectively be a candidate.
As if she isn't those things already. I mean, come on, now.
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