Talk to enough conservatives (which I do almost every day) and they’ll give you a GOP path to the White House that goes something like this: scandals, whether it’s that private e-mail server, Benghazi or something we don't know about, will inevitably doom the vaunted Clinton machine. Hillary Clinton will have to drop out of the race, leaving the Democrats with a bunch of second stringers, and an old socialist, trying to win the presidency in 2016.
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Sounds good, and more than remotely possible given all we know about the Clintons, both Hillary and Bill, and how they have comported themselves over the years in their public and semi-public lives. But today's announcement by Vice President Joe Biden that he will not run for president--a surprise to most beltway pundits--should alert the GOP and its conservative base that there probably won't be a scandal-tarred path to the White House.
That's right people, you're going to have to work for it, and it won't be easy.
First a little background on Biden and how the beltway class missed this story by a mile. The problem got down to sources: Most political reporters had the wrong ones, namely lobbyists and beltway types. If you followed the Democratic money men, as I do, you would know there was little if any donor support among Wall Street contributors for his candidacy. That doesn't mean Biden wasn't liked by the money men--he was. But the Clintons aren't dopes: They've been making the case for years now that unless you think something legal--an indictment, a civil charge, a really nasty parking ticket--is going to emerge that will give credence to the GOP's spin that Hillary is a crook, and derail her chances to be president, well then, there's no rationale for a Biden or anyone else to take her place on the ticket.
And quite frankly none of the Democratic fundraisers I speak to believe there's more than a theoretical chance Hillary Clinton will face a serious legal issue, particularly from an Obama Justice Department, that will kill her chances for the Democratic nomination. I should point out these aren't a bunch of wishful thinkers: They are cold, calculating financiers who bet early on the Clinton machine, and believe the best return on their investment (via the riches of crony capitalism that the Clintons have perfected over the years) is to stick with her no matter how many Benghazi hearings she has to sit through.
With that, Biden had no choice but not to run; the fundraising numbers didn't and would never have added up.
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Even with Biden out now, I'm certain many in the GOP will relish a chance to go head-to-head with Hillary Clinton and her team of spin doctors --but they shouldn't. I'm old enough to remember watching CNN the night the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke when Bill Clinton allegedly lied under oath to cover up an affair with a White House intern. It was the culmination of years of questionable actions by both the President and his wife that began during their days in the Arkansas Governor's mansion, and now it appeared, they finally got him. The mood on the CNN show "Capital Gang" that Saturday night was solemn and the consensus pretty clear: Bill Clinton could be impeached.
But he wasn't, in fact the relentless focus by the GOP and the special prosecutor Ken Starr on Lewinsky's infamous blue dress and all the other sordid details about the scandal, was over time ignored by an American public more interested in a booming stock market and strong economic growth.
By the time Bill Clinton's second term was over, he probably could have been elected to a third term because voters often have a high tolerance for sleaze. Richard Nixon obstructed justice; Bill Clinton lied about an affair, and it wasn't enough.
My guess (and I believe it's Joe Biden's as well) is that barring something real criminal, having a private e-mail account won't be enough to derail Hillary Clinton from the Democratic nomination and probably the White House. Does that mean she's a shoe-in? Not by a long shot. Speak to some of her fundraisers and they will tell you that she believes her biggest obstacle is not of her doing but her boss's, namely the lousy Obama economy.
Hillary Clinton is more than a loyal Democrat. She was President Obama's Secretary of State during the years where his policies were mostly controversial--the failed stimulus package, Obamacare and the financial reform law, Dodd Frank, which banks say prevents them from lending enough to small businesses. Yes nearly eight years into the Obama Presidency, the top-line economic numbers may now look great, (i.e 5.1% unemployment) but scratch the surface and you see real problems that average Americans (not just the fat cat Wall Street types who feast off stock market bubbles) must contend with: Massive under employment, slow economic growth and weak wages.
Just listen to the last Democratic debate. Put aside their attacks on the evils of capitalism and Republican tax policy, and to the man and the woman that night, the Democrats who want to be president were indicating the end result of the current Democratic President's polices that have given the country the growing gap between rich and poor, a dwindling middle class, lower wages, and higher under employment.
So little advice to the GOP presidential hopefuls: Put aside e-mail servers for a minute and rewind the video tape of the debate because even Hillary Clinton believes it’s your best chance at winning.