What if They Held a Primary and Nobody Showed Up?

Let’s say you’re the Democratic Party.  The president whom you thought was going to make the oceans rise and fall, can’t  seem to muster the leadership ability to handle the daily duties of the office.  What do you do?  Do you beg Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run against him in the primary?

Well, you can forget that idea.

From nationaljournal.com:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton once again quashed rumors that she’s still interested in running for president, this time in an interview with NBC’s Today on Monday.

“I’m really old-fashioned. I feel I have made my contribution,” Clinton said. “I’m very grateful I’ve had a chance to serve, but I think it’s time for others to step up.” Writing, teaching, and working on issues that affect women and girls will be in her future, Clinton assured NBC’s Savannah Guthrie; that and relaxing at home.

Clinton shrugged off speculation that she should run against President Obama in 2012—or that she should have been elected instead of him in 2008. “It feels irrelevant to me,” Clinton said. She praised Obama for doing “an excellent job under the most difficult circumstances.”

Clinton acknowledged that serving under Obama was initially awkward. Obama did, after all, beat her for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“It was a hard-fought election. I wanted to beat him, and he ended up beating me,” Clinton said. “But he asked me to serve.” She added, “at the end of the day, you have to be bigger than politics.”

Clinton said she gives Obama political advice “every so often,” but declined to elaborate.

Clinton attributed her current popularity simply to her two decades in the public eye. “Because I have been on the public consciousness for so long and on the television screens and people’s homes, I think there is a comfort,” Clinton said.

A comfort, huh?

I would call it desperation.

Heck, there’s even been a rumor floating around that Hillary and Sheriff Joe Biden would switch jobs, with Ms. Clinton becoming VP in the next Obama Administration and Biden would be demoted to Secretary of State.

According to Jonathan Alter (former host for MSNBC), writing for businessweek.com, it’s a compelling argument:

Obama would swallow his pride and try to use wit to disarm attacks that he’s acting desperate, cynical and weak. He would admit publicly that he needs the help of both Clintons to restore the good economic times of the 1990s. The Democrats’ message would be: “Vote for Obama if you want the Clinton economy back. Vote for Romney if you want the Bush economy back.” That’s a compelling enough argument to make an imperiled president do something he would hate — let Bill Clinton drag him over the finish line.

Biden would reluctantly agree because his consolation prize is a job he can truthfully argue he has coveted for 20 years. It would leave him less humiliated than incumbent vice presidents like Henry Wallace, whom Franklin D. Roosevelt dumped from the ticket in favor of Harry Truman in 1944, and Nelson Rockefeller, booted by Gerald Ford to make room for Bob Dole in 1976.

Clinton would say yes because she is dutiful to a fault and because everyone asked to be on the ticket for the last 40 years has accepted, with the exception of Colin Powell turning down Dole in 1996 and John McCain rebuffing John Kerry in 2004 (that’s how liberal McCain was then).

Job switches of this kind are hardly unprecedented. In 1985, Ronald Reagan arranged for Treasury Secretary Donald Regan and White House Chief of Staff James Baker to swap positions. In 1992, Baker reluctantly resigned as secretary of state and returned to the White House as George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff in an unsuccessful effort to save Bush’s foundering re-election campaign. All of these guys do what it takes.

A job swap at this point probably wouldn’t help anyway.  Per gallup.com, Democrats aren’t that thrilled about the upcoming 2012 elections to begin with:

In thinking about the 2012 presidential election, 45% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say they are more enthusiastic about voting than usual, while nearly as many, 44%, are less enthusiastic. This is in sharp contrast to 2008 and, to a lesser extent, 2004, when the great majority of Democrats expressed heightened enthusiasm about voting.

Democrats’ muted response to voting in 2012 also contrasts with Republicans’ eagerness. Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans, 58%, describe themselves as more enthusiastic about voting. That is nearly identical to Republicans’ average level of enthusiasm in 2004 (59%) and higher than it was at most points in 2008.

That apathy extends to other potential Democratic Primary opponents, too, evidently.  None of the Democrats seem to want to run against Obama.

Eleanor Clift, writing for thedailybeast.com says that running against Obama is a useless exercise:

So what’s the point? For Ted Kennedy and the progressive challenge to Carter in 1980, it was about reasserting the liberal Democratic agenda that Carter, a Southern moderate focused on fiscal discipline, seemed to be eroding. The discontent then was not unlike what progressives are experiencing today. It’s the passionate base, hear me roar! The difference now there is no Kennedy heir-apparent figure on the horizon, and we’re talking about the first African-American occupant of the White House in a party identified with civil rights. “Who wants to feel responsible for costing the first African-American president his reelection?” says Cook. What’s more, blacks vote heavily in key primary states.

Anyone contemplating a run against Obama must consider the consequences of not only defeating the president, but the likely repercussions to his or her own career. “If he were white, he would have a progressive challenger,” says Bill Schneider of the Democratic group Third Way. Because Obama is this historic figure, challenging him would hamper the prospects of anyone who wants a future in elective Democratic politics. “Blacks would be deeply offended by a challenge, and that’s no way to score points in the Democratic Party,” says Schneider. African-Americans are the Democrats’ most loyal constituency, and while they too are disappointed in what Obama has been able to accomplish, they are not going to abandon him.

Well, Eleanor, even if blacks ignore the plight of all of their friends and family who are suffering unemployment at the highest rate in America under of this president, you can bet your chair at NPR that the rest of Americans won’t forget who is responsible for this unholy economic mess when they step into the voting booth on November 6, 2012.

As Harry Truman said:  The buck stops here.

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