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To the assumption that there’s but one Democrat in the White House who can ride to the party’s rescue and save it from the comedy/tragedy that is Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort — his name being Vice President Joe Biden — I’d like to suggest an alternative.
Mr. President, look not to the West Wing but to the East Wing. For the better alternative to Hillary just may be . . . First Lady Michelle Obama. Ok, stop rolling you eyes in disbelief and hear me out:
The pro-Biden arguments pretty much boil down to:
1) As the veep sits at the right hand of President Obama, he’s more likely and better suited to defend the administration’s record and 2008’s idea of “hope.”
2) Because he’s been a loyal soldier and has a partnership with the president that transcends politics, Biden can tap into Obama’s financial network seamlessly and quick enough to gather the resources necessary to carry out a prolonged campaign against the deep-pocketed Hillary Clinton
3) Even if nice guys finish last, Biden’s spirit and quirkiness would be a welcome relief to the Schumann-like dirge that is Hillary 2016.
All valid points. But here’s the problem: Biden’s a two-time presidential loser (flaming out in 1988 and 2008). Do Democrats think familiarity is their ticket in 2016? Or would it help to go with a novelty?
In which case, we have the First Lady.
Here are my three arguments in favor of her doing this:
1) Who better to defend her husband’s record? Vice presidents who stand by their president’s side invariably face a question of political manhood. Blood’s thicker than political water — Mrs. Obama would likely get a free pass from the press.
2) Obama donors might find it easy to say “no” to Biden. But saying “no” to FLOTUS (and POTUS, assuming he’d also dial for dollars) comes with risks — remember, there’s still a year left in this administration and lame-duck appointments and seatings at White House dinners yet to be decided.
3) The President thinks he’d win a third term if he were eligible to run (at least one poll suggests otherwise). Having the missus on the ballot is the best test of his brand strength, especially with POTUS hitting the stump in America’s swing states.
There’s one other reason why a First Lady candidacy intrigues: were she to enter the race, she has the potential to unravel Hillary Clinton’s political safety net. Would Democratic women stand by Mrs. Clinton or “lean in” with Mrs. Obama? What of the party’s African-American voters, given a choice between the wife of America’s “first black president” and the wife of the real McCoy?
Besides, let’s try to imagine how the Clinton attack machine, which is already warming up in anticipation of a Crazy Uncle Joe candidacy, would go after the First Lady?
- By suggesting that, despite the various causes and use of her office’s bully pulpit, she’s not ready to hold political office?
- That it’s bad practice to gift elections to political spouses (see “Senate race, New York, 2000”)?
- That the First Lady’s spent too much time flying around the world on the taxpayers’ dime?
- That America’s had it with political dynasties?
Bottom line: The Clintons have had it pretty good in past presidential contests, with Bill matching up against older, crankier white males (Jerry Brown and Bush 41 in 1992; Bob Dole in 1996). Novel though he may seem right now, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is more of the same. The one time Team Clinton faced a younger, vibrant minority foe (that would be Michelle Obama’s spouse), things didn’t work out all too well.
This is all pie-in-the-sky thinking, mind you. And it comes roughly 10 months since a story making the rounds at the time had the First Lady lighting out to California to replace Senator Dianne Feinstein, who’s up in 2018. And that was only a few months after more groundless buzz that a 2016 Illinois Senate run was a possibility.
Other than continuing her work with military families, Michelle Obama hasn’t tipped her hand as to her future plans. But she has alluded to enjoying a post-White House “freedom,” which sounds like the opposite of life in office.
Still, it’s fun to think what a disruptive force the First Lady could be were she to parachute into the Democratic field.
Or maybe it’s already crossed the minds of some allegedly smart people in the West Wing?