2016 Democratic hopefuls ineffective on trail
Warren exception as Clintons, Biden pick election losers
With one major exception, the Democrats pondering a White House bid in two years proved ineffective on the campaign trail this year as their party took a beating in the midterm elections.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Joseph R. Biden and outgoing Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley each saw a majority of their handpicked candidates go down in flames on Tuesday, raising questions about how receptive voters will be to their own campaigns when the presidential race begins in earnest next year.
But populist hero Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, defied the trend and demonstrated the political muscle that supporters say proves the party must move to the left in order to be successful in 2016.
As they pick up the pieces of a disastrous election, Democratic presidential hopefuls will cling to the hope that congressional Republicans overreach and turn the public against the GOP agenda, political analysts say, making the Democrats’ 2016 pitch much easier.
“I think in some ways it will be easier for a Democrat running for president in 2016 to blame Congress for things gone wrong. It was complicated to do that when you had a Democratic Senate ... having a Republican Senate makes it easier in some ways for a Democrat running for president,” said Robert G. Boatright, a political science professor at Clark University.
While a Republican-controlled Congress may offer Democrats an easy target in 2016, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden and others pondering a presidential bid certainly did all they could to keep the Senate in their party’s hands. They were fixtures on the campaign trail over the past few months, but it appears they didn’t have much of an impact, with the possible exception of Mrs. Warren.
Of the 11 candidates for whom Mrs. Warren personally campaigned or fundraised for in 2014, six won and five lost, according to a Washington Times tally. Mrs. Warren previously had vowed not to run for president in 2016, but recently cracked the door to a White House bid.
Her personal appearances in highprofile races in Kentucky, Wisconsin, Iowa and elsewhere weren’t enough to swing the contests toward Democrats, but Ms. Warren’s record looks significantly more impressive than that of Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden and Mr. O’Malley.
Of the candidates Mrs. Clinton stumped or fundraised for this year, 10 won and 14 lost, with one race still too close to call.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, mocked Mrs. Clinton’s win-loss record with a series of #HillarysLosers tweets Wednesday, showing the former first lady posing with losing Democratic candidates.
But other Democrats had even worse showings.
Mr. Biden posted nine wins and 16 losses, also with several races yet to be decided.
Mr. O’Malley’s track record was equally bad, at 10 wins and 17 losses. The former two-term Baltimore mayor ventured into long-shot campaigns that his potential Democratic rivals ignored, such as Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial campaign in Texas and Jason Carter’s gubernatorial bid in Georgia.
Both Ms. Davis and Mr. Carter lost Tuesday.
Mr. O’Malley also suffered an embarrassing loss in his home state of Maryland, where his lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown, lost to Republican Larry Hogan in a state that had elected just one GOP leader in the past 45 years.
As the dust settled, progressives argued that Mrs. Warren’s populist vision was proven to be a winning strategy and one that should be emulated, not watered down.
“There was no defined economic agenda in this election — and when elections are about nothing, Democrats lose. Looking forward, the Democratic Party must be focused on big ideas and popular economic issues. All Democrats running for office next cycle should campaign on Warren’s populist agenda of reforming Wall Street, reducing student debt, and expanding Social Security benefits,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the powerful Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
Whether it ends up being Mrs. Warren, another populist figure or a more establishment candidate such as Mrs. Clinton, specialists say Democrats must choose someone who excites the party base.
“The base did not really turn out [in the midterms] and that created problems all across the country … They need someone who can turn out their votes,” said Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, made personal appearances in races in Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Her record of six wins and five losses were more impressive than other 2016 Democratic presidential hopefuls.