2016 Demo­cratic hope­fuls in­ef­fec­tive on trail

War­ren ex­cep­tion as Clin­tons, Bi­den pick elec­tion losers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPH­S

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.

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