Is Hillary Rodham Clinton inevitable?
That question arises Friday because top Clinton supporters are meeting in New York City in a prelude of sorts to more intense political activity aimed at 2016.
Leaders of Ready for Hillary, a big super PAC that is not officially linked to Ms. Clinton but is preparing the way for her possible presidential bid, will join representatives of other Democratic groups to review US politics following the midterms and plan for what’s next.
“Everyone has a lane. We are going to work together and seamlessly so there’s no infighting,” former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Ready for Hillary adviser and co-chair of Priorities USA Action, told the Associated Press in advance of the meeting.
Hillaryland wants Clinton’s road ahead to be open, of course. Fighting off serious challengers in the primaries would be hard, expensive, and risky.
And Hillaryland may get its wish.
Yes, some opponents are beginning to stir. Ex-Sen. Jim Webb has already formed an exploratory committee. Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont – he’s an independent who would presumably switch his registration back to Democrat – is hiring campaign staff and mulling a run. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has dispatched staffers to Iowa and begun amassing cash.
But look, these guys have very little chance of winning. Clinton’s dominance of her party’s presidential field at this point is historically unprecedented.
She is 52 points ahead of any other Democrat in the RealClearPolitics (RCP) rolling average of major polls. Fifty-two points! That’s crushing it.
And the second-place Democrat in question is VP Joe Biden, who may not run if she does. The third-place contestant is Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who insists she’s not running. Clinton is 61 points ahead of Senator Sanders and 62 points ahead of Governor O’Malley.
Yes, she was also the front-runner in 2008, and still lost. But at The Washington Post blog The Fix on Friday, Philip Bump has a nice post showing that her lead this time, in key states, is substantially larger.
“It’s a whole different race,” Mr. Bump writes.
This gap could still narrow. It’s politics: Who knows what might happen? But if the gap doesn’t narrow, Clinton’s lead is such that other Democratic candidates won’t even have any effect on direction of the Democratic Party. She’ll be able to just ignore them and do what she wants.
That said, there are still people who can stop her.
One is Hillary Clinton herself. OK, we know that’s kind of cheap, but the fact remains that Clinton might decide to stop running for some personal reason. Perhaps she decides her health isn’t up to it. Perhaps she decides that she’d rather not live in the White House again.
The others are Republicans. It’s worth repeating that Clinton’s unprecedented lead pertains only to the primaries. She’s ahead, but not wildly so, in the preliminary general-election matchup polls.
She’s about nine points ahead of Gov. Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey at the moment, according to RCP. She’s eight points ahead of Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky and 10 points ahead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Again, it’s very early, and these numbers will change, particularly after the GOP actually selects a challenger. The point is that lots of presidential candidates have lost after leading their opponent by such margins at some point in the process.
For instance, Al Gore was ahead of George W. Bush among likely voters by as much as 10 points as late as September 2000, according to Gallup.
He lost. Though that was close, if you remember.