Preface to the Democratic Primaries
The Democratic primaries have been long and difficult. And, the Iowa caucuses are still about three months away. Here is a summarization and breakdown of what happen happened thus far…
As President Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012, speculation about 2016 began to circulate. Commentators, pundits, and the media elite pointed the spotlight to then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The assumption of her making a second bid for the highest office in the land was almost a foregone conclusion.
With name recognition, being a former First Lady of the United States, a Senator from New York, runner-up to the Democratic nomination in 2008, and Sectary of State, Clinton’s credentials were more than sufficient. As a January 2013 poll from both The Washington Post and ABC News showed, Clinton was popular with voters. The speculation came to an end on April 12, 2015, when Clinton announced her candidacy for President.
While popular, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party called for an alternative to Clinton. Showing confidence after the success of their favored candidate in both 2008 and 2012, progressives hoped to recruit Elizabeth Warren. But, after making her intentions well known, the senior Senator from Massachusetts refused the call.
Progressives turned to the junior Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. While a registered Independent, Senator Sanders had caucused with the Democratic Party throughout his time in both the House of Representatives and Senate. Following Clinton’s lead, Sanders announced his candidacy to seek the Democratic nomination on April 30, 2015.
Starting in January 2015, Martin O’Malley, former Governor of Maryland, made strategic moves in hiring and organizing staff in Iowa, the first caucus state. O’Malley’s political action committee, the “O’ Say Can You See” PAC, which had been used to fundraise for Democratic candidates and two ballot measures in Maryland, turned into his campaign apparatus. On May 30, 2015, Martin O’Malley became the third candidate to run for the Democratic nomination.
Former Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee announced his candidacy for the nomination on June 3, 2015. The Mayor of Warwick, Rhode Island-turned-U.S. Senator-turned-Governor ended his campaign on October 23 after failing to gain any momentum or the slightest bit of attention.
Republican-turned-Democrat Jim Webb announced his intention to seek the nomination as early has November 19, 2014, when he formed an exploratory committee. The former Senator from Virginia and former Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan announced his candidacy on July 2, 2015. After consistently polling near or at zero percent, the Democratic candidate withdrew on the primary process on October 20. Webb is considering running as an Independent, a move that may ultimately prove futile.
By raising $1 million within a month, Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig entered the race September 6, 2015. Due to his lack of exposure, not being in the debates, and poor polling, Lessig dropped out of the race on November 2, 2015.
Because of the historical nature of the Vice Presidency, there was an assumption that Joe Biden would make a third run for the Democratic nomination, following 1988 and 2008. Partly fueled by Biden’s own public comments about running for President as well as political commentators, the rumors and various deadlines for a decision ended October 21. Speaking from the White House Rose Garden alongside his wife, Jill, and President Obama, Biden announced that he would not run for the nomination.
Of particular interest to this writer are three points:
Senator Bernie Sanders is the only candidate in the Democratic primary that is currently serving in public office. Every other current candidate is out of office, with Clinton being out of office the longest, having left office February 1, 2013 and O’Malley having just left office January 21, 2015.
Of the three major current candidates running for the nomination, O’Malley is the only lifelong member of the Democratic Party. Clinton was a registered Republican until 1968. While attending Wellesley College for a major in political science, she led the College’s Young Republicans chapter. In 1968, while as a junior, she joined Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy’s anti-Vietnam War presidential campaign. She soon became a Democrat afterwards. From Burlington to Washington, D.C., Sanders has been an Independent, only caucusing with the Democratic Party.
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), announced there would six debates in total. This is a drastic reduction of debates when compared to 2008, when there were 26. Both Sanders and O’Malley have criticized the DNC for a sparse schedule. DNC Vice Chairs Tulsi Gabbard, Congresswomen from Hawaii, and RT Rybak, former Mayor of Minneapolis, as well as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have called for more debates.