Washington Merry-Go-Round

They also serve who watch and wait

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 3 Feb. 2016                                                              10

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

They also serve who watch and wait

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – The results of the Iowa caucuses raise more questions than they answered. Among them: What happens to Donald Trump? Can he sustain his lead in New Hampshire and other states? Is Ted Cruz’s victory a one-off or can he build on it? What happens to Marco Rubio? And can Hillary Clinton turn back a stronger than expected challenge from Bernie Sanders?

Two men are waiting in the wings with the rest of America to learn the answers to these questions. One is Michael Bloomberg, former three-term mayor of New York City, who says he would run as a third party candidate if Trump or Cruz is the Republican nominee, and Sanders is the Democratic nominee.

Hillary Clinton quickly countered that she would get the nomination so Bloomberg doesn’t have to run.

But what if Clinton falters? Well, there’s another suitor standing by, and that’s Vice President Joe Biden. He took himself out of the presidential race last October, but since then has expressed regrets that he’s not running.

Neither man’s candidacy is likely, but in a year where all the rules are out the window, they cannot be ruled out. A variety of scenarios could bring them from the sidelines, and Bloomberg has clearly stated the conditions that would prompt his candidacy.

Let’s imagine for the sake of argument a three-way race between Trump (or Cruz), Sanders and Bloomberg. It’s unlikely any one of them would carry enough states to reach the 270 electoral votes that are needed. The House of Representatives would then decide the winner. Tribal loyalties are strong, and the GOP-led House would almost certainly choose Trump.

Bloomberg has flirted with running before and backed off because he didn’t think he could win, and he didn’t want to be a spoiler. That’s probably still the case, but presidential dreams are powerful, and this could be Bloomberg’s last chance.

Biden is an even more convoluted case. As a sitting vice president, he should have had every expectation of running. But he was discounted early on because of his age (he is now 73), and the presumptive nominee became Clinton.

Biden would have had to plant his flag early and decisively, and even then he would have faced a strong challenge from Clinton. After the premature death of his son, Beau, Biden said he would not enter the race, but he and his supporters have made no secret of the fact that he would be available should Clinton falter.

Clinton’s narrow win in Iowa exposed her vulnerabilities, and she has been lagging far behind Sanders in New Hampshire. In the handful of days remaining before the primary on Tuesday, Clinton will be fighting hard to make up lost ground in the state she carried in the ’08 primary against Barack Obama.

If she loses New Hampshire, which is likely since Sanders has a home court advantage as the senator from neighboring Vermont, the chorus of worries about her candidacy will grow louder.

But that will not be nearly enough to bring in Biden. The next round of states is friendlier territory for Clinton, and she will likely do well.

The scenario that would open the door for Biden – and for Bloomberg as well – has to do with the email controversy that has dogged Clinton for months, although nothing has emerged to counter Clinton’s defense that she did not send or receive anything marked classified.

The FBI investigation into the State Department’s security system could report its findings while the primaries are still underway. What the impact will be depends of course on what those findings are, but whatever conclusions are reached, they could shape the race as much as any of the jockeying among the candidates.

          Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.

          Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

 

 

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