Your 2016 Alternatives To Hillary Clinton Guide – 9 Viable HRC Alternatives (Op-Ed)


Most people seem to think Hillary Clinton’s nomination is inevitable. But, is it?

In 2008, she was considered inevitable at this point in the race. Barack Obama was only a novelty to the media at the time. “The race would be over by New Hampshire” was a common theme.

And here we sit in 2015, in much of the same situation. The media keeps insisting that Hillary is the inevitable nominee and no one could possibly challenge her. And that may be true this time around. But it might not be the case. There are alternatives. Let’s look at some of the more viable ones.

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At the onset, allow me to concede a couple of things. First, no one out there at the present time can fund-raise like HRC. But the same was true in 2008. That changed when another candidate, actually two emerged as serious challengers.

The 1st was John Edwards, who had a strong showing in 2004 and ended up being the VP nominee in John Kerry’s close but no cigar run for the Presidency. The 2nd, of course, was Barack Obama. When Obama began his run, he got a big groundswell of donations from the grass-roots. That allowed him to get competitive. After he won Iowa, the big money it takes to win a nomination and election rolled in right on cue.

And yes, I would prefer an election process that didn’t require big money. But this is the real world and in 2016 any serious candidate will need serious funding.

The 2nd concession is that out of the following list, there can only be one, maybe two serious challengers once the primaries start rolling along next January. A few more might linger, but if anyone is going to challenge HRC, they will have to be running at her pace by then. The guys or girls who are drawing 3% won’t cut the mustard and at that point will be a novelty used to fill a stage at a debate.

Also, it’s probably wise of me to mention this is all opinion. And some of those opinions are based on political realities. Some of those realities aren’t politically correct. Keep that in mind if you read something that personally offends you, it might offend me too but I am looking at the reality of the situation in political terms.

The Possible Challengers:

Elizabeth Warren – Senator, Mass.

Elizabeth is the current darling of the progressive left. She is a freshman Senator and before the past 6 years has spent most of her adult life in academia. She is a whistle blower and a firebrand.

Pros – She is about the most popular Senator on the left these days. She has vast knowledge of the financial industry and economics which would put her in a great position should financial issues be central in 2016.

Cons – Where she does currently have a certain purity to her, we all know a POTUS election can rip that to shreds. She is a freshman Senator and Americans might not bite twice on a freshman. Some of her positions might be a little too far left for a general election. This would cause her to slide center, which might damage everything she has built, reputation wise. She also seems to have no preparation for the “commander-in-chief” test. I’m not saying she couldn’t pass it, but I have a feeling the GOP could hit her early and often with that.

Could this be the Anti – Hillary? Perhaps. But so far, Elizabeth Warren has balked strongly at any suggestion of running in 2016. She seems to think she needs to work in the Senate a while longer, and personally I happen to agree with that.

Bernie Sanders – Senator, Vt.

Except for Warren, Sanders is the most popular Senator out there for progressives. Sanders keeps himself in the headlines by going on cable news shows regularly, which is a feast for meme hunters.

Pros – A staunch progressive. Knows how to hit politically speaking, and hit hard.

Cons – Sanders isn’t a democrat. He’s an independent that caucuses with the Democrats so he can get meaningful committee seats. In a practical sense (vs a legal one) Sanders would need to actually join the party to run for the nomination. Sanders is also a self labeled “Socialist.” While that might have many nuanced meanings to higher info voters on the left, the word is akin to Satan on the right and even in some middle circles.

Could this be the Anti- Hillary? Sanders might be one to launch a 3rd party try, but those have the tendency to only damage one side like Perot did to Bush in 1992 and Nader did to Gore in 2000.

Martin O’Malley – Former Governor, Md. 

The Maryland Governor has been toying with the idea, but nothing concrete has emerged.

Pros – Popular Governor from a pretty diverse state, O’Malley has shown some fine political chops as Governor. He is charismatic and at least on a State level, can raise some money. Issue wise he isn’t too far to the left, but he is to the left of many “blue dog” corporate democrats making him become a palatable alternative.

Cons – He just doesn’t have a ton of name recognition outside of Maryland. And in an era where democrats especially seem hell-bent on nominating someone other than a typical white guy, he’s a typical white guy.

Could he be the Anti – Hillary?  Maybe, especially if he does run. His 1st and most formidable challenge will be avoiding HRC’s ability to eat men, especially white men for breakfast. He would have to play the campaign with kid gloves to make the final cut.

Jim Webb – Former Senator – Va. 

Webb has a pretty good background from being a Secretary of Defense to serving in the Senate. I haven’t seen any indication that he will run but there does seem to be some grass-roots support for him to run.

Pros – Again, Webb has both executive and legislative experience. He also has a lauded military career which certainly doesn’t hurt. Webb also brings some private sector experience to the table.

Cons – Webb isn’t a staunch progressive. He might be better described as a centrist. He also is not a great speaker and often comes off as awkward. He also really didn’t do a lot to grow his reputation in the Senate, being a minor role player at best.

Could this be the Anti – Hillary?  Well, Webb could run, but an “Anti Hillary” he is not. I actually think Webb would be a better VP candidate for just about anyone who gets the nomination with his credentials. But his lack of charisma won’t vault him to the nomination, even if he does run.

Russ Feingold – Former Senator, Wisc. 

This is actually one of the most interesting to me. Feingold was a progressive and highly ethical Senator throughout his career. He’s not as left as Warren or Sanders but he does have a progressive spine.

Pros – His experience is vast. He has also been shown to be a man of principle and ethics. And for anyone who doesn’t believe that I would tell you to go look at how he conducted himself during the Clinton – Lewinsky scandal. He is also a champion of finance reform and fair wages. He’s Jewish. That might have been a liability in the past, but I have a feeling that might work to his benefit in this era where it will immediately neuter any “they hate Israel” attacks from the right. He also neuters Scott Walker thinking he can steal Wisconsin if he is the GOP nominee.

Cons – He’s Jewish, and like it or not, antisemitism is alive and well in America. Being Jewish has been a liability for past presidential candidates. Will it be this time around? I simply don’t know. We all thought race relations would take a big step forward with a black POTUS and look what happened. Other than that, Feingold has a stellar record as a person and politician.

Could this be the Anti – Hillary?  He very well could be. But so far there is no sign of him seriously considering a run. Feingold was one of the few people who took on the Clintons throughout his career, to varying successes. But the important part is, he never backed down and almost always had the facts on his side. One has to wonder if a “draft Russ” movement might start?

Joe Biden – Vice President of the United States and former Delaware Senator

“Uncle Joe” has been a pretty darn good VP. Most of his work has been behind the scenes but his fingerprints are obvious to the well-informed wonk. Vice Presidents often run after their boss, to varying successes. Worked out well for guys like Bush Sr and Truman, not so much for guys like Gore and Quayle.

Pros – 40 years of experience. That’s tough to top. And Joe has been around the government block more times than anyone can probably count. He is charismatic. Something I can attest to personally having met him on occasion (those stories are for another time though). Joe knows everyone, and knows how to get the Senate and White House to work together.

Cons – A gaffe machine. Some of the gaffes are harmless, others aren’t. But the Clinton political machine has shown they can take someone’s misstep or gaffe and bury them. Joe is also getting up in age and might not be the best guy to sell the ideas of change that every candidate must do. Also, for knowing everyone and the nuts and bolts of politics, Joe has not been successful in teaching his boss to get the White House and Congress to work together from some perspectives outside the left-wing.

Could this be the Anti – Hillary?  There is talk of Joe running, but no one is talking of him winning. Of course no one is talking about anyone winning over HRC. Biden also isn’t quite as progressive on some issues as progressives would like in the areas of defense and marijuana legalization.

Steve Beshear – Governor, Ky. 

Steve is a southern Governor in a pretty red state. That alone is something to look at. Aside from that he has been a pretty successful Governor in that red state and someone who can work both sides would appeal to those in the middle and left to an extent.

Pros – Beshear’s state is one of the most successful “Obamacare” States in the union. He was clever enough to call it something other than “ACA” or “Obamacare” which got things rolling. This might be the guy who can actually sell health reform to the white voters in the south. He has also made advances in other areas that he can tout such as education.

Cons – Kentucky is still Kentucky. And Kentucky mines coal. And Kentucky fracks. As you might have guessed, Beshear isn’t a total progressive. This would be a huge trade-off for voters on the left. One that might be a bridge too far and keep them home.

Could this be the Anti -Hillary?  It’s possible. But he would have to go through Hillary 1st and he might not have the ability to do that. Again, a great VP candidate tho.

John Hickenlooper – Governor, Co. 

The Colorado Governor could find himself in a good “Anti – Hillary” position. He is a Democratic Governor from a purple state that has gotten marijuana legalized. Something progressives have been trying to do nationally since 1938.

Pros – The pot thing is going to be a plus and minus for John, depending on who you talk to. But considering poll after poll finds legalization to be more popular than prohibition, I see this working for him in swing states. It may work against him in some Southern states, but if you were gonna lose Mississippi anyway, there is no difference between losing by 5 or 30 points. It’s the same electoral count. Furthermore, don’t expect Hickenlooper to run on a pro pot platform, but rather use it to show himself as someone who can bring people together even on volatile issues.

Cons – The Governor has done some other good things in his state, but we might never get to hear about them if he runs. The past has shown that any candidate who shows any interest in any form of drug legalization will be pelted with absurd questions about it until they drown. Go look at some old debates from past POTUS races and you will see what I mean. Or just ask Ron Paul.

Could this be the Anti – Hillary?  If he runs, maybe. Again, makes for a great VP candidate but I feel if he took a serious shot, he could make a serious run. He has government and private sector experience and knows how not to go too far to a political extreme and keep himself viable even when dealing with controversial issues.

Al Gore – Former Vice President of the United States and former Tenn. Senator

Al Gore famously “lost” the 2000 election by an alleged hair. Since then some of his prophecies on climate change and technology, for example, have come to fruition.

Pros – Al Gore now has 15 years of new climate data to dump on whomever wishes to act like there is a serious scientific constituency denying climate change. Gore was and is an effective communicator despite a dry style. Some people also forget that it was Gore who oversaw what was probably the best “overhaul” of our federal government in the 90s with his “re-invent government” initiative. Gore has always been pretty good at seeing trends, especially environmental and technological ones. Name recognition is no problem here either. And unlike many, I think Al could raise a competitive sum to get to the finals.

Cons – Al is still the butt of many jokes that can be used against him. He also just might not be up for doing another campaign. Campaigning is something Gore always detested. And in 2016, any viable candidate is going to have to be in it 150%. I just don’t know if he has any fire.

Could this be the Anti – Hillary? – I think Gore would be a formidable challenger if he has any fire left. Also, he would just have to suck it up, put on a smile and campaign hard. His name recognition would probably put him in a top-tier almost immediately, if not sooner.

 Final Thoughts

 Are these the only candidates that might be able to take down Hillary Clinton in 2016? No. There are other Governors and lawmakers that have been talked about in various circles. And of course, there is always the possibility of someone unknown coming out of the shadows and wowing Americans. That actually is the primary reason for this list being 9 vs 10 candidates.

Again, Hillary will not face a field of challengers when the primaries are in full swing. We usually see the exodus of the also-rans either before or right after Iowa / New Hampshire. After that it’s down to the final 2, maybe 3 serious candidates and perhaps a novelty candidate.

Will Hillary see a serious challenger? If the MSM has its way, she won’t. That picture is already being drawn by the cable hosts and their guests. They almost seem to be working for the Clintons in trying to discourage any real challengers.

But Americans tend not to like it when they are essentially told who to vote for. Even party loyalists will resent it. So I can’t help but think someone will emerge. Will they take her down? I have no idea. And that actually isn’t the point. Where no one wants a bloody knuckled, below the belt primary, no one really seems to want an unchallenged primary, like she was an incumbent.

She’s not.

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