PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Don’t be spooked by the dateline. Nothing going on here. Presidential race hasn’t started. No cause for worry about debates, delegate counts, stump speeches. Not for a long time, maybe a very long time. Read on without peril.
Because this is a column about why the Democratic campaign, and thus maybe the Republican campaign too, may be delayed indefinitely, why the person at the center of the speculation has no incentive to budge one inch, and why your fatigue with politics may perfectly match her strategic imperatives.
The politician we are speaking of is Hillary Clinton, late the secretary of state, before that a senator from New York. The political commentariat has noted that she is in the unusual position of freezing the race. None of the Democrats will move — not Vice President Joe Biden, not even this season’s hugababy, Martin O’Malley, so little known that it’s bad manners to the reader not to append his title, governor of Maryland — until she does. Or doesn’t.
The only political figure since the Civil War to have anything remotely resembling the Clinton effect was Dwight Eisenhower, who as victorious World War II general in Europe could have had the presidential nomination of the Republican Party and very likely the Democratic Party in 1948, and who would have breezed to the nomination of either party four years later.
Eventually, General Eisenhower declared himself a Republican and powered past Ohio Sen. Robert Taft to win the 1952 Republican presidential nomination.
Today, we know Mrs. Clinton’s party affiliation, but we do not know her political intentions. Until we do, there is no campaign.
But it is more than that. She’s the favorite for the nomination. She is so dominating a figure, out of power and out of the nastiness of today’s politics, that she has no incentive whatsoever to weaken her position by dipping back in.
How long could this last? As long as she wants it to. She very likely will want it to last a very long time.
Why? The longer it lasts, the less time her putative opponents have to build organizations in Iowa and New Hampshire, still the indispensable first two steps toward a presidential nomination, and the less money other potential candidates will have collected as the first voting nears.
“She’s the most qualified candidate in the field and perhaps in a long time,” former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an interview. She compared the depth of Mrs. Clinton’s preparation to that of George H.W. Bush, who had served in the House, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as a diplomat in China, and as a two-term vice president when he ran for president in 1988.
“I dearly hope she runs,” Ms. Pelosi said. “Here’s someone immensely ready — and she happens to be a woman.”
But there’s no hurry. In this case they also serve (their own purposes) who stand and wait.
David Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org