The 2016 Presidential Candidate selection process for the Democratic Party may not be the coronation of Hillary Clinton that most pundits are projecting. Kenneth Vogel of Politico is reporting that some big Democratic Party donors are eager for a candidate (or candidates) to challenge Clinton, if only to force her to the left on key progressive issues.
Clinton is seen by some liberals as too hawkish, too close to Wall Street and insufficiently aggressive on fighting climate change, income inequality and the role of money in politics. Those are animating causes for many rich Democrats, and some are eager for a candidate or candidates to challenge Clinton on those issues, if only to force her to the left.
According to the report some of the big money donors are trying to get Elizabeth Warren to reconsider her pledge not to run; others are looking to support Joe Biden, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and even Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders.
“I have talked to large donors who are not happy with what Hillary represents,” said Guy Saperstein, a San Francisco lawyer and part owner of the Oakland A’s. “But they’re not going to stick their heads up above the ramparts right now and get shot at.”
Saperstein provided seed funding to a super PAC launched this summer to try to draft Warren into the presidential race and pledged $1 million if the Massachusetts senator decides to run. The super PAC is hiring staffers in key primary states and recently enlisted a fundraising firm to solicit donors.
It’s just one example of the big-money Democratic presidential jockeying taking place almost entirely behind the scenes. The results will go a long way toward determining whether the party will maintain unity in 2016 or tumble headlong into the sort of costly super PAC-funded internecine skirmishes that have confounded Republicans.
Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who’s flirting with a run for the nomination, met recently with major donors in New York, and some came away thinking that he could convincingly run as an economic populist to Clinton’s left.
“Donors on the left — progressives — don’t think she’s divorced herself from Wall Street, and they’re bothered that she never cut the cord with people like Larry Summers and Laura Tyson,” said one New York donor who met with Webb. There are a number of major liberal donors who would support a Webb campaign, but are fearful of vocally opposing Clinton before the campaign even starts, asserted the donor.
Most of the rogue donors are currently staying under the radar as the Clinton team is not quick to forgive anyone who supports an opposition candidate.
The Democratic party’s biggest worry is a primary season which replicates the Republican’s 2012 season: too many candidates, all attacking the front-runner, leaving the leader damaged as the party moves into the general election.