Nope, Clinton Dropping Out Wouldn't Hobble Democrats

Conventions are designed to confer stature on any candidate, regardless of who was the initial front-runner. 
Photographer: Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

The latest silly press claim about Hillary Clinton is so annoying that I am bringing an occasional feature out of retirement: cranky blogging. The claim in question is this: Now we're supposed to believe that her campaign will cripple the Democrats in 2016 if she decides to drop out, after having frozen the candidate field for all this time:

"For the good of the party, it's better if she makes the decision earlier," [a Democratic] strategist advised. "If she isn't going to run, the other candidates need some time to build their stature."

That's from a Doyle McManus column yesterday, but I'm seeing it all over; Byron York said something similar recently.

It's total bunk.

There are two groups who matter here: party actors and the November 2016 electorate. Party actors -- a large group that includes politicians, campaign and governing professionals, formal party staff and officials, donors and activists, party-aligned interest groups, and the partisan media -- are well aware of Amy Klobuchar, Martin O'Malley, Andrew Cuomo, Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren and anyone else who might run and have a chance of winning. If Clinton drops out, they will be ready, and they won't need much time to debate and coordinate.

The other group is the November voters. They aren't paying attention now, and won't be in 2015, or even during the primaries and caucuses. That's when the candidates actually "build their stature." Or, rather, that's when one candidate will achieve stature by winning primaries, then the nomination, and then by having a three-day infomercial of a convention to seal it. For stature-challenged candidates such as Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, the conventions conferred all the "stature" they needed in November. That's true for the losing nominees, too; in the television age, no major party nominee has failed a stature test.

I don't know the precise deadline for Clinton to drop out and leave enough time for an orderly nomination process. But it's certainly not before November 2014, probably not before January 2015, and may be as late as mid-summer 2015. The one unusually late-developing nomination process was the Democrats in 1992, and the turmoil was completely forgotten by Election Day. In fact, the oddity of candidates not (overtly) running for president in 1989 and 1990 was long forgotten by January 1992. It just doesn't matter.

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