For months and months (and months), I’ve regarded (and ranked) Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the second-most-likely Democrat to be the party’s presidential nominee in 2016.
But Hillary Rodham Clinton’s official entry into the 2016 presidential race Sunday afternoon seems as good a time as any to tell the people still holding out hope for a Warren candidacy this simple fact: It just ain’t happening.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t still be those who insist that maybe, just maybe, the Massachusetts Democrat will reconsider. In fact, Ready for Warren, a group that is, well, ready for Warren (to run for president), had this to say in the immediate aftermath of Clinton’s announcement: “Ready for Warren will be stepping up our efforts to convince Warren to run for president. With the 2016 race officially underway, we anticipate more Americans expressing their desire for a vigorous Democratic primary with Elizabeth Warren in it.”
Yeah, so, that’s just not happening. Warren’s moment — and I am one of those who believed there was a moment nine or so months ago where a hint of Warren interest might have mattered — has passed.
Within minutes of Clinton’s announcement, Emily’s List, the massive outside group that supports Democratic women who are abortion rights advocates, threw its weight behind the Clinton candidacy. So did scores of other elected officials, all seemingly clambering to one-up each other in the effusiveness of their praise for the former secretary of state.
So — drumroll, please! — I am officially dropping Warren from our new rankings of the top five(ish) Democrats who could win the party’s nomination next year.
The truth of the matter is that there’s very little oxygen for anyone not named Clinton in the Democratic primary field. But the people on this list are going to run, or are at least thinking seriously about it.
Note: I am leaving Vice President Biden on the list because it still feels like there is a scenario — damaged Clinton, Democratic establishment beginning to panic — where the he might get in. Lord knows he wants to run badly.
So, without further ado, these are the men (and woman) who could be the Democratic nominee.
4. (tie). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former senator Jim Webb and former senator/governor Lincoln D. Chafee: Sanders will make noise running from Clinton’s left, with a special focus on campaign finance reform and her ties to Wall Street. Chafee, who has been a Republican, an independent and now a Democrat, has mixed it up with Clinton more than anybody else, even though he’s only been a kind-of, sort-of candidate for a few days. Webb has the résumé — former senator, member of Ronald Reagan’s administration — that could have appeal, but he is an awkward (to be kind) campaigner with very little hope of raising enough money to make sure people in Iowa and New Hampshire even know who he is.
3. Biden: Uncle Joe isn’t ramping up to run, but it feels as though the former senator from Delaware will be ready at the first sign of any major slippage by Clinton. It feels as if there’s a part of Biden that wants to just do it even with Clinton in the race — a sort of damn-the-torpedoes bid that would be consistent with his shoot-from-the-hip personality. But again, it’s hard to envision how he could actually win. Being around 10 percent in early polls — particularly when you are the sitting vice president of the United States — is not really where you want to be.
2. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley: The removal of Warren from our rankings allows O’Malley to move up a spot, because it appears he is actually going to run. “Governor O’Malley is seriously considering running for president, and he will make his decision regardless of what other people decide to do,” O’Malley spokeswoman Lis Smith said Sunday after Clinton’s announcement. And O’Malley has shown some feistiness of late, talking about how the presidency isn’t “some crown” to be passed among a handful of families. It’s still very hard to see him beating Clinton, but depending on how negative he goes against her, he could complicate her path to the nomination and her positioning for the general election.
1. Clinton: She is the biggest non-incumbent front-runner for a party’s presidential nomination in modern political history. Anytime there’s a race — and there will be some semblance of one — the possibility of losing exists. But it is the slimmest of possibilities, given Clinton’s prominence and the lack of a serious field of challengers forming. The challenge for Clinton will be dealing with the pressure of carrying the hopes of almost every Democrat in the country on her back.
Aaron Blake contributed to this report.