Team Clinton has a long history of being able to cajole or intimidate potential rivals out of running for president. New York Governor Mario Cuomo decided not to run at the last minute back in 1992 in part because several rivals — including Team Clinton — let it be known that Cuomo’s Italian family history would be fair game. In 2008, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia was suddenly dissuaded from running, with rumors running rampant that Clinton allies had informed him there would a no-holds barred campaign against him.
Now Vice President Biden has decided not to pursue the Democratic nomination for president, his decision apparently based on the realization that he lacks the campaign infrastructure to compete in the early states, coupled with appeals from other Democrats not to divide the party. After all, it is rare for a party in power to win a third term — only Reagan has pulled off that feat since FDR did it during the foreign policy crises of the 1940s. Biden would have been an underdog in any event, and he was told that every one of his frequent campaign gaffes would be used to make him appear unpresidential and too old for the job.
So Hillary appears to be the inevitable nominee, because no one believes the party will nominate Bernie Sanders and go over a George McGovern–like cliff next year. But Democrats also know that despite polls showing voter fatigue over Hillary’s e-mail scandals, an FBI report on her possible misuse of classified information is due in January, just before Iowa and New Hampshire vote. If the report has dramatic political repercussions, Democrats would be in the unusual position of having an inevitable but politically damaged nominee. If the political fallout proves catastrophic, Democrats must realize they need a Plan B. Even the hyper-politicized Hillary is someone who won’t stay in the race if the political climate against her reaches hurricane strength. That’s why Democrats have sounded out Senator Elizabeth Warren about her willingness to be drafted for the Democratic nomination. Warren, a populist who fits the mood of the party better than Hillary, would also appeal to voters seeking to make gender history, and she is a better campaigner than Hillary. She has insisted she is not interested in running in 2016, but she has been careful not to give any Shermanesque statements.
Of course, a collapse of Hillary’s campaign followed by the sudden draft of a party favorite isn’t likely. No more likely than the collapse of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s campaign for Speaker or the current effort to draft Paul Ryan into the race.