This Gloria Borger article works pretty well as a job application, but it is less successful at helping us understand the Democratic party’s situation. The Democrats might do just as well without Clinton.
The Democratic Party has pool of campaign managerial talent, an enormous base of donors, and the sympathy of the media that are consumed by persuadable voters. I think the current Democratic coalition is vulnerable to splintering from both its left and center, but I don’t think that will happen in the 2016 presidential race. The vast majority of Democratic primary voters are not going to be looking to symbolically repudiate Obama through their choice of nominee — especially if the labor market holds up. While there might be some minor variations on policy, the 2016 Democratic nominee (whether it is Clinton or someone else) will end up favoring pretty much whatever Obama favors.
Virtually any Democratic presidential nominee would have those advantages. The challenge for a Democratic presidential candidate is not so much mobilizing those advantages once they get the nomination, but getting the nomination itself. The obstacle to a contested Democratic nomination is less the absence of a Democratic bench, than the presence of Clinton and her advantages in name recognition and institutional support.
While any non-Clinton Democratic candidate would have their own weaknesses (as every candidate has weaknesses), they would not carry the burden of Clinton’s contempt for the rules, her obnoxious and geriatric press agents, and her obviously self-interested hunger for power.
There are some people who are just at running for president. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are all examples. Hillary Clinton is in the next category down. She is a good enough candidate to win the nomination (and maybe even the presidency given favorable circumstances), but who looked at last week’s press conference performance and thought, “Wow, that was a masterpiece of rhetorical grace under pressure.” Compare her press conference to Obama’s Philadelphia speech on race. As presidential candidates go, she is no Obama. She is better than Bob Dole, and maybe not quite as good as George W. Bush.
That doesn’t make Clinton a bad candidate. (I’m open to revising this opinion based on future revelations.) The Democrats could do worse. A given Democratic presidential candidate might have scandals that even a sympathetic media cannot neutralize. They might prove unable to manage an enterprise the scale of a presidential campaign (though Clinton’s 2008 performance indicates that she is not in Obama’s class when it comes to organizing and managing a campaign). The best way to ensure that the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee does not have those weaknesses is by having a vigorously contested nomination contest.