Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC are either circling the wagons around Hillary Clinton or they’re circling the drain.
Polls show voters don’t trust the former secretary of state. Bernie Sanders is leading in Iowa. There is a groundswell of support of Vice President Joe Biden, and Clinton’s email server scandal won’t go away. Sanders and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley want a round of debates to make sure the party nominates the strongest candidate in 2016, but the DNC says that isn’t happening.
Asked if he thought the process was rigged on Thursday, O’Malley had two words: “I do.”
“I’m told that this is the prerogative of the chair,” O’Malley said while appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the Weekly Standard reported. “There’s always an inclination, I think, for old relationships to kind of circle the wagons and protect one another.”
Wasserman Schultz brushed off the charge and said six debates were more than enough.
“Every day someone is going to say something about my intentions, but I have a party to run,” Wasserman Schultz said, the Hill reported. “I have to simultaneously make sure that we’re getting ready to make sure the party is prepared to support our eventual nominee, and at the same time manage a neutral primary nominating process, which I’m going to do. I’ll make decisions that will make some people happy and some people unhappy. I can’t worry about that.”
Candidates who break the DNC’s “exclusivity clause” are barred from attending future debates.
The DNC’s decision comes as polls show Clinton’s lead in Iowa has evaporated. A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday has self-described socialist Bernie Sanders leading in the Hawkeye State. He edges Clinton 41 to 40, although his standing is within the poll’s margin for error.
“I don’t really know Hillary. I know Hillary under Clinton,” liberal activist Arnie Arnesen told the Washington Post. “I know Hillary under Obama. And in the Senate she was a workhorse, not a show horse. What does that mean? It means she didn’t take a leadership role.” Arnesen was the Democratic nominee for New Hampshire governor in 1992.
Politico said the poll is likely to send “shock waves through the Democratic establishment,” then added “a wide range of donors and strategists” are unhappy with the way that Clinton has addressed questions about the personal server she used while secretary of state.
Clinton apologized for the decision in a Tuesday interview with ABC’s David Muir, and then seemingly took a shot at President Obama, saying, “I’m gonna fight for all the people like my mother who need somebody in their corner. And they need a leader who cares about them again,” the Weekly Standard reported.
Influential members of the party are mulling what to do next if Clinton’s support continues to erode.
“If party leaders see a scenario next winter where Bernie Sanders has a real chance at the Democratic nomination, I think there’s no question that leaders will reach out to Vice President Biden or Secretary of State Kerry or even Gore about entering the primaries,” said Garnet F. Coleman, a Texas state lawmaker and Democratic national committeeman, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Al Gore have also been considered as viable alternatives to Clinton if her campaign spirals too far out of control, the Times reported.
“You have Democrats beginning to panic about the one thing that a lot of them never worried about, which was Clinton’s electability in the general election,” said Robert Shrum, a former senior adviser to Gore and Kerry during their presidential runs, the Times reported. “You still have to think of her as the odds-on favorite for the Democratic nomination. But the challenge she faces in the general election is both the trust problem and the likability problem.”
If Clinton is the “odds-on” favorite, it didn’t deter Joe Biden from rallying support in her campaign’s backyard on Thursday. Politico called his New York trip “the most aggressive stop of the coy pre-campaign he’s running.”
“If anyone can present a strong, robust and lasting challenge to Hillary Clinton, it’s the vice president,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat who wanted to hear what Biden had to say while he was in town, the newspaper reported.
Biden’s official White House itinerary included meetings with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.