Dems ready for Hillary

Hillary Clinton speaks at an AIPAC conference, in a file photo. The former first lady, senator and secretary of state is seen as a strong candidate among Jewish voters, should she decide to run for president in 2016.
Hillary Clinton speaks at an AIPAC conference, in a file photo. The former first lady, senator and secretary of state is seen as a strong candidate among Jewish voters, should she decide to run for president in 2016.

The Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary are more than one year out, and none of the major potential 2016 Democratic presidential contenders have filed with the Federal Election Commission, but Jewish Democratic insiders are confident in Hillary Clinton’s chances.

“I have absolutely no doubt if Secretary Clinton is the nominee that she will be the next president of the United States,” said former National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Rabbi Jack Moline. “I think that when you look at her qualifications, her experience and her familiarity with the job, I think there isn’t a Republican who can hold a candle to that.”

Steve Rabinowitz, Rabinowitz Communications president, who worked on former President Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, said Clinton would be an “exceptionally strong candidate” and ticked off her qualifications: eight years working in the White House as first lady followed by eight years as a U.S. senator from New York and most recently a four-year term as the 67th U.S. secretary of state, serving under President Barack Obama.

“She knows the job in a way that no other candidate does, with the possible exception of Vice President Joe Biden,” said Rabinowitz. “There’s rarely been a candidate with the qualifications that she has, never mind the support of the Jewish community.”

Rabinowitz was quick to point out that if Biden decides to run he would also be a strong presidential contender, but he didn’t sound optimistic about the current veep’s chances.

“I’m an enormous Joe Biden fan, and I think he rocks. I think he is tremendously popular in the community. I’m just not sure it’s happening for him this year.”

Progressives have been urging Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to ride a populous wave to the White House, but Warren has already publicly stated she is not running and the Jewish Democratic insiders interviewed by Washington Jewish Week don’t give Sanders much of a chance of winning the primaries.

“He’s not running for real. He’s running to make a point, and that’s fine and it’s an important point. He’s well liked. I think that his record on Israel and Iran is not as well-known as the others, but on domestic issues it’s tremendous and positive and is where the vast majority of the community is,” said Rabinowitz.

“If he decides to do it, God bless him. I think that even Sen. Sanders understands that a man who embraces the label of socialist is not going to get elected president of the United States. My guess is his candidacy would be to raise issues rather than to presume that he would succeed in obtaining the office,” said Moline.

Other Democrats who have been mentioned as possible presidential contenders include former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb; former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley; former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Luis Gutiérrez, U.S. representative for Illinois’ Fourth District; West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin; former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell; and Brian Schweitzer, governor of Montana.

But what about a dark horse candidate that could steal the spotlight and generate a buzz all the way to the Oval Office, similar to the 2008 Obama campaign? Actor George Clooney? New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo? Former Vice President Al Gore? Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa? Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown? Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist? They have all been mentioned as potential candidates.

“If we go back nine or 10 years, I don’t think anybody knew that a young freshman senator from Chicago, Ill., would become the next president of the United States of America. Therefore, I don’t discount anything or anyone,” said Barbara Goldberg Goldman, president of Regal Domestics staffing agency and a major Democratic Party fundraiser.

Jewish Democratic insiders say Clinton and all of the potential Democratic presidential contenders would continue the strong relationship between the United States and Israel. However, Israel will be one of many issues that motivate the 70 percent of Jews who support the Democratic Party, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey.

“Jewish Democrats want to know that the next president of the United States will continue a compassionate immigration policy, will seek equal pay for equal work, will have an emphasis on accessible education and health care for all Americans and will focus on building the economy both for the middle class and for everybody else. So I think that those issues are important,” said Moline.

As in past elections, there are sure to be many surprises on the domestic and foreign policy fronts that will shape the debates in unexpected ways and force candidates to rethink their positions or formulate new positions. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks and economic news can present challenges to presidential contenders. Some attribute President Obama’s 2012 re-election victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney to how the president handled the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy only weeks before the election.

At this early stage, Jewish Democratic insiders believe that Jewish Democrats will unite behind whoever ends up being the nominee, whether it is Clinton, Biden, Warren, Sanders or someone else.

“Jewish Democrats will unite behind the Democratic nominee. I do believe this,” said Goldberg Goldman. “But I also believe in the beauty of Judaism fostering and welcoming many differing opinions. And, I would not assume at this point that there will be complete 100 percent unification behind any one candidate during the primary season.”

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