Much of it is out of her hands. Low job approval numbers for President Obama, should they persist, will make it difficult for any Democrat to win, even with the party’s seeming Electoral College edge and growing demographic advantages among minorities and the young. Just ask John McCain how President George W. Bush’s unpopularity affected his 2008 White House bid. (Of course, you can’t rule out the very real chance that the Republicans will rescue the eventual Democratic nominee by putting forward an out-of-the-mainstream nominee.)
The Clintons are nothing if not shrewd, and they’ve lived through the entire era of postwar American politics. So Hillary Clinton would be the last to believe what I have heard with increasing frequency: that, in the end, no one of real heft, even Vice President Joe Biden, will challenge her for the Democratic nomination she nearly won in 2008, and she will steamroll over the minor contenders who do. Most frequently mentioned in the “minor” category are former Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana and Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland. (O’Malley also made a little-noticed appearance at the McAuliffe inauguration.) Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts would be a major opponent should she run, but she insists she will not. When California Gov. Jerry Brown also bowed out, NBC News’s First Read called it “a reminder that Hillary Clinton will probably face little to no serious competition if she runs.”
Possible? Sure. But history’s guide tells us otherwise. A consensus choice for a major-party presidential nomination is exceedingly rare—and this is where the Nixon comparison comes in.