Perhaps the worst crime that any political party can commit is to have just one viable candidate.
Take the Democratic Party of 2015, for example. With Hillary Clinton the only plausible contender for the nomination, Democrats have yet to prepare for their doomsday scenario: What if something happens to Clinton? Who would replace her in the race?
Clinton’s fellow Democratic candidates simply lack her political expertise and experience. From the current field, Bernie Sanders — currently in second place in national polls with 20 percent — would be Clinton’s most adequate replacement. But he is fundamentally unelectable because of his extreme left-wing positions, and the stigma of being a socialist.
Her second-most-plausible replacement is likely to be Joe Biden, a man who hasn’t yet announced he’s running, has managed to poll nationally at 13 percent. However, Biden’s biggest problem is that he is seen by many as being too blunt. Even though he’s the vice president, he wouldn’t be a great option for Democrats.
If indeed something dramatic were to force Clinton out of the race, it would immediately put Democrats in a difficult spot. No potential replacement for Clinton has as formidable a base as she does. Perhaps inadvertently, Clinton has attracted a fairly large, young base. If she were to drop out of the race, the GOP could very well nominate Florida Senator Marco Rubio in an attempt to win over the more moderate, younger portions of the electorate. In the absence of Clinton, Democrats would be faced with the arduous task of selecting a candidate who could at the very least appeal to three-fourths of Clinton’s current base. As of now, there doesn’t appear to be a candidate other than Clinton who could hold this base together.
Of course, there may be a handful of upsides to having just one viable candidate. Being the only plausible prospect for the Democratic nomination gives Clinton a massive financial advantage. While Republicans must compete with one another for donors, Clinton has Democratic donors mostly to herself. Additionally, Clinton also has most of the media attention focused on her, which could be an advantage if everything plays out smoothly during the campaign.
That, however, is highly unlikely. Clinton’s past scandals — from Benghazi to her emails — will almost certainly continue to get attention over the next 14 months. For better or for worse, Clinton is the Democrats’ best shot to maintain control of the White House, but the party’s prospects would look a lot better if she wasn’t practically on her own.