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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

A Big-Name Democrat Running Against Hillary Clinton Unlikely


  Hillary Clinton brought her presidential campaign into Ohio for the second time Thursday, holding a “Women for Hillary” rally in Columbus and two private fundraisers, one in Ohio’s capital city and another here in Cincinnati.

It was really not a very good day for the former secretary of state and U.S. Senator who remains (we guess) the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

First of all, the hall in which Clinton held her public rally in Columbus was only about half full, with maybe 500 supporters in attendance – all of them roped into half of the room so that it looked like a bigger crowd to the TV cameras.

That’s one of the oldest tricks in the books in politics. We’re not sure why, though, because cameras that can zoom in can also zoom out.

But there was worse news for Clinton going on in Washington.

Brian Pagliano, a former State Department employee who helped maintain Clinton’s private e-mail when she was secretary of state went before a congressional committee investigating Benghazi – and also Clinton’s use of a private e-mail serve for government business. Pagliano invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not answer questions that could incriminate him.

That did not bode well for the Democratic presidential candidate.

Then there was the latest Quinnipiac University poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers, who said that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent running for the Democratic nomination, is the choice of 41 percent – one percentage point more than Clinton. In early July, Clinton had 52 percent support while Sanders had 33 percent in the first presidential caucus state.

And, inside the Beltway, the stories kept grinding away at the idea that there are more and more Democrats looking around for alternatives to Clinton – from Vice President Joe Biden to former Vice President Al Gore to Secretary of State John Kerry.

“I just think she has been a terrible candidate,’’ said Mack Mariani, associate professor and chair of the political science department at Xavier University. “You look at all the advantages she had when she ran in 2008 – Barack Obama ran a great campaign, but she was the front-runner going in and she blew it.”

To Mariani, voters have too many questions about her – which, he said, is unusual for someone who has been on the national stage for the better part of three decades.

“Her problem is she just doesn’t connect with voters,’’ Mariani said.

In late August, Quinnipiac University did a national poll of voters that showed Biden runs slightly better than Clinton against leading Republican contenders; and has the best favorable rating among top Republican and Democratic candidates.

The poll showed Clinton and Donald Trump with the worst scores among top candidates on honesty. When asked if Clinton is honest and trustworthy, 61 percent said no, while 34 percent said yes.  With Trump, 54 percent said no, while 38 percent said yes.

After the rally in Columbus, Clinton came to Cincinnati Thursday afternoon for a private fundraising event at the East Walnut Hills home of Jennie and Allan Berliant, Democrats who were prodigious fundraisers for President Obama’s re-election campaign.

The Democrats who filled the Berliants home paid $2,700 each to attend – the maximum an individual can give in the primary election cycle. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley was there to introduce Clinton to the crowd.

A few blocks away, at O’Bryon’s Irish Pub, the Hamilton County Republican Party held what it billed as “The Hillary Clinton Not-So-Happy Hour,” where a few dozen local Republicans gathered to hoist a few cold ones.

County GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou joked that it was the Hamilton County GOP’s “unofficial kickoff of the 2016 presidential election.”

Friday, Triantafilou said he had watched on DVR Biden’s sometimes emotional interview on Stephen Colbert’s show and was impressed.

“I think (Biden) would be a formidable candidate,’’ Triantafilou said. “He’s an adult. He could bring together the Democratic coalition. And he has the national security experience.”

And he has a lot of sympathy from Americans, Triantafilou said, for the recent loss of his son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer.

“I think he’s believed by Democrats in a  way that Hillary is not,’’ Triantafilou said.

But, in the end, Triantafilou said, “I’d bet that she’d still be the Democratic nominee. She’s got the endorsements; she’s got the establishment working for her and she will have plenty of dough to spend. I don’t know that anyone can stop her from getting the nomination.”

Former lawyer Stan Chesley was down the street from O’Bryon’s at the Clinton fundraiser Thursday. Throughout the 1990s and beyond, Chesley raised millions for both Clintons – Bill and Hillary- and the Democratic National Committee.

He calls the reports that, nationally, Democrats are seeking Biden or another candidate as an alternative to Clinton “ridiculous.”

“She’s an amazing person,’’ Chesley said. “She has nothing but class and style. And intelligence like you would not believe.

“How about her service to her country?,’’ Chesley said. “She served with distinction in the U.S. Senate. And do you know anybody in this country who knows more about foreign policy?”

The talk of another high-profile candidate coming into the Democratic race at this point is an invention of the media, according to Chesley.

This week, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a weekly publication by Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, had an article written by two of the Center’s political analysts, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley.

The article said that any would-be candidates, Republican or Democratic, is running out of time to make up their minds about running because the filing deadlines for candidates in state primaries are fast approaching.

For example, in New Hampshire, the first of the primary states, the filing deadline for both Democratic and Republicans is Nov. 20.

“If the Democrats are looking for a ‘Plan B’ to Hillary, ‘Plan B’ has basically a month to get organized,’’ Kondik told WVXU. “If Biden wants to get in, he’d better get moving.”

Kondik, who is writing a book about the history of presidential politics in Ohio, said that, despite her recent troubles, Clinton is still “in a command position.”

“She’s had a really bad week,’’ Kondik said. “But even with all her problems, she’s got the endorsements from the party leaders, the organization, the money.

“Everyone  who follows politics for a living dreams of a contested convention again, like they had in the old days,’’ Kondik said. “But I don’t see that happening again. The parties just won’t let it happen.”

And with primary deadlines looming, the ship may already have sailed on those Democrats who want a Biden or a Gore or a Kerry to swoop in and save the day.