Hillary Clinton’s diagnosis of pneumonia is one of those political stories that’s absolutely news but otherwise means … what? There’s the derivative story here about how whether the Clinton campaign should have taken so long to disclose the diagnosis; a spokesman has expressed regret over that. It also stinks for the Clinton campaign in that their candidate will be unable to hoover up West Coast cash in person this week. But the public interest in the illness itself is a little more nebulous. Hillary Clinton has pneumonia. She will recover from it through a course of rest and antibiotics. OK.
Or, to paraphrase a good portion of the news coverage: My God. Hillary Clinton! Pneumonia! Does this mean she is 95 percent dead, or merely 90 percent? What’s the deal with this, Hillary? Why will she not disclose her death?
From there, this—added to the fact that we already know Hillary is weak because Donald Trump told us so—seems likely a perfectly reasonable opportunity, to some, to speculate about when Joe Biden or Tim Kaine or Bernie Sanders will replace her atop the Democratic ticket. Here is David Shuster, a former anchorman for MSNBC and Al-Jazeera America who has an interesting history with the Clintons, citing anonymous sources about Democratic contingency preparations.
Meanwhile veteran political gabber Cokie Roberts told NPR on Monday morning that the illness has Democrats “very nervously beginning to whisper about her stepping aside and finding another candidate.”
Who are any of these people whispering, planning, fretting? I’ve spent some time with “DNC delegates.” They don’t mean much. Nor does “operative.” Ask the rando ahead of you in line at the grocery store today whether he thinks Hillary Clinton might drop out of the race. His response will carry about as much weight as an anonymous “Dem operative,” or even “top Dem.” Roberts, meanwhile, cites “Democrats.” And it’s true: There are definitely, at any moment, some millions of Democrats who are “very nervously beginning to whisper” about any given thing.
FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver points out, too, that that most authoritative of demographics, betting market traders, are also selling Hillary—but not necessarily buying Trump:
The gamblers are just having fun, making a few quick trades pinned to a news cycle that involves Clinton and sickness. Notice they only involve a few percentage points, though.
We should expect these murmurs to be picked up elsewhere in the coming days, especially if Clinton’s polling position continues deteriorating. Joe Biden, whoa, maybe!
But it’s completely bogus. This isn’t the 1840s. Clinton, a rich and powerful figure with access to the best medical care in 2016, will recover from this, her most torrid pneumatic episode. She is not dropping out of the race because she got pneumonia, and there will be no real push for her to do so. Clinton’s pneumonia is no reason, either, for Tim Kaine to accelerate his consumption of briefing books.
Now. If there are “top Dems” looking at her pneumonia diagnosis, combined with the “basket of deplorables” gaffe, and using either of these data points as excuses to begin “nervously whispering” about Clinton’s chances, this takes some incredible hubris. Just about all “top Dems” hitched their wagons to Clinton early, or even before, the presidential race began, even though it couldn’t have been clearer that she had various shortcomings as a presidential candidate. They stood by and cheered as the field was (mostly) cleared of mainstream alternatives. The election is in less than two months. No takebacks.