Gov. Jay Inslee isn’t making plans to run for president in 2016.
But a onetime political adviser is making the case why Washington’s first-term Democratic governor should go to Iowa and try to win the caucuses – even if he doesn’t want the job.
“Sure, this is a long shot, but Inslee has a legitimate pathway to the presidency,” D.J. Wilson wrote Monday on Crosscut, an online news site.
I phoned Wilson, a political consultant and former Edmonds city councilman, to find out if this was a trial balloon he inflated on behalf of the governor or his friends.
“Gov. Inslee has given me no indication he wants to run for president. I did not write it because the governor asked me to,” Wilson said. “I don’t think he intends to run for president. I don’t think it’s on his radar screen.”
So what possessed Wilson to suggest such an improbable course of action?
Wilson, a health care policy expert who Inslee tapped for advice in his 2012 gubernatorial campaign, said, to begin with, the contours of the 2016 race may bring out another Democratic candidate.
He contends there’s concern among Democrats that front-runner Hillary Clinton can’t overcome the damage of the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server and Bernie Sanders won’t win enough support of the party’s mainstream to be the torchbearer in her stead.
Secondly — and this is where Inslee fits in — neither Clinton nor Sanders is making much of a deal about climate change and the environment.
That’s Inslee’s political passion. If he joined the field and made environmental issues the rallying cry of his candidacy it would energize throngs of young voters in the party’s base not all that engaged in Iowa or the rest of the nation, Wilson said.
“This is less about Jay and more about the opportunity,” he said. “There is a hole in the Democratic field of candidates. There is money to support a candidate in order to elevate those issues.”
There’s time to forge an impression in Iowa and snag enough delegates to become part of the campaign conversation, Wilson contended.
Here’s how Wilson said it could work: In each Iowa precinct, candidates are awarded delegates in rough proportion to their election results as long as they get at least 15 percent of the votes in that precinct.
Perform well in the three dozen counties where the majority of Iowa’s Democratic voters live and voila, a presidential contender is born. The ingredients for such success would be an organized campaign plus a disciplined candidate and about $5 million — all of which could be assembled in short order.
Under Wilson’s scenario, Inslee can’t lose even if he doesn’t win.
A presidential bid would give Inslee a national platform to preach on the matter he cares about most deeply: protecting the environment against the damaging effects of carbon emissions and climate change.
“There is a pathway here for him to become the second- or third-most-important progressive voice in the country,” Wilson said.
That kind of attention won’t hurt Inslee’s pursuit of a second term as governor which is something he’s already begun.
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @dospueblos.