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Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks about Syria during an event at the White House in Washington, September 9, 2013. REUTERS
The next president of the United States. Now let's focus down the ballot.
Some people have to come to terms. And I'm looking at you, people desperate to find an alternative to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

If Hillary runs, she's the nominee. I know it's in vogue to talk about how "inevitable" Hillary was in 2008. But it was a different world. I remember it because I was in the midst of that battle. People wanted an alternative, and alternatives existed. At her best, Hillary's poll numbers were in the 40s with Obama in the strong 20s. Look for yourself. Yes, she was the frontrunner, but there was a strong primary field within striking distance.

There is no alternative to Hillary this cycle. The last time anyone polled the Democratic primary field, Clinton had 73 percent of the vote, Biden 11, and Elizabeth Warren nine. That tells us a couple of things. One, 73 percent is A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE. She is the consensus nominee, and if you disagree, you are objectively in the deep minority. Second of all, there is no one to provide even nominal challenge. Clinton (again, assuming she runs) will have some "challengers", but it'll be a bunch of people auditioning for her VP slot.

To reiterate, leads like 45-25 in 2007 didn't make Hillary "inevitable". Numbers like 73-11 in 2014 absolutely do. And you know what? Those are not irrational numbers. Hillary will be a great president.

Elizabeth Warren isn't running. I get why people persist with this fantasy, but it's nothing more than a fantasy. Warren had to be dragged in kicking and screaming into the Massachusetts Senate race, a geographically small state in which she could sleep in her own bed every night. If you barely have the fire to run for Senate, then you absolutely don't have the fire to mount a brutal presidential campaign. And even if she did, all she'd have to do is look at the polling (73-9!) to realize she'd have a million better things to do with her time and her donors' money. SHE. AIN'T. RUNNING.

But hey, we've had plenty of primary pie wars over the years, so who cares if there's another one? I'll tell you why.

It's a distraction. With Clinton's commanding general election trial heats, not to mention demographic shifts shoring up our electoral picture, we'll have the luxury to look beyond the presidential and take a more holistic approach to the cycle. And we've got a lot of work ahead of us:

The Senate. We have solid real opportunities in FL, IL, IA, NH, NC, OH, PA and WI. We have outside opportunities in AZ, AR, GA and MO. Depending on what the teabaggers do in their primaries, other chances may open up. In other words, we can wipe out Republicans en masse. And how many Democrats will be endangered? ZERO. If they survived in 2010, they'll survive the apocalypse. It's all upside.

The House. If we can't take back the House this year, and that's only an outside chance at the moment, 2016 is the year we do so, fueled by presidential turnout and continued demographic advantages. And remember—the more liberal the Congress we give Hillary, the more liberal she can govern, the more leverage we have.

State Legislatures and governorships. The GOP's current House and state legislative majorities are built on strong gerrymandering. Take that away, and there's practically nothing left. So we need to strategically target chambers and governors that can either 1) take over the redistricting process, or 2) deadlock it so that judges have to draw the lines. Either way, we win.

Redistricting? But, you protest, redistricting doesn't happen until after the 2020 elections! And we're currently talking about 2016! Yup. You are right. But spreading the effort over several cycles allows us to incrementally reach our goals. We don't want to put all our eggs on one election day. Furthermore, we want Democratic incumbents up for reelection in 2020 because, well, incumbents are far more likely to win than challengers. So yes, the battle for the next reapportionment and redistricting will be hard-fought in 2016.

So you Hillary naysayers have two options: You can bitch and moan about her and work yourself up in a lather about this or that, and then lose (because you will), or you can do what I do when I come across a candidate I don't like: I ignore them and focus on the tons of other great candidates who need my help.

Me, I won't ignore Hillary, but I won't worry about her either. She'll have all the money and boots she'll need. Instead, I'll focus down ballot, on those Senate, House and state-level races what will determine the partisan composition of our government the coming decade.

My approach is constructive, rather than destructive. The more people adopt that approach, the more success we will have as a movement.

Originally posted to kos on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 12:53 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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