WASHINGTON — Few doubt that Hillary Rodham Clintons nomination for president would be good for women. But her candidacy would also likely block the paths for other women running for the White House, and, notably, for those who would like to be vice president.
Never has there been so much rising female talent in the Democratic Party, with a record 20 women in the Senate, 16 of them Democrats. They include Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the liberal fundraising powerhouse and author of a new book, A Fighting Chance; Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the former prosecutor with made-for-state-fair charms; the issue-grabber Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York; and others, like Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. Any one of them would be potential candidates for the bottom of a 2016 ticket, or possibly even have a shot at the top.
Warren emphatically discouraged the idea that she was even considering a White House bid. Im not running for president, she told ABC News on Tuesday.
Yet even in an America that has elected a black president, unraveled same-sex marriage bans across several states and cottoned to a woman at the head of General Motors, having two women on a 2016 ticket may be a leap of electoral faith.
Its certainly possible to have two women, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. I am not sure its wise. You want a ticket that represents men and women.
Yet there is an incipient counterargument among female politicians and campaign veterans that a two-woman ticket may be just the sort of medicine that Americans - who polls suggest have grown weary of status quo leadership - are craving.
I dont think anyone should dismiss that idea, said Bill Carrick, a Democratic campaign consultant in Los Angeles. Its just like with Clinton and Gore, when people said, You cant have two progressive Southern young candidates. You cant until you do it. A great ticket that is powerful and historically important is awfully strong.
Of course, Clinton has not said she is running, and should she choose to, her nomination is no fait accompli. Yet the fact that many in the Democratic Party see an inevitability to her nomination should she run is causing some restlessness among a generation of women who otherwise might be obvious running-mate candidates in 2016.
If Hillary Clinton decides to run, she will bring many women with her, said Ruth B. Mandel, the director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. Her candidacy would be a historic moment in mobilizing womens interest. But whether she would put another woman on the ticket, thats a very different calculus. As women we tend to do our changes in increments.
And should Clinton become the nominee, she would no doubt seek to balance her ticket with various considerations to increase her chances, even on the margins, of victory, including regional and gender diversity.
Sen. John McCain and Vice President Walter F. Mondale opted for gender diversity with Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro of New York as running mates; Clinton might also do that to win back the support of white men, whose backing of President Barack Obama fell from 41 percent in 2008 to 35 percent in 2012, roughly as low as in the era of Richard M. Nixon.
But a generation of presidential races has demonstrated the flaws in those calculations. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was not well served by the Midwestern roots of his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan; the two handily lost Ryans home state, Wisconsin. Female running mates did not lift Mondale or McCain. In contrast, Al Gore and Bill Clinton made up for their regional hegemony with a joint veneer of youthful change agency.
While there is no precedent for two women running together for the highest office in the United States, women have made gains in groups.
In 1992, when two Senate seats became open in California, the political conventional wisdom concluded that the two Democrats running - Feinstein and Barbara Boxer - would not possibly win in the same cycle. They are both serving today and lead powerful Senate committees.
New Hampshire now has two female senators - Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Kelly Ayotte, a Republican - and its entire top elected slate in the state is made up of women.
And it is now common to see women at the upper reaches of power in Washington. It was once hard to imagine a female secretary of state, Mandel said. Then we had three in a row.
Further, there is a body of academic evidence - somewhat supported by recent events in Congress - that demonstrates that women can make a case for effective leadership as a group.
The authors of a study published in the American Journal of Political Science, When Are Women More Effective Lawmakers Than Men? found that while men may choose to obstruct and delay, women continue to strive to build coalitions and bring about new policies.
Last year it was a small group of women - led by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine - that started a bipartisan working group that eventually led to ending the government shutdown.
A record nine women now lead Senate committees; the last four major pieces of legislation in the Senate - the budget, the omnibus spending measure, the farm bill and the flood insurance bill - were all written by women.
I certainly think this country is looking for people who can bring back hope and opportunity to this country, said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. I certainly think two women can do that.
A nomination for Clinton could also pose a quandary for Republicans, who have struggled to win female support since Bill Clintons election in 1992. There are strong contenders among Republican women, especially in governors seats in South Carolina and New Mexico.
I think the combination of Hillary and having a good bench of Republican women will make it very tempting, said Beth Myers, a Republican consultant who helped Romney on his selection of a running mate in 2012.
But Republicans are equally pressed to win votes among Hispanics, which gives Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico dual appeal. However, because of complex campaign finance rules, governors tend to be a fundraising drag on a ticket unless they resign from their office to run.
So for now, eyes will remain fixed on Clintons intentions, however far away. For two centuries we have only had two men on the ticket, said Bob Shrum, a Democratic political consultant, who worked on the presidential campaigns of Gore and John Kerry, who is now secretary of state. So why cant we have two women? The only people who would rebel against that wouldnt vote for Hillary Clinton anyway.