The United States senator-elect — who had been a law school professor with a Harvard Law pedigree but had never actually run anything — had come out of nowhere and won a surprising victory and entered D.C.'s upper chamber with passionate national support on the far left far eclipsing any other freshman senator. But, asked about the next presidential race, this senator-elect categorically denied any plans to run for president against the prohibitive frontrunner, Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonObama to net 0K for Wall Street speech: report O'Reilly: Fans will be 'shaken' when truth comes out about Fox exit Overnight Cybersecurity: White House adviser ditches cyber panel over 'fake news' | Trump cyber order 'close' | GOP senator pushes for clean renewal of foreign intel law MORE.
What made this rookie politician a national figure before actually even taking office? This freshman senator was 100 percent "pure" on a crucial issue central to the soul of the Democratic Party's left — the base of the party that ultimately determines its presidential nominee — and was passionate and animated when discussing this issue. The Republicans, meanwhile, struggled to figure a way to attack this new, emerging national figure. They began by questioning a controversy surrounding this senator-elect's racial/ethnic heritage.
Hillary Clinton — one-time darling of the left, going all the way back to her 1974 role on the House Judiciary Committee impeachment of President Nixon — is seen as a "sell-out" on this key, crucial issue as she positions herself as a general election candidate. Many on the left feel betrayed on this issue by Hillary; others feel she and Bill take them for granted.
The role of Bill is a part of the problem. He sees the Democratic Party as "The Clinton Party" and thus moves to sew up all the donors and all their money for Hillary's presidential run — and to scare any possible challengers from entering the race. Some feel Bill's goal in electing Hillary is to vindicate himself after the Monica Lewinsky impeachment mess. If Bill can get Hillary elected as president, it virtually erases that mark on his record.
So Bill manipulates things as a clever former president can inside his party's establishment — and tries to keep an eye out for Hillary in the upcoming general election — always preserving her "viability."
Hillary's rationale for running? The potentially historic campaign to be the first woman president — and the now-receding good memories among some Democrats of the Bill ClintonBill ClintonPress: Hillary's doomed bid Beyond Manafort: Both parties deal with pro-Russian Ukrainians Trump’s first 100 days anything but presidential MORE Presidency, i.e. the first successful two-term Democratic president since FDR, often labeled back then as a co-presidency or two-for-the-price-of-one.
But that is a passionless sales pitch — and is rooted in the past; the senator-elect's cause is current and filled with anger on the left against the political establishment, including Hillary and Bill. Which is more likely to win: passionless nostalgia or a red-hot energy to change things for the future?
In private, the senator-elect is constantly being told by left-wing compatriots to run against Hillary. But the Democratic donor class is with Hillary and Bill; they are betting on Hillary to prevail because she is so far ahead in the polls; she seems "inevitable." Bill Clinton has told intimates, "I will raise up to one billion dollars to win this thing for Hillary."
On the other hand, the senator-elect keeps wondering, "I don't need a ton of money to win in Iowa; instead, I need passion and a desire to change the country. I can get enough money in small contributions — $50 per person — to sustain my campaign 'til things really get rolling ... and then, if I win in Iowa, I can roll into New Hampshire and more and more money will come in ... the big donors will start to have second thoughts about Hillary's ability to win."
OK, you have been wondering, who is this mysterious senator-elect?
Is/was it then-Sen.-elect Barack ObamaBarack ObamaObama to net 0K for Wall Street speech: report Trump’s wall jams GOP in shutdown talks Letters: ATF should explain its ban on AR-15 ‘armor-piercing’ ammo MORE back in 2004?
Well, yes ... but it is also another senator-elect and now a senator who is being pressured to run against Hillary in 2016: Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Finance: Tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber | Trump eyes 15 percent corporate tax rate | Border wall funding fight | Deal on vote for trade pick GOP fundraiser enters crowded primary for Pa. Senate seat Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Mass.).
The scenario painted above, which of course resulted in Obama defeating Team Clinton in 2012, could happen again in 2016.
The "purity" of an issue is vital to the bases of both parties. On the left, the distinguishing issue between Obama and Hillary in 2007 and 2008 was her vote for the use of force in Iraq. This single vote has so bedeviled Hillary — and caused her a decade of mistrust from the left — that she has now written in her new book that she regrets that vote and wishes she had never voted for the war in Iraq.
What is the new distinguishing issue that divides Hillary from the left now?
Wall Street. Big Banks and Big Business. And the Clintons' coziness to them, symbolized by Hillary making two speeches for Goldman Sachs at $200,000 per speech.
The Occupy Wall Street Movement — now no longer apparent from street demonstrations — is still a nascent movement on the Democratic Party's left. Warren is their passionate advocate for reining in Wall Street excesses.
The difference between Hillary and Warren over this particular issue could not be greater. While Hillary — and Bill and all their interconnected causes, charities and Global Initiatives — are funded in great part by Wall Street, Warren has led the charge to limit the "Too Big to Fail" nature of these Wall Street institutions.
The left is aghast at how these banks were bailed out by the public and yet the very executives who presided over the 2008 financial crisis have remained in power and continue to receive multimillion-dollar compensation packages.
Simply stated, Warren is seen as "pure" on this crucial issue; Hillary is seen as a "sell-out."
And that singular difference between these two women could be the defining issue in the 2016 Democratic primaries and caucuses — especially the two early states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Warren's candidacy also undercuts the first woman president rationale for Hillary.
Don't be surprised that, as Hillary continues to stumble over questions of her wealth and relationship with Wall Street, her poll numbers continue to deteriorate. And that will make the left question her "inevitability."
Sitting there will be the "pure" liberal: Elizabeth Warren.
It could happen to Hillary. Again.
Former Congressman John LeBoutillier (R-N.Y.) is the co-host of "Political Insiders" on Fox News channel, Sunday nights at 7:30 p.m.