The problem with having a presumptive candidate is that because of her support within the Party there is a ‘barrier to entry’ that any other prospective candidate is required to surmount to contest the presumption. Along with the presumption come many benefits that the candidate accrues that just fortify the rampart against any challenger. Benefits like wealthy contributors who want to be in with the nominee should they win.
Now there are also disadvantages that a presumptive candidate receives, so it’s not a win-win situation but it is a highly probable nominee win situation, particularly if no actual challenger surfaces. Overall however, the presumptive candidate achieves the first step in the critical path to the White House with little to no effort. This effortless step brings with it some disadvantages for the steps that follow. The candidate doesn’t receive the experience of confronting an opponent’s views, policies, and positions that will allow them to hone their message or adjust their position to the ‘conditions on the ground’ that their campaign will have to deal with during the competitive race against the Republican nominee. The candidate is a target early but exists in that political space where they are effectively only able to campaign for support without the opportunities to rack up any wins against an opponent. They won’t receive the same level of media coverage or attention until there is one Republican candidate that they are identified as competing against. Each and any response to the many Republican candidates running serves those candidates’ interests and dilutes the focus on the Democratic message. Such reactions also represent occasions where the presumptive candidate creates vulnerabilities via their response that get exploited from both the many-to-one voices situation and the prolonged interval during which they are the clear and definitive target. Perhaps the greatest disadvantage is that without the competition of ideas in a campaign the opportunity to seize better plans, policies and positions is reduce or even eliminated since there is no occasion where those new ideas are given an advocating voice.
To alleviate these negative conditions, the Democratic Party (or any Party) should seek or even require that two candidates actively run for the nomination. Such a process would provide the Party with the advantages and opportunities to have issues and positions established resonate with the current political environment and that are tested under the trial-by-fire conditions that those items will face in the general election. It insures a campaign focus and attention from the media and the public, even those outside the Party’s core, that will produce more consideration of the issues that are and will be substantive to the public and in the campaigns.
This required competition will also produce the selection of a nominee that will have better prospects for winning in the general election on the basis that if you can win your Party’s nomination with competition than you are the better candidate versus if you are anointed as the nominee because no one tested your abilities to actually win.
It’s unlikely that this approach would be adopted by any Party however since it run directly against the immediate and primary interests of a presumptive candidate and their supporters. It’s the political tendency to act on the premise of self-first and other-entities no higher than second.