Never had a Presidential campaign collapsed like this and created such havoc on an election.
She had a 20-point lead over her Republican rival. The incumbent Republican President had a favorability rating of 38% and an unfavorability score of 57%. By contrast, everyone loved the Democratic California Senator, Eveline Bohanon. She had inverse likeability ratings from the sitting first-term President Henry Creighton with 65% favorable and only 17% unfavorable.
Only 52, she looked ten years younger. She appeared in the People Magazine list of the 100 most beautiful celebrities. Even her twenty-year-old daughter looked like a model but lived like the sweet girl next door. She stayed out of trouble. She posted minimally on social media and remained positive about her mother while ambivalent toward the challenger.
By all accounts, she ran a perfect Democratic campaign. She advocated for universal healthcare, federal jobs programs, investments in infrastructure and clean energy. She espoused the need to build bridges and alliances with as many countries as were willing to seek positive partnerships and ways to make the free world better. She prided herself the anti-violence candidate, and she pushed for limitations on the purchase of semi-automatic weapons. Her comprehensive platform called for expanded background checks, longer wait periods, restrictions on gun show sales and detailed mental health checks to help safeguard against continued shooting violence by mentally unstable perpetrators. Even the NRA seemed reluctant to attack her given her status as America’s sweetheart Presidential candidate.
She didn’t back down to tough issues and choices. She advocated for women’s reproductive rights. She took on the gun lobby. She chastised the “Wall Street 1%” and threatened to break-up monopoly companies that gain market share by outsourcing jobs to other countries. She had a classic Democratic-Progressive platform, a likeable demeanor and a face that appealed to the masses when plastered across billboards and magazine covers.
Polls had her leading by a virtual landslide with nearly 70% of the projected popular vote. By all accounts, her nomination, less than a half year away, would come as a slam dunk. She barely faced any challengers in the race for the nod from her party. With a belligerent, bumbling, unlikeable first term President in office, the press, the public, and even - to some degree - leaders of the Republican party expected to watch Eveline Bohanon sweep the general election and take office the following year.
She maintained her lead for an entire year. President Creighton barely campaigned. The Republicans turned their attention to Senate and House races looking to avoid giving Bohanon a “Blank Check” and control of the entire US Government from the House to the Senate to the Supreme Court.
She had just swept the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries by two landslide margins like no other in history. Polls had her leading in the upcoming Nevada and South Carolina contests with nearly 80% of the projected Democratic vote. And then, as the Democratic Primary loomed, Bohanon’s campaign took a shocking, unexpected turn.
It started as a small lump that she detected on her own. She thought little of the tiny anomaly. With her busy schedule, it took her a few weeks to report it to her personal physician. But when she did, it set off alarm bells within her campaign and started the cascade that would eventually terminate her bid for the Presidency.
One simple word: Cancer.
At first, only the campaign medical staff and her top two aids knew about her condition. They cancelled several appearances and acquired three other opinions. But the diagnosis remained consistent. Eveline Bohanon, potential future President of the United States had breast cancer.
The doctors agreed that they caught it early and that with an aggressive treatment, they had a strong chance of containing it and eliminating it. It could be a matter of months. Or it could take a year. But it would exact a grave toll on the campaign. She would have to cancel appearances. She would have to undergo a mastectomy. The drugs would affect her energy-level and she’d have to cut back on her hours as well as the grueling travel schedule required to manage a winning campaign.
Her appearance would change.
While she had America seemingly in her pocket, these impacts would not go unnoticed. And she would have to disclose her condition and open herself to the speculation that her health presented a risk to her potential Presidency.
Her closest aids suggested they conceal the ailment from the public, muzzle the physicians that knew about it and invent creative explanations for her absences from the public eye.
But Eveline Bohanon had too much class and integrity to deceive the public about her condition. She decided to continue her bid for the Presidency but disclose in a public statement that she would need to cut back some of her activities at various points and even suspend campaigning for a short period while she fought her disease.
The public supported her passionately, but tentatively, with an overtone of concern. The social media spectrum exploded with well-wishes, encouragement and sadness at her struggle. Her opponents initially voiced empathy and praise at her bravery and perseverance. She still won several of the State Caucuses by 25%.
But below the currents, the criticism lurked. Eveline Bohanon had finally shown a weakness that could be exploited and everyone else who had designs on the Presidency started to leak bits of doubt, concern and criticism.
Threads of discussion across Twitter and in the media keyed on the risk of electing a President with a possibly terminal condition. Some contingents painted her as irresponsible for not immediately terminating her candidacy.
Her numbers eroded. Her Democratic rivals saw their first chance to crack her lead. Debates leading up to the South Carolina primary focused heavily on the philosophical notion of risk and the danger of electing a President with a known and potentially fatal health condition. Her Democratic challengers pounced. They attacked her respectfully, but persistently and with practical logic that the Bohanon camp struggled to address or refute. They doled her respect in their tone and their seemingly supportive, encouraging words, while simultaneously questioned her judgement for not focusing exclusively on her health. They didn’t have to sugar-coat their attacks. Instead, they found seemingly innocent ways to suggest that Eveline Bohanon should avoid the risk of compromising her dedication to the country while trying to balance the challenge of managing her dangerous condition.
She still won in Texas, Illinois and New York but by single digit margins. Delegates from states that had not yet conducted their primaries openly called on her to step down. The public swayed. The head of the Democratic party, Brent Gaudiasso, supported her. But even his allies distanced themselves from his position, leaving him exposed and cast into tumult of his own. The undercurrent of degraded support from Eveline’s own party presented a growing threat to her campaign.
Smelling blood, Creighton waited for the initial wave of sympathy to ebb. He highlighted the turmoil within the Democratic party. He unsubtly called for Gaudiasso’s resignation, with the unspoken implication that Bohanon should also end her candidacy. He rode the crest of the sentiment that an ill candidate for President could not be elected due to the risk that they would be unable to adequately perform the job of running the country. He stepped up his rhetoric. He escalated his attacks. His ads stung. And he swayed the national poll numbers closer to his favor.
The Democratic party leaders reeled at the effective body blows and debated how to regain the upper hand as an organization. They came to consensus that if Senator Bohanon won the nomination, they would lose the election. They needed to act early in the race to avoid the kind of drama they had seen in recent past conventions. They formulated plans to threaten to oust Gaudiosso, publicly pressure their front-runner and strong-arm electoral voters away from Bohanon. If that didn’t work, they decided they would seek avenues to officially disqualify her from the race.
Eveline tried to remain strong in the public eye. But her doctors soon found other lumps, not just in her breasts, but in her lymph nodes as well. With just under four months to go before the Democratic National Committee, where only a mere 60-days earlier she would have collected a unanimous vote of confidence from her party, Eveline Bohanon addressed the public in a somber press conference.
“I regret to announce,” she stated, looking tired and worn. “I must end my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the Office of the President of the United States.”
“As many people now know,” she continued. “I have a health condition that precludes me from committing myself to the campaign and ultimately to serving the American public with the level of focus and dedication required to be the best possible candidate for the office. I wanted to make this decision and announce it as swiftly as possible to give the leaders of the Democratic party time to establish a new front-runner and nominate a great alternative candidate at the convention this summer.”
She went on to thank her staff, her daughter, her parents and all her supporters for the wonderful ride and pledged to rejoin her dedication to public service as soon as she emerged from her treatments and beat the ailment that she faced.
And with that, Eveline Bohanon’s bid for the Presidency dissolved.
She couldn’t fight the Democrats for the nomination or the Republicans for the Presidency. She had to fight the cancer for her life.