Hell be back.
He'll be back. Lester Black

In launching his presidential campaign as the "climate change guy," Governor Jay Inslee bet that Americans would recognize the existential threat climate change poses to the country, realize he'd be the only candidate who could fix the problem, and then sweep him into office on a wave of American optimism.

As I wrote in my case for his campaign, if nothing else, his candidacy offered the press an opportunity to cover climate change policy more often than they cover the president's Twitter feed, which might raise awareness and slow the melt.

But none of that is happening.

As several outlets have reported, Inslee isn't polling well enough to qualify for the next CNN forum, which will, incidentally, focus on climate change. He's also not polling well enough to qualify for the next DNC debate. We'll know by August 28 whether he will reach the threshold, but he has yet to hit 2 percent in any qualifying poll, and so it's not looking good.

Our local Fox affiliate suggests that Inslee might wait until late September to suspend his campaign so that he can participate in the MSNBC/Georgetown climate forum, a decision that would hamper the fundraising efforts of several Washington politicians who haven't exactly been shy about their political ambitions.

So what's he going to do next week, or, much to the chagrin of many Democrats, a month from now?

He'll probably run for governor again.

He hasn't ruled out the possibility of seeking a third term, and—according to a few anonymous consultants—he doesn't look like a guy who's ready to hang up the keys yet. You can't look millions of people in the eye and tell them that you're going to do everything you can to fix climate change and then retire from government to lobby for a solar panel company. Or, I guess, it doesn't seem like Inslee would be the kind of politician who would do that.

The press release writes itself. "I might be giving up my campaign for president," Inslee would say, "but I'm not giving up my campaign for the planet, or my commitment to the people of Washington State. Together, we will transform Washington into an emerald Narnia, and—just like we did with gay marriage and the fight for a $15 minimum wage—we'll set an example for the rest of the country to follow. In fact, if you think about it, if every other state follows our lead, and if we call a collection of those states 'the United States,' then as governor of Washington, I'd basically become the president of the United States. Go Dawgs. And Cougs."

Anyway, you get it.

Inslee has every incentive to run for a third term. The Democrats have healthy majorities in the Washington State Senate and House, which means he'll be able to follow through on his climate change agenda without much in the way of serious resistance from the legislature.

As a two-term incumbent, Inslee would most likely easily win a third term as governor. Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz probably won't waste their money or risk damaging their careers by issuing a primary challenge. Labor, environmental groups, and EMILY'S List probably wouldn't waste money supporting those bids, either. And as I write this, I'm actually laughing at the prospect of King County executive Dow Constantine running in a primary against Inslee.

Ferguson and Franz could launch gubernatorial campaigns in late August in an attempt to discourage Inslee from running, but that doesn't seem likely. A spokesperson for Ferguson's campaign says the AG continues to support the governor's presidential campaign, and that he "supports Governor Inslee if he chooses to run for a third term." Ferguson won't decide future plans until Inslee does, the spokesperson says.

In an email, a spokesperson for Franz says the land commissioner is focusing on "ensuring that our state gets through fire season," and so "hasn’t made any decisions about running for Governor."

The Republican candidates for governor so far include a gun nut who casually makes racist jokes on the senate floor and a pixelated gun nut who works as the police chief of Republic, Washington. So no threat there, really.

And even though single-handedly stunting the growth of several politicians for the sake of a long-shot presidential bid is a shitty thing to do as a leader, the politicians who so nakedly displayed their political ambitions—I'm thinking of state solicitor general Noah Purcell, Seattle City Council member Lorena González, and state senator Manka Dhingra in addition to Ferguson and Franz—won't suffer too badly from accusations of ladder-climbing in future elections. They were all elected by wide margins, or else seem to be relatively popular for now. It might be weird at their respective offices for a while, though.

A spokesperson for Inslee's presidential campaign didn't reply to a request for comment, but I'll update if he does.

If he wins the race for governor in 2020 and then President Bernie Warren Joe Harris picks him as interior secretary, this whole process would just start over again in 2021 anyway, only in a less favorable election year for Democrats. What could go wrong?