An incumbent Republican Governor? As I’ve said many times, I don’t see the Electoral College math working out in 2016 for any Republican candidate, and I especially don’t see any current Republican Governor winning the nomination or election. The best two candidates for the GOP, in my opinion, are Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney. Now, they are both former Governors, of course, but not currently in office.
With that said, I do believe Governors tend to be the best Presidential candidates and have the best “head start” of sorts if elected President. Governors have executive experience that is about the closest thing to the Presidency that one can experience, even if they are on completely different levels.
If I had to choose the incumbent Governor who would be the best candidate nationally for the GOP in 2016, I’d say that it’s Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. He has a lot going for him and is a rising star, but 2016 is too soon for Governor Sandoval. Still, if I’m forced to pick a GOP Governor currently serving, that’s who I would put my money on.
I don’t know what party he belongs to, but if the GOP were smart, they’d be BEGGING Admiral William McRaven to declare that he is Republican and anoint him as their 2016 Presidential nominee tomorrow. Admiral McRaven is a star, he’s a hell of a public speaker, he’s the commander of the special operations forces that played such an integral part in the War on Terror, and while President Obama ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Admiral McRaven planned the details and oversaw the operation as it was being carried out. General David Petraeus would have been a perfect choice before his extramarital affair took a bit of the shine off of him (General Petraeus could still bounce back from that if he wanted to run); Admiral McRaven would be a dangerous candidate against any of the most-talked-about potential 2016 candidates. He could even beat Hillary Clinton.
Would he run? I don’t know. And if Admiral McRaven did run, is he even a Republican? That’s what the GOP should be trying to figure out. Like I said, General Petraeus could rise above the affair he had and still be a Presidential contender, so I think the GOP should be targeting him, too, trying to ascertain whether he is a Republican, and urging him to consider seeking the Presidency.
We haven’t elected a President primarily known for his military career since Dwight D. Eisenhower, but we also haven’t had top-level military commanders seek the Presidency very often since then. General Wesley Clark sought the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination, but I thought his campaign was really low-key and half-assed. I actually supported General Clark at first in 2004, but it seemed like I was more excited about the prospect of his candidacy than the General was. Other than Clark, nobody primarily known for being a military commander has even sought a major party’s Presidential nomination since Eisenhower was elected.
Al Gore will always be a potential wild card who could shake up the race, as well, but someone like Admiral McRaven would really turn things on their head. The least popular Americans in the country right now are politicians with the exception of a few state Governors who still enjoy a bit of popularity in their own regions but are largely unknown outside of that area. Who better to run for President at a time when Americans have a record-low opinion of politicians than someone who ISN’T a politician? It is difficult for non-politicians to gain traction in Presidential elections because as unpopular as politicians might be, the electorate immediately wonders whether a person who hasn’t held elective office is qualified to lead. Those questions would be null-and-void with Admiral William McRaven. Of course he is qualified to lead, and he’s not only undamaged by the toxic political climate of the 21st Century but he’s so above politics that we don’t even know what party he belongs to until he tells us. I never mention him with potential 2016 candidates because I’ve never heard his name connected with a possible run (or connected with any of the parties), but Admiral McRaven could win and win big (even against Hillary Clinton) if he could be convinced to run.
Well, let’s be clear, for the Democrats to miraculously win both chambers of Congress in November, it would require a more serious wound than the GOP shooting itself in the foot. Both parties shoot each of their members in both feet almost as a requirement for taking your seat in the House and Senate; so, it’s definitely not happening.
But, yes, if Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, President Obama would still have time to get some things done — roughly from the day the new Congressional session began (January 3, 2015) until the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in the summer of 2016. After the nominating conventions, all eyes turn to the general election, of course, but more crucially, members of Congress (particularly the House since all members face re-election) focus on their own campaigns and get very cautious. But for those 18 months or so, the President could definitely get some things done, and would be smart to push through immigration reform and try to shore up the liberal side of the Supreme Court since it’s up-in-the-air who the next President will be and it’s impossible to say whether there would be favorable conditions for confirmation in the 115th Congress that starts in 2017.
It’s not happening, though. And, conversely, if the Republicans win both chambers of Congress on November 4th, President Obama becomes a lame-duck President before he eats breakfast on the morning of November 5th.
I don’t think any Republican can win a national election against Hillary Clinton. I think Jon Huntsman could give her a run for her money, but that would require Huntsman wrapping up the GOP nomination extremely early and the rest of the country getting to know him really well before the general election season kicks into gear. But that’s not going to happen. The GOP’s best chance — and I know that it isn’t exciting and it isn’t what most people want to see — is Jeb Bush. Or, even less exciting — Mitt Romney. I can’t imagine Romney running again unless Bush decides not to and the GOP is dying for someone who could give them a shot, but Romney is relatively undamaged for a guy who lost a Presidential election.
Interestingly, if Mitt Romney ran again in 2016, that might remove the problems Hillary is going to face about her age. A lot of people don’t realize this because he doesn’t seem to age, but Mitt Romney is actually over 7 months older than Hillary. If it was Hillary vs. Mitt, no matter what the outcome, the next President would be the second-oldest to ever be elected.
Some of the more lefty-liberals (and full disclosure: I am one of them) will grumble about Hillary Clinton’s positioning, but far-left Democrats understand that Bernie Sanders can’t win a national election. I’m not sure if far-right Republicans recognize that Rick Santorum or Rand Paul or Ted Cruz can’t win a national election. That’s the difference between the extreme wings of the party, in my opinion. At some point, people need to understand that they will not get everything that they want from every candidate; parties will nominate the candidate that has the best chance to win, and it might not be everybody’s first choice, but Hillary Clinton is that person for the Democratic Party in 2016.
I don’t worry about whether Hillary has grown since the 2008 campaign. First of all, she knows that she’s not invincible. I think that there was an arrogance to her campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2007 and 2008. Not that Hillary was being arrogant, but that her campaign as a whole felt like it was a coronation. There is a risk of that in 2016 because she’s been put forward as the inevitable candidate, but I think Hillary recognizes that possibility, which is why she’s putting off an official announcement for as long as possible. Plus, she’s older and doesn’t want to run a 20-month-long national campaign. On top of all of that, Hillary’s term as Secretary of State was a different type of experience for her. She gained some time as an actual decision-maker in the Executive branch and became a foreign policy heavyweight. Hillary’s biggest challenge in 2016 isn’t going to be that she hasn’t grown; it’s going to be her connection to President Obama. If his popularity continues to nose-dive — and Presidents don’t normally get a spike in popularity during the final two years of a two-term Presidency — she’ll have to distance herself from him even more, and that won’t be easy.
I like Governor Dean, but I don’t see that happening. There are three Democrats who would be ahead of him if he jumped in the race — Hillary Clinton, Vice President Biden, and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. One of those three Democrats will be the Democratic nominee in 2016. If Hillary and Vice President Biden didn’t run for some reason, Dean might be in a position to gain some traction, but once the rest of the country sees Governor O’Malley, it’ll be all over. O’Malley is smooth and he’s the real deal.
Don’t mistake the noisy Tea Party movement and the extremists in the Republican Party as the GOP’s base. They make the most noise, but they don’t cast the most votes, especially in a general election — particularly a Presidential one. Cantor got knocked off, but that’s one guy in one district. Lamar Alexander — a far more moderate Republican easily beat back a challenge tonight in Tennessee from his right, and Pat Roberts did the same thing in Kansas on Tuesday. If those two Senators hadn’t been successful in states where the Tea Party/Libertarian element has been progressing quite strongly over the past couple of years then I might re-think a moderate Republican’s ability to win the GOP nomination in 2016.
Listen, it’s not that some of the other Presidential contenders who are mentioned — Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, etc, etc, etc — can’t win the GOP nomination. It’s definitely possible that they could, but none of them can win the actual election, and as out-of-touch as the two major political parties might seem, neither of them are going to nominate somebody who they know don’t have a shot at winning the election. And I don’t think Christie could even win the nomination. He’s damaged. Sure, he might do fine in the tri-state area, but it’s going to take more than those three states to clinch the GOP nomination, and it’s certainly not going to win him the general election. That bridge deal really hurt Christie in areas where he definitely would have been the top choice immediately after the 2012 election — he’s not a member of Congress and he’s not a Bush, so I’m sure many Republicans were dying to support him. But he screwed up at the wrong time and he’s way more damaged from that scandal than Jeb Bush is by his family. Plus, George H.W. Bush is the most popular ex-President alive today and George W. Bush’s reputation and approval rating has been rising because he’s been scarce, he’s largely been out of the political game, and all former Presidents gain in popularity the further away from their term they get.
The “why” isn’t much deeper than this: the Republicans want to win, and they cannot win with Christie because I simply don’t think there’s enough time for him to rehabilitate himself by the time the Republican primary season hits full swing. If he had another year, yes, he’d probably be able to get back to where he was in November 2012. But he doesn’t, and he can’t. The GOP wants to win and, right now, if we’re looking at the list of contenders most often mentioned for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, Jeb Bush is simply the best bet.
We are still a long way away from the Presidential election cycle truly kicking off. We’re not even to the midterms yet, and that will have major implications on the next two years and the Presidential race. So, all of this can and will probably change. But, today, in August 2014, it’s Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney if the GOP wants to actually win the White House and not just nominate somebody that those noisy people like. The extremists are not the base in either party, and the power lies with the base because the votes lie with the base. If the moderates and independents were the minority in the Republican Party, Mitt Romney and John McCain wouldn’t have been the last two Presidential nominees, John Boehner wouldn’t be Speaker, and Cantor’s primary defeat would have been the barometer for this midterm election cycle and not the exception.
With Presidential politics, it’s usually not much deeper than the fact that the party will nominate the person who gives them the best chance to win and Jeb Bush is that person over everyone else because of the Electoral College math; Jeb Bush is that person over Chris Christie specifically because Christie is damaged nationally from the bridge scandal and doesn’t have enough time to repair that damage; and Jeb Bush is that person because the Bush name won’t damage him as much as some people think, especially if the candidate that the other side is nominating is named “Clinton”. I guess the second part of that last sentence is more of the “why” that you’re asking for, but honestly, the first part of the sentence is a “why”, too. It’s frustrating and seems silly that something so important can be answered with such a broad statement, but sometimes in politics the reason that a candidate can’t win is simply that a candidate can’t win. It can sound dismissive or like someone is trying to dodge the question, but that is often the explanation; Chris Christie can’t win because Chris Christie can’t win.
Jeb Bush is the GOP’s best bet, and he’s probably only a little bit better of a bet than simply nominating Mitt Romney again. The GOP is in trouble in the Electoral College; to be honest, I don’t think they have anybody who is a registered Republican that can actually win a general election because the Electoral College math doesn’t look like it will add up (in my opinion, of course). I still think Jon Huntsman could win a general election if he was nominated early and the rest of the country became familiar with him, but Huntsman can’t win the GOP nomination,
Christie can’t win the nomination, either, and he wouldn’t win a general election against Clinton, Biden, or O’Malley, and one of those three people will be the Democratic candidate in 2016.
Anybody else might win the nomination, but they’ll be hammered in the Electoral College. Rick Perry is rebuilding himself pretty well and the “border crisis” will help him with Republicans because he can be seen to be standing up to a highly-unpopular President at a very advantageous time. He also has plenty of opportunities to make people forget about 2012, and once we’re in the middle of the Presidential campaign cycle and things start ramping up for the primaries, 2012 will seem like a lifetime ago, so Perry has a shot at the nomination. But he can’t win the general election. Nobody in the GOP can — and nobody will, unless there’s some drastic movement between now-and-then that makes some of the traditional battleground states less battlegroundey (I’m trademarking that word) and more likely to swing to Republicans. I hate to sound like a predatory political strategist, but women are the key in battleground states, and women aren’t switching sides for any of the potential 2016 contenders we’re hearing about on the Republican side.
You know what’s crazy? President Obama is…let’s be honest…basically a lame-duck already. I know people like me still have hope and we’re desperately trying to fight that perception, but this isn’t the point in Presidential Administrations were Presidents traditionally bounce back from being stuck in the doldrums. But even if the Republicans win both houses of Congress in November (definitely possible) and have a lame-duck President from Election Day 2014 until Election Day 2016, they are still going to need a really big play to make the Electoral College work in their favor. In fact, winning both chambers of Congress and having a lame-duck President could hurt them even worse in 2016 because they won’t have anybody to blame. Right now, the House Republicans can blame the Senate and say, “Hey, we passed such-and-such bill and the Senate killed it.” Congress is more unpopular than it was at the point in history where states were seceding and their Representatives and Senators were standing up to give farewell addresses where they basically gave shout-outs to the South, recited love poems to slavery, dissed Abraham Lincoln, and then dropped the microphone. Currently, the American people see that and say Congress sucks but distribute their hatred towards Congress equally because one chamber is run by the Republicans and one chamber is run by Democrats. If that changes and Republicans control both chambers, they’ll be perceived (even more so than now) as obstructionists because of how terrible the Legislative Branch that they control is. Sure, they can blame Obama, but they’ve been doing that since 2009. We’re numb to it. And if he’s a lame-duck and Republicans SAY he’s a lame-duck and then scream about how he’s not doing anything, a big part of the electorate will just automatically respond with, “Of course he’s not doing anything…he’s a lame-duck. Oh, and you control both chambers of Congress, so this is pretty much all your fault.”
If I were a Republican strategist, I would have done the political version of tanking in the NBA. There have recently been NBA teams who are in the “rebuilding stages” and it has been suggested those some of those teams are not putting out the best possible combinations of players during the season and making it more difficult to win because the worse your team is, the more ping-pong balls you get for the NBA Draft Lottery, ideally raising your chances of winning said Draft Lottery and getting the top pick in the NBA Draft. If your team does that for a couple of years, it’s hoped that the team will draft better players and be able to build a young, successful team from scratch. If I were a GOP political strategist, I’d look at the current landslide and tank in 2014 — I’d try to lose both chambers of Congress and then spend the next two years blaming the Democratic Congress and the Democratic President for being awful and then make it seem as if the Republicans are riding to the rescue in 2016. You give up two years of nothing for four-to-eight years of everything. Both sides are responsible for the condition we’re in now and the political climate in the country (and I don’t just mean the politicians from both sides, either; many regular Americans are also at fault). But perception means everything in politics and most Americans don’t look deeply enough at the issues or the responses to those issues to accurately and fairly understand them. So that all-or-nothing (or, I guess it would be a “nothing-to-attain-all”) situation would be the way to go. If I were a Republican strategist. But I am not. A Republican. Strategist.
"THAT’S THE SOLUTION!" says everybody at Ready For Hillary when they read this post.
If Hillary Clinton doesn’t seek the Democratic nomination in 2016 (and, don’t get me wrong, she is definitely running in 2016), Biden would begin the primary season as the frontrunner. Name recognition, eight years as Vice President, a consistently solid favorability score, an extensive coalition of former campaign workers and longtime supporters, and a headstart in fundraising would definitely put Biden at the front of the line if Hillary wasn’t in the race.
Biden’s age could be a potential issue, but the ages of Dole in 1996 and McCain in 2008 really didn’t become as big of a problem as many people thought it would be. Same deal with Reagan in 1980 and 1984, although there were a few worries about Reagan during the ‘84 campaign when he seemed sluggish and tired and somewhat confused during a few appearances. Reagan’s opponent in 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale, saw a possible opportunity by making Reagan’s age an issue but Reagan shut it down with one of the greatest moments ever to take place in a Presidential debate. When asked about the age difference, Reagan said, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” It was such a brilliant comment that even Mondale couldn’t stop laughing and the questions about Reagan’s age immediately disappeared. Biden definitely has the ability to use his verbal talents to disarm any questions about age.
Also, even though Biden will be 74 years old on Inauguration Day 2017, he’s healthy, active, and energetic. When Reagan ran for re-election in 1984 at the age of 73, his events were very carefully choreographed — even more so than regular White House or campaign events, which are already strictly regimented — because he had dealt with some health problems. Of course, he had been shot in 1981 and came far closer to dying from his wounds than most people realized at the time, and Nancy Reagan had been extremely protective of his physical well-being following the assassination attempt. Bob Dole led an active, hard-working lifestyle despite his age and was Senate Majority Leader until resigning during the summer of 1996 to focus on his Presidential campaign, but he had been severely injured during World War II and was disabled, so that was a concern when he faced Bill Clinton since Dole was 73 and Clinton hadn’t even been born when Dole was nearly killed in Italy during World War II. McCain was 72 years old when he faced Obama in the 2008 election, but he was also disabled from his military service when he was shot down, captured by the North Vietnamese, and brutally tortured while being held as a prisoner of war for nearly six years in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton”. So, the three recent major Presidential nominees closest in age to how old Biden will be in 2016 had potentially worrisome health problems. After Biden’s unsuccessful bid for the 1988 Democratic Presidential nomination, he suffered an aneurysm and a blood clot, but there’s been no recurrence of those health scares in the past quarter-century, and I don’t think Biden’s age would be that big of a problem if he did run.
Unfortunately, there are more serious problems that Vice President Biden would face if Hillary Clinton decided not to run in 2016 and Biden entered primary season as the frontrunner. First of all, let me point out that I’m such a big fan of Joe Biden that I would not only fully support his candidacy, but I’d work on behalf of his campaign if offered an opportunity. However, if Hillary declines to run in 2016, the Democratic Presidential nomination process would be a free-for-all. Every Democrat in the country with Presidential hopes would jump into that race if they knew Hillary was sitting 2016 out because they know that Biden is more vulnerable than Hillary. We’d end up seeing debate stages full of potential Presidential contenders doing whatever they could to squeeze in some television time and create name recognition. In other words, it would be like the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Republican Presidential nomination battles.
Believe me, there are numerous Democrats sitting on the sidelines right now, watching from the periphery, and publicly supporting Hillary Clinton’s possible bid for the Presidency in 2016 because they know right now that she’s the frontrunner, the uncrowned nominee, and someone who might end up being able to find them a place in her Cabinet if they are strong enough as surrogates on her behalf in 2016. But many of those Democrats who are “Ready For Hillary” are also “Ready To Be There Just In Case Hillary Isn’t Ready”. They are quietly building organizations that can either be used to support Hillary in that surrogate role in 2016 or to activate into their own exploratory committees if Hillary doesn’t run.
As I mentioned, Biden would be the frontrunner, and Biden would have significant advantages because of his leadership role in the party over the past eight years, his incumbency (it’s easier to draw a crowd to a thinly-veiled campaign event if you land in Air Force Two, drive through town in a Vice Presidential motorcade, and are already a heartbeat away from the Presidency). But Biden would have disadvantages, too. In case you haven’t noticed, Barack Obama isn’t exactly the most popular boy in school anymore. Biden hasn’t had a separate Vice Presidential agenda since 2009 — he’s connected in every way to the Obama Administration, and that could actually hurt him with voters suffering from Obama fatigue. Now, if you ask me, I personally think that Biden should get a free pass from any controversy or political messes simply because he looks badass with his mirrored aviator shades, bomber jacket, and that Ric Flair-style comb-over that Biden does with his hair. Unfortunately, I’m one of the few people in the world who thinks that the fact that Biden looks like the world’s hippest grandfather translates into Presidential leadership material.
But, seriously, a Biden candidacy will be automatically linked to the Obama Administration and, for those with Obama fatigue, it’s easy for Biden’s opposition to claim that he’d be nothing more than a continuance of the current Administration — basically a third term. If Obama’s popularity continues to plummet, that could be dangerous. And I don’t see Joe Biden pulling an Al Gore and running as far away from the President he served diligently for eight years in hopes of distancing himself enough to win the election. Biden’s too loyal and too invested in what Obama has done. In 2000, Gore was so worried about the Lewinsky scandal and Clinton’s impeachment that he all but stood on the roof of the White House and shouted, “No, I don’t know anyone named Bill Clinton,” or invited Clinton to go golfing with him, brought the press along, and then pushed Clinton into a pond while screaming, “You are a dirty liar and I did all of the good things during this Administration while you were being a dirty liar, you dirty liar.” Distancing himself from Clinton — the best pure politician of the last 40 years — ended up costing Gore the 2000 election. Biden wouldn’t distance himself from Obama, and his opponents wouldn’t allow the voters to forget that.
If Hillary Clinton doesn’t run, Biden will begin the primary season as the frontrunner and it’s not impossible for him to win. The difficult part would be getting the Democratic nomination; I think Biden matches up just as well as Hillary does against the major contenders rumored to be seeking the GOP nomination. Biden’s toughest match-up against any of the potential Republican nominees would be Jeb Bush, but I think that Bush is Hillary’s toughest match-up, too. But Biden would have to win the Democratic nomination first in order to get to that general election, and I just think it would be such a chaotic nomination process without Hillary, that Biden could run into trouble. Elizabeth Warren has sworn up-and-down that she’s not running, but if Hillary doesn’t, the clamor for Warren and the encouragement for someone to break that glass ceiling that Hillary has frequently referred to may urge Warren to make a bid for the White House (although I think it’s still a little early for her and that she doesn’t match-up quite as well with many of the possible GOP candidates). Brian Schweitzer, the former Governor of Montana, has been putting his name forward and visiting early primary states for the past few months, so he might be testing the waters for a run even with Hillary in the race. Governor Schweitzer has a populist attitude which might appeal to some groups, particularly moderates straddling the center of both parties, but he’d find out quickly enough that he’s not in Montana anymore. I can’t see Governor Andrew Cuomo or Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, two popular New York Democrats, making a strong enough connection nationally to put together the impressive showing in early primary/caucus states necessary for launching a full-blown Presidential campaign.
So, who would be Vice President Biden’s biggest challenge in 2016 if he didn’t have to worry about Hillary Clinton running for President? It’s Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Governor O’Malley doesn’t have significant name recognition right now, but he’s been accepting speaking engagements throughout the country — and, for some strange reason, a lot of those speeches tend to be in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Governor O’Malley is dynamic, charismatic, and a popular two-term Governor of Maryland about to be term-limited out of office. Until last year, O’Malley had spent two years as the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association — a position that gives Governors like O’Malley the opportunity to make trips to dozens of states, speak to tons of potential voters and possible delegates and surrogates (fellow Governors, Mayors, State Legislators, unions, local party organizations, etc.), raise money for other candidates (an important role since that often inspires loyalty and offers of future support from grateful candidates across the country), and introduce himself to scores of Americans — usually fellow Democrats — while gathering their information (names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, the issues they care most about, etc.).
O’Malley has long been a supporter of the Clintons — both Bill and Hillary — but he’s also extraordinarily ambitious and the fastest rising star in the Democratic Party that most people don’t know about. If Hillary Clinton runs for President in 2016, Martin O’Malley will be one of he strongest surrogates, most influential advisers, and a powerhouse fundraiser. If Hillary doesn’t run, nobody besides Vice President Biden has a better built-in campaign organization than Governor O’Malley. It’s been done on the down-low because of his close ties to the Clintons, but I guarantee that O’Malley could have a campaign on the ground and running full speed within hours of Hillary’s decision if she chooses not to run. Without Hillary, Biden could win, but Governor O’Malley would probably beat him. And once the American people who are unfamiliar with Governor O’Malley get to hear him speak and know him better, he’s going to be a rock star like the 1991-1992 version of Bill Clinton and the 2007-2009 version of Barack Obama. That’s how talented Martin O’Malley is — and he’d beat any of the Republicans we often hear bandied about as 2016 contenders.