From the Democrats, it’s absolutely Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — Governor O’Malley is a superstar. I’d love to see him as President. If he wasn’t so old, Governor Jerry Brown of California would be great, too.
As for the Republicans, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has a bright future ahead of him. Governor Sandoval is the type of candidate that the GOP should be constantly promoting. Like O’Malley, Sandoval is a star. Governor Mike Pence of Indiana would also be a solid GOP candidate for President.
Just a few days ago, I mentioned the person that Republicans should be begging and pleading to declare that he belongs to their party and urging to run for office: Admiral William McRaven, who is in a perfect position to do just that since he retired from the Navy just a few days ago.
McRaven is the rare American public figure who is untouched (and unsullied) by the political climate of the last 20 years. He was the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command during a time when the work of the Special Forces truly stood out as the best of the best. He played a major role in finding Saddam Hussein and organizing and commanding the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. McRaven even continued taking part in Navy SEAL raids in Afghanistan while he was a three-star Admiral.
Who could run against that? How would any career politician — Democrat or Republican — possibly challenge Admiral McRaven if he decided to run for President? They couldn’t. McRaven could say, “This country needs leadership and this is how I’ve led,” and no politician could stand up and say, “Well, you haven’t served in Congress or as an elected official” because McRaven could just say, “Exactly. And this is how I led…”
Hell, I’m starting to hope he’s a Democrat because I’ve talked myself into McRaven for President.
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 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.
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.
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.
No, definitely not.
After spending eight years as Obama’s Vice President, I’m positive that Biden would have no interest in settling for the Vice Presidency again; he has his eyes set on the White House. If that’s not a possibility, I would not be surprised to see Biden attempt to reclaim his old seat in the U.S. Senate. Biden loved his time in the Senate, he is perhaps more knowledgeable about the inner workings of the Senate than anyone else alive right now, and another stint in the upper chamber of Congress would keep him far more active than continuing as Vice President under another Administration. Biden hasn’t been shy about teasing a possible Presidential run in 2016, but that’s going to be tough (and likely not winnable) if Hillary Clinton indeed runs. However, Biden has also openly said that he has no interest in retiring once his term as Vice President ends on January 20, 2017.
Another big obstacle to a Clinton/Biden ticket in 2016 are the ages of both candidates. Hillary Clinton is already going to face questions about her age if she runs in 2016. If elected, she’ll be the second-oldest President in American history on Inauguration Day 2017; Hillary will be 69 years, 86 days old — just 263 days younger than Reagan was when he was inaugurated. Biden will be 74 years, 61 days on Inauguration Day 2017, so he’d be the oldest President in American history (nearly five years older than Reagan was in 1981) as well as the oldest Vice President in American history (a full three years older than Alben Barkley, who is currently the oldest VP in history and was 71 years, 57 days old when he became Truman’s VP in 1949).
So, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden will undoubtedly face questions about their age if they run for President in 2016, just as Bob Dole did in 1996 and John McCain did in 2008. In fact, Biden will not only be older than either Dole or McCain was when they ran for the President, but if he were elected President in 2016, he’d be older on Inauguration Day than any other President was upon LEAVING office. Political parties prefer to balance their tickets during Presidential elections geographically, ideologically, experience-wise, and by age. If Hillary or Biden are nominated for President by the Democrats in 2016, the age issue will attempt to be addressed by nominating a running mate who is younger. There’s no way that the Democrats would nominate a 69-year-old President alongside a 74-year-old Vice President.
Mississippi’s two U.S. Senate seats have been in the hands of Republicans for over a quarter-century — and in the case of Cochran, it’s been held by a Republican (him) for over 35 years. Mississippi voters recognize that a Democrat isn’t winning that seat anytime soon and if they want to actually make a difference in the election of someone who represents all of them, crossing over and voting for the lesser of two evils (to Democrats and most African-Americans) between the two Republican candidates is their only opportunity to make that difference. The GOP Senate primary in Mississippi basically decides the general election since the winner is virtually guaranteed to beat the Democratic nominee in November. When there is a threat of someone like Chris McDaniel — someone who Democrats and African-Americans in Mississippi disagreed with so strongly that they actively supported Thad F’ing Cochran (!) — winning a primary election that would basically clinch him a seat in the U.S. Senate for the next six years, I think it’s a wonderful display of our political system when voters organize themselves in a way that allows them some measure of self-determination. I don’t know why an election in which that happens would be overturned. Nobody broke any voting laws and Mississippians were exercising their franchise in the best way possible — to make sure that they played a part in voting for the person they wanted to represent them.
Incidentally, this type of crossover should open the eyes of any groups or people who wonder about the feasibility of creating a new third political party. It’s one thing if voters are just flat-out fed up and stay home because they don’t care about the candidates, they don’t see any reason to actually go to the polls, and they just don’t care. But these voters in Mississippi clearly care very much about who is going to represent them. The voters who crossed over are so concerned about who is elected to serve their interests that they went to the polls and voted against someone that they’ve probably voted against throughout their lives in order to have some influence in the political process. People want alternatives, but the extremists on both sides of the aisle that both Democrats and Republicans actually put forward as alternatives are so unappealing that voters settle for the incumbents that they don’t really like — and, in the case of yesterday’s Mississippi Senate primary, many voters supported an incumbent just because they disagreed with him less than they disagreed with the other guy.
Every region of this country is ready for a backlash against incumbents as long as the alternative isn’t an extremist. This nation is ripe for a moderate third political party that draws in independents and the frustrated Democrats and Republicans who don’t really identify with those parties as they stand today. Building a third party takes time and money, but it can be done and it should be done. If a third party is organized efficiently in each state and then coordinated on national level, a third party can grow and be successful. It’s not going to result in a third party candidate being elected President right away, but building the party and coordinating it effectively so that the party earns name-recognition and ballot access will allow the new party to elect candidates on a state level and start making progress. Two to six years in and that new party would hold seats in Congress and State Legislatures, grab a few Governorships, and be able to position itself for a serious run for the Presidency. It needs to happen. The country is ready for it now.
Well, they weren’t really identified as such (like “Reagan Democrats), but there had to be some traditional Republican voters who supported LBJ in 1964 because he won 61% of the popular vote — it’s still the biggest margin of victory in the popular vote in American history.
Goldwater definitely took the GOP far to the right in 1964 and many moderate Republicans were unhappy with the prospect of voting for him. That — and the civil rights legislation and Great Society progams of LBJ’s Administration shifted the status of the Republican and Democratic parties from that point on. The states of the Solid South — which had been traditionally Democratic since before the Civil War and anti-Republican since the time of Abraham Lincoln — shifted to the Republican column with the appearance of more Conservative GOP candidates. Some of the blue-collar areas of the Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West, which had been a stronghold of moderate or progressive Republicans for years began shifting to Democratic. When people talk of the two major parties “switching places”, this is what they normally mean. They didn’t necessarily switch places, but they evolved into different versions of what they previously were, largely in the area of social issues.
"LBJ Republicans" would have been traditional Republicans like those in Vermont and Maine who normally went with the GOP but were so turned off by Goldwater that the states not only went to LBJ in 1964 but they’re now solidly Democratic. "LBJ Republicans" could also be found in Midwestern and Mountain West states that had long had a history of electing progressive or moderate Republican Senators. Those Senators also played an integral part in passing LBJ’s civil rights and Great Society legislation that the Democratic Senators from the previously Solid South were vehemently opposed to. As the GOP became more Conservative, many of those progressive and moderate Republicans Senators either switched parties or ended up losing their seats to challengers as the population of their state shifted to the right and further away from their traditional ideology.
Jimmy Carter wasn’t a bad nominee — I mean, he did win the election — he just ended up being a failure as President. You can’t really fault the Democrats for nominating Carter especially since, like I said, he actually won.
Looking back, it does seem crazy that the field of Democrats running for President in 1976 was so unimpressive, especially since the Democrats were facing a President in Gerald Ford who had been appointed to the Vice Presidency and assumed the Presidency following Nixon’s resignation. The Republican Party was in disarray because of Watergate and President Ford was challenged for the GOP nomination by Ronald Reagan, which really hurt his campaign against Carter in 1976 and might have been a bigger reason for Ford’s loss than anything else. Yet, Carter wasn’t really seriously challenged during his bid for the Democratic nomination even though he was a dark horse candidate. Carter’s major rivals only had strength in certain regions and no broad support, so Carter appealed to way more Americans than people like George Wallace, Morris Udall, and Henry Jackson (who weren’t all that appealing in the first place). Other Democratic hopefuls were Hubert H. Humphrey, who was dying, and California Governor Jerry Brown, who was 38 years old and had only been in office for a year. Brown might have caused Carter some trouble — in fact, he won the California primary — but he jumped into the campaign WAY too late and never had a chance to make a dent in the huge delegate lead that Carter had already accumulated.
The 1976 election is a fascinating one for many reasons and it’s definitely surprising that the Democrats didn’t have a more impressive field of contenders battling for the nomination in an election that was so winnable that a largely unknown one-term Governor of Georgia ended up as President. Quite frankly, the talent roster of top-level Democrats simply wasn’t very deep in the 1970s. Ted Kennedy was probably the most appealing possible Democratic Presidential candidate in 1976, but he was still on the sidelines because of Chappaquiddick.