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.
Even though Reagan came close to beating out President Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976, he continued to focus on becoming President and I think Reagan would have seen the Vice Presidency as a major step in the wrong direction. If Ford had asked Reagan to be his running mate, I don’t think Reagan would have accepted. I don’t think Nancy would have allowed him to. Nothing could be gained for Reagan by serving as Ford’s running mate. The Vice Presidency was finally gaining influence and significance in the 1970s, but it wouldn’t have done anything to actually further Reagan’s Presidential prospects.
A Ford/Reagan ticket might have resulted in a victory, but Reagan wouldn’t really gain anything from that, either. Ford wouldn’t have been able to run for re-election in 1980 because of the 22nd Amendment (Ford had served more than two years of Richard Nixon’s unexpired term, so he would have been ineligible to be elected again had he won in 1976). But if Ford and Reagan had been elected together in 1976 and the Ford had a rough four years in office, Reagan would have been intimately connected with that Administration, giving his potential 1980 opponent something to strongly use to campaign against him with. He would have been pegged as the successor or as the continuation of that hypothetical Ford Administration. Anything like that would have been a huge risk for Reagan because part of the reason he challenged Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976 (besides believing that Ford wasn’t Conservative enough) was that Reagan was already 65 years old. In 1976! He was older than Nixon and Ford and a full six years older than John F. Kennedy. People forget about that — Reagan was worried, even in the 1970s, about whether his age would be an issue. Even if he had beaten Ford out for the GOP nomination in 1976 and been elected that year, Reagan would have been the second-oldest President ever inaugurated — and that was a full four years before he actually be did become President!
More than anything else, though, President Ford was pissed off in 1976 by the fact that Reagan challenged him (Ford), an incumbent President of the same party, and required Ford to expend energy and much-needed campaign funds just to get a nomination that is usually an automatic for an incumbent President. When Reagan notified Ford that he was going to seek the nomination that year, Reagan said he hoped it wouldn’t be divisive and Ford responded, “How can you challenge an incumbent President of your own party and not be divisive?”. The Ford/Reagan battle in the 1976 primaries really hurt Ford more than anything — even more than Ford’s controversial pardon of Richard Nixon or Ford’s big mistake in the second Presidential debate with Jimmy Carter when he stumbled and suggested that there was not Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. But the GOP primary battle allowed Carter to begin the general campaign with a huge lead over Ford and Ford came extraordinarily close to closing that gap and winning the election — with another week of campaigning, he likely would have beaten Carter. Ford genuinely believed that Reagan (and Reagan’s advisers) were to blame for the fact that Ford had to fight from so far behind against Carter. In interviews embargoed until after his death, Ford admitted, “It burned the hell out of me that I got the diversion from Reagan that caused me to spend an abnormal part of my time trying to round up individual delegates and to raise money.” Ford was also bothered by the fact that even after Ford clinched the Republican nomination, Reagan did very little to help him out during the general election. Recognizing that the focus of Reagan and his team immediately turned towards 1980 following the 1976 Republican National Convention, Ford said, “They didn’t give a damn whether I won or not because they were already planning to run in 1980.”
Gerald Ford was, by all accounts, one of the most good-natured, mild-mannered, polite, reasonable, and loyal politicians in American history. That’s one of the reasons that Congressional Democrats all but demanded that Nixon nominate Ford to fill the vacancy caused by Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation in 1973. Ford also knew that he needed a more Conservative running mate in 1976 because he and the Vice President that he had appointed, Nelson Rockefeller, were too moderate for his increasingly Conservative party. Ford dumped Rockefeller in favor of the more appealing (to the far right of the GOP) Bob Dole and, later in life, frequently mentioned that the biggest regret of his life was dumping Rockefeller from the 1976 ticket — not because of any disrespect towards Senator Dole, but because Rockefeller had served him well and Ford was ashamed that he had pandered so much in taking that action. But before he chose Bob Dole at the 1976 Republican National Convention, many Republicans pushed for Ford to choose Reagan as his VP and there was nothing mild-mannered or good-natured about President Ford’s response. When Reagan’s name was mentioned, he bluntly said, “Absolutely not. I don’t want anything to do with that son-of-a-bitch.”
So, to answer the rest of your question, yes, Ford likely would have been re-elected if Reagan had been his running mate. However, he likely would have been re-elected if Reagan hadn’t forced him to spend the spring of 1976 fighting for the Republican nomination even though he was the incumbent President.
And, yes, Ford was extremely depressed about losing the 1976 election, but he wasn’t suicidal. It was an understandably devastating defeat — George H.W. Bush has spoken of how devastated he was, too, upon losing the 1992 election to Bill Clinton. General Colin Powell recalled a conversation with Bush at Camp David after the 1992 election where Bush 41 was nearly in tears while telling General Powell, “Colin, it hurts. It really hurts. I just never thought they’d elect him.” It’s an unimaginable sadness for anyone who hasn’t actually been the most powerful person in the world and then had hundreds of millions of people decide, “No, we don’t want you anymore.” But Ford was not suicidal. Some people have suggested that he was in a dark place because it was his wife, Betty, who read Ford’s concession speech in 1976, but in actuality, Ford had been making non-stop campaign swings during the last days and hours of the ‘76 campaign and had completely lost his voice, so that’s why Betty Ford gave the speech as he stood nearby.
I don’t think that Eugene McCarthy could have won the Democratic nomination in 1968 if LBJ had stayed in the campaign and ran for another term. As I mentioned in that earlier post about what I think would have happened if LBJ and Nixon had faced each other in the ‘68 election, Johnson, like any incumbent President, would have had significant advantages and as the head of the Democratic Party, he would have controlled the party throughout the process, so any challenge from fellow Democrats could have been handled pretty easily once he put the party apparatus into action and shaped the Democratic National Convention into whatever he might have needed it to be in the case of a floor fight. Plus, LBJ had a powerful campaign organization that was already familiar with a a primary fight (the unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination against John F. Kennedy in 1960) and a Presidential election (the massive popular vote and Electoral College victory in 1964).
There is also another thing that is frequently overlooked when people bring up Eugene McCarthy’s impressive showing against LBJ in the 1968 New Hampshire Primary. President Johnson actually wasn’t on the ballot in the New Hampshire Primary; he was a write-in candidate, partly for strategic reasons (to test the waters in case something like McCarthy’s strong showing in the primary were to happen). So while LBJ won 49% of the vote and McCarthy won an impressive 42% of the vote, I think it’s always important to note that Johnson was a write-in candidate. Still, McCarthy’s performance was impressive, no matter what, and it was a sign that LBJ was going to face a fight from anti-war advocates during primary season and that McCarthy couldn’t be taken lightly. McCarthy technically came in second place in the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic Primary, but it was basically considered a victory, and his strong showing definitely led Johnson to withdraw from the race.
Why didn’t McCarthy do better in the 1968 Democratic primaries once Johnson withdrew from the race? Well, to put it bluntly, Bobby Kennedy screwed him over. For several months prior to the New Hampshire Primary, anti-war activists urged RFK to challenge LBJ for the Democratic nomination, but Kennedy consistently declined to consider a challenge and openly voiced his support in favor of President Johnson’s re-election. Then Eugene McCarthy stunned LBJ and the Democratic Party with his showing in the New Hampshire Primary, and it became clear that there was a passionate anti-war voting bloc that could make a serious difference in the 1968 election. Despite shooting down for months about not entering the race and supporting the incumbent LBJ over his fellow anti-war advocate McCarthy, Kennedy jumped into the race just four days after the New Hampshire Primary.
I know this isn’t a very scholarly way to put it, but RFK pulled a real dick move by jumping into the race after McCarthy had done the legwork in New Hampshire and demonstrated that President Johnson was very vulnerable. When Kennedy announced his candidacy, he immediately started siphoning a lot of those anti-war votes that had propelled McCarthy to the cusp of an upset over an incumbent President in the New Hampshire Primary. Many of those voters saw Kennedy as more electable than McCarthy because he was, of course, a Kennedy, and as they battled each other during the primaries that followed, Johnson’s Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey, joined the race and was basically seen as the mainstream candidate. To a lot of those young Democratic voters who had supported McCarthy and then bailed in favor of Kennedy once RFK declared his candidacy, HHH was a continuation of the Johnson Administration’s increasingly unpopular foreign policy. But the back-and-forth battle between RFK and McCarthy in many of the state primaries helped clear a path for Humphrey to take a nearly insurmountable lead in delegates as the 1968 Democratic National Convention approached. After winning the California Primary, Bobby Kennedy looked to have some momentum, but he was assassinated that night. In truth, RFK’s only chance at the nomination was probably if all of the candidates headed into the Democratic National Convention without anybody able to clinch the nomination on the first ballot and having a floor fight ensue. Even then, I believe it would have been unlikely for RFK to have been nominated by a Democratic National Convention that was still largely controlled by Lyndon Johnson’s party organization, which would have worked diligently to prevent Bobby Kennedy from being nominated as President. As for McCarthy, he ended up in second place in the delegate count at the Convention, but the battles between him and RFK during the primary season resulted in many of the delegates who had pledged to support Kennedy voting for anybody else besides McCarthy (Kennedy’s delegates were released from their pledge due to his death). Eugene McCarthy got a pretty raw deal in 1968 after being responsible for a major turning point in history with his near-defeat of President Johnson and the aftermath of the ‘68 New Hampshire Primary.
I agree — I think LBJ would have won in ‘68 if he had run. First of all, Hubert Horatio Humphrey, of all people, almost pulled off the victory over Richard Nixon in 1968. Humphrey lost the popular vote by a margin of just over 500,000 votes — in an election where George Wallace won nearly 10 million votes. Despite his Civil Rights accomplishments, I think Johnson would have neutralized Wallace in some of those Southern states. In fact, it’s very possible that a heavyweight like LBJ in the race would have kept George Wallace from launching a bid as serious as he actually did in 1968. Wallace won 46 Electoral votes (all of them being states of the Deep South) and I don’t think that would have happened with LBJ in the race.
Wallace was a big factor in the race, but another big factor was the battle for the Democratic nomination and the turbulence surrounding the primaries, RFK’s assassination, and the battles between Chicago police and anti-war protesters outside of the Democratic National Convention. If LBJ had been the candidate, there would have been no primary fight, and the DNC would have been much more disciplined. There definitely still would have been anti-war protests, but instead of seeming to add to the chaos of the Democrats’ nomination process, it would have come across differently.
And the biggest difference would have been the difference between Lyndon Baines Johnson on the campaign trail and Hubert H. Humphrey on the campaign trail. On television, LBJ often came across wooden and uninspiring, but he was something altogether different while campaigning. More importantly, LBJ wouldn’t have rolled over and just let Nixon get away with any Nixonian dirty tricks. LBJ could play just as dirty, and he would have if it meant the difference between four more years and a forced retirement. LBJ was the incumbent President of the United States and the head of the Democratic Party; he controlled the party apparatus would have known who to use the power of his office and his power of the Democratic Party to propel him to victory if it was kept close.
It definitely would have been closer than the 1964 election; LBJ wouldn’t have cruised to a landslide over Nixon in 1968 like he did over Barry Goldwater four years earlier, but I do think LBJ would have beat Nixon. In the election that we did get — a three-way race between Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace — the Electoral College results were Nixon 301, Humphrey 191, Wallace 46 (270 votes needed to win). Nixon won the popular vote in 1968 over Humphrey by only a few hundred thousand more votes than Kennedy beat him in 1960 (one of the narrowest victories in American history) and George Wallace claimed 9.9 million votes. As I said, in my opinion, if LBJ had run in ‘68, Wallace either wouldn’t have run or he wouldn’t have been able to get ballot access in all 50 states. Either way, he wouldn’t have won 9.9 million votes and I don’t think he would have won any of the five states that he did actually win in ‘68 (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi). LBJ would have built a powerful voter registration and get out the vote organization in those Southern states with large African-American populations whose right to vote was signed into law and protected three years earlier by LBJ. I think that those new voters, in addition to the Democrats who remained Democratic voters in the South despite LBJ’s Civil Rights policy, would have put those states in the Democratic column. Wallace also won one of North Carolina’s 13 Electoral votes in ‘68.
If it was just LBJ vs. Nixon, I think LBJ would have won all of the states that Humphrey won (Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia) as well as the states that Wallace won (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi). I also think that LBJ would have won 11 of the 32 states that Nixon won majorities in over Humphrey (Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia). In many of the 32 states that Nixon won in the actual 1968 election, his margin of victory was slim and Wallace’s removal from the equation likely would have swung more votes into the Democratic column than the Republican, resulting in a swing of those 11 states. The popular vote margin would still be pretty close, but LBJ would win majorities in most of the major states (those with the most Electoral College votes). In a straight LBJ vs. Nixon matchup in 1968, I think the Electoral College result would be: LBJ 381, Nixon 157.
And, yes, this question motivated me to actually go back and re-figure the 1968 Presidential election’s Electoral College map state-by-state. Don’t say I never did anything for you guys.
It is definitely impossible to predict, and there’s no guarantee he would have ever become President. I don’t think RFK would have won the 1968 election; in fact, I highly doubt he would have even won the Democratic nomination in 1968.
If RFK had eventually ended up as President, he would have had to change some of his ways. In order for Presidents to be successful they must find a way to frequently compromise and have to establish positive personal relationships with Congress. That wasn’t a strength of Bobby Kennedy’s, and Jimmy Carter is a prime example of what happens when that’s a major weakness of a President. Bobby Kennedy lacked JFK’s vision and Ted Kennedy’s political skills, as well as the natural charisma that both of those brothers possessed. RFK was the toughest of the brothers and probably the most fearless politically, and those qualities served him well as a campaign manager and in the chief of staff role that he unofficially filled in JFK’s Administration (along with being Attorney General). But those are traits that can also be troublesome for a President unless they are combined with the personal political skills that his brothers had stockpiles of.
No, I don’t think that it would be suicidal at all. I think Jeb Bush is the best possible candidate that the Republicans can put forth in 2016, and I think that he’s the only GOP contender who might be able to hang with Hillary Clinton. Ideologically, Jeb Bush is far more similar to his father than his brother, and I believe that he’s the only possible GOP candidate (unless the Republicans nominate Jon Huntsman — like they SHOULD) who can lock down the support of moderates. Bush would have trouble with the hardcore conservatives in his party, but if the GOP wants to have a chance in 2016, they’ll need to rally behind a candidate who might be able to…you know…win…and Bush is their best shot (and, even then, it’s no sure thing).
Romney has been adamant that he’s not running for President again and that he doesn’t imagine any sort of of draft changing his mind. Because of the guy that Romney is, I believe that he doesn’t want to run again, but I also think he’d accept a draft if he felt it was his duty to serve his party and country. And despite Romney’s defeats in the 2008 GOP primaries and the 2012 general election, I think he’s probably the strongest possible Republican candidate in 2016 (if he did change his mind and run) besides Jeb Bush.
James K. Polk, on his frustration with his Secretary of State James Buchanan for actively working to position himself as the leading candidate to succeed Polk as President and neglecting (in Polk’s mind) his duties in Polk’s Cabinet, personal diary entry, February 24, 1848.
From almost the beginning of his Administration, President Polk had pledged to only serve a single term and never had any intention to change his mind and seek reelection in 1848. However, Polk was almost universally dismissive — particularly in entries that he made in his White House diary — of nearly every person whose name was mentioned as a possible successor, regardless of whether they were fellow Democrats or members of the Whig Party. Polk was also adamant that members of his Cabinet refrain from partisan politics — even throughout 1848 as the Democrats were seeking a strong Presidential candidate who might be able to beat whichever former General fresh from military glory in the Mexican-American War — Zachary Taylor or Winfield Scott — was nominated by the Whigs.
Despite Polk’s efforts, Buchanan did seek the Democratic nomination in 1848, but lost to Lewis Cass, who was defeated by Zachary Taylor in the general election (Cass later served as Secretary of State when Buchanan was eventually elected President). Buchanan also unsuccessfully sought the 1852 Democratic nomination, losing out to dark horse Franklin Pierce who was suggested to the deadlocked Democratic National Convention as a compromise candidate and finally nominated after 49 ballots.
President Pierce nominated Buchanan to serve as U.S. Minister to Great Britain and being out of the country throughout the travails of the Pierce Administration and the worsening sectional crises over slavery was probably instrumental in Buchanan finally achieving his long-awaited goal of becoming President. In 1856, Pierce became the first President to be denied renomination by his own party as the Democrats turned to Buchanan instead. James K. Polk probably wouldn’t have been happy with his former Secretary of State’s election, but Polk had died just three months after leaving office in 1849. Although Buchanan had been mentioned as potential contender for the Presidency and was perhaps better qualified for the position than anyone else ever elected to the job, the nation’s troubles quickly worsened after he was sworn in and Buchanan never fulfilled the expectations many Americans had for a President with his experience. Today, he is considered one of the worst Presidents in American history.
No, not really. If she’s going to run for President in 2016, she’s going to have to face questions about her wealth and her health. I don’t see anything wrong with that, and I’m sure that Hillary and her team will put together the right answers to those questions as the campaign truly kicks into gear.
In 2008, and especially in 2012, Mitt Romney’s wealth was used by his opponents to portray him as out-of-touch with average Americans. The Clintons are also very wealthy, and most of that wealth has been from speaking fees and things that they’ve done since leaving the White House in 2001. There’s nothing wrong with that — and there was nothing wrong with Romney being wealthy — but they are fair game and they’ll have to deal with that.
As for Hillary Clinton’s health, that’s also a valid concern, as it should be with any Presidential contender. It’s important to remember that, if elected, Hillary Clinton will be the second oldest President on Inauguration Day in American history. Ronald Reagan was 69 years, 349 days old when he was inaugurated; Hillary Clinton will be 69 years, 86 days old on Inauguration Day. Reagan faced questions about his age and health in 1980 and 1984, Bob Dole’s age and health was a concern in 1996, John McCain’s age and health was an issue in 2008, and Hillary’s will be in 2016. I’m not a doctor and I haven’t seen her medical records, but I imagine that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t run for President if she wasn’t healthy enough to do so. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with voters wanting proof that her health — or any Presidential candidate’s health — isn’t an obstacle to the duties of a President.
She has a super PAC (“Ready For Hillary”) formed by some of her “former” top aides that is soliciting donations, building a supporter database, churning out e-mail blasts every other day, mailing bumper stickers, and snapping up endorsements from major Democratic figures. A campaign-style “Ready For Hillary” bus just happens to be showing up everywhere that she is making an appearance on her book tour. She’s in the midst of a media blitz that isn’t exactly the run-of-the-mill publicity tour for a book release — complete with town hall events for news networks and social media sites. She wrote a book that’s over 600 pages long but didn’t really say anything so as not to create a potential minefield during an eventual general election. The book is carefully constructed to avoid touching upon anything inflammatory, controversial, or too revealing that she might have to walk back at a later date. She has a full-fledged rapid response team that quickly goes after any attacks or mischaracterizations from her opposition and immediately clarifies any fuzzy statements or awkward quotes and cleans up any mistakes from her end.
I don’t know if Hillary Clinton is running for President in 2016, but I imagine she probably will because, quite frankly, Hillary Clinton is running for President right now.
Sure, she hasn’t declared that she’s running and she’s still saying that she’s “considering” it and will come to a decision sometime next year. But that’s because it doesn’t make any sense to publicly declare that you’re running for President two years out and have to deal with all of the campaign finance disclosures and quarterly reports when a super PAC can do the dirty work in the meantime, raise an unlimited amount of money, and have “no connection” to the candidate. Ready For Hillary is a proxy campaign; Hillary Clinton is undoubtedly running for President.
First of all, let me set the table a bit. The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, which sets forth the process for the election of the President and Vice President (and attempts to explain the Electoral College), instructs Presidential Electors to cast a separate ballot for the President and Vice President and prohibits Electors from casting both votes for candidates who reside in the same state as the Elector. To break that down, basically, that means that if I was an Elector, I couldn’t cast my ballot for a President and Vice President who, like me, live in California. At least one of my votes would have to go to someone residing in a different state.
Some take that to mean that the President and Vice President can’t be elected if their official residency is the same state. In actuality, they can reside in the same state, but Electoral votes are the ticket to the White House, so nobody wants to even risk the possibility of having even just one or two Electoral votes disqualified, which is what would happen if an Elector did cast ballots for a President and Vice President who both resided in the Electors state. In 2000, Dick Cheney established Wyoming as his official residency once he was named as George W. Bush’s running mate. Although Bush and Cheney both lived in Texas at the time, Cheney had a home in Wyoming, had represented Wyoming in Congress, and establishing official residences in different states protected them from any possible complications in the Electoral College.
Anyway, back to the main point of your question, yes, Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates declare their official state of residency when they seek election. I’m not positive when or how they do it — it could be when they file their paperwork to run, it could be as simple as it being where they are registered to vote. I’m not sure about the particulars. But there have been plenty of Presidents whose official state of residency was different from their state of birth.
And, since I’m here to give you as much information, as possible, whether you specifically ask for it or not, here are those Presidents:
•Andrew Jackson: Born in South Carolina; Represented Tennessee throughout his political career and is buried there.
•William Henry Harrison: Born in Virginia; Appointed to territorial government positions in the Northwest Territory and Indiana Territory early in his political career; Represented Ohio during the last half of his political career and at the time of his election as President; Buried in Ohio
•James K. Polk: Born in North Carolina; Represented Tennessee throughout his political career; Buried in Tennessee
•Zachary Taylor: Born in Virginia; Stationed throughout the country during his long military career; Officially resided in Louisiana at the time of his election as President; Buried in Kentucky
•Abraham Lincoln: Born in Kentucky; Represented Illinois throughout his political career; Buried in Illinois
•Jefferson Davis (Confederate President): Born in Kentucky; Represented Mississippi throughout his political career; Buried in Virginia
•Andrew Johnson: Born in North Carolina; Represented Tennessee throughout his political career; Buried in Tennessee
•Ulysses S. Grant: Born in Ohio; Officially resided in Illinois at the time of his Presidential election; Buried in New York
•Chester A. Arthur: Born in Vermont; Spent nearly his entire adult life working and living in New York which was his official state of residency when he was elected Vice President and succeeded to the Presidency upon Garfield’s assassination; Buried in New York
•Grover Cleveland: Born in New Jersey; Represented New York throughout his political career; Buried in New Jersey
•Benjamin Harrison: Born in Ohio; Represented Indiana throughout his political career; Buried in Indiana
•Woodrow Wilson: Born in Virginia and raised in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina; Represented New Jersey when elected to the only two political positions he ever campaigned for; Buried in Washington, D.C.
•Calvin Coolidge: Born in Vermont; Represented Massachusetts throughout his political career; Buried in Vermont
•Herbert Hoover: Born in Iowa and grew up there and in Oregon; Spent nearly a quarter-century working as a mining engineer and then relief organizer around the world; Officially resided in California at the time of his election as President; Buried in Iowa
•Dwight D. Eisenhower: Born in Texas and raised in Kansas; Stationed all over the country and, later, around the world during his military career; Resident of New York at the time of his first election as President in 1952, but established Kansas as his official residence at the time of the 1956 Presidential election; Buried in Kansas
•Richard Nixon: Born and raised in California; Represented California for the first half of his political career but moved to New York to join a law firm after losing the 1962 California gubernatorial campaign; New York was his official place of residence when elected President in 1968; Re-established California — the location of his “Western White House” — as his place of residency by the time of his re-election as President in 1972; Buried in California
•Gerald Ford: Born in Nebraska and raised in Michigan; Represented Michigan throughout his political career; Buried in Michigan
•Ronald Reagan: Born in Illinois; Represented California throughout his political career; Buried in California
•George H.W. Bush: Born in Massachusetts; Represented Texas throughout his political career; Has arranged to be buried in Texas upon his death
•George W. Bush: Born in Connecticut; Represented Texas throughout his political career; Planning to be buried in Texas upon his death
•Barack Obama: Born in Hawaii; Represented Illinois throughout his political career
First of all, I have never, ever seen the appeal of Joe Lieberman. I thought he was a crappy Vice Presidential pick for Al Gore in 2000, and I think the main reason why Lieberman was his choice was because Gore saw it as a way to deflect some of the heat off of him that he thought he faced from being connected to Clinton during the Lewisnky scandal. Lieberman was one of the most vociferous detractors of Clinton from the Democratic side, and Gore wanted some of that moralistic rub.
As for a bipartisan ticket, there are always going to be difficulties with that. An independent run is going to be even more difficult because independent candidates have to be highly organized and get an early start in order to get ballot access in all states, which they need to have even a slight chance at winning. In 2000, McCain would have needed to run as an independent almost from 1999 instead of seeking the GOP nomination (remember, he actually beat George W. Bush in the New Hampshire Primary in 2000) if he wanted a shot at being on the ballot in every state during the general election. Lieberman likely wouldn’t have been a consideration in 2000 as an independent candidate for anything since he actually was the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee that year.
As for 2008, I think that McCain/Lieberman is an interesting idea and, in hindsight, anything would have probably been better for the GOP than Sarah Palin on Election Day. I just can’t envision Lieberman getting nominated by the Republicans in 2008. Maybe he could have been nominated in 2012 after he had spent more time as an independent, but he in 2008, he was the key to a Democratic majority in the Senate. Since he was caucusing with the Democrats as an independent (as was Bernie Sanders), the Dems had a 51-49 majority. If Lieberman caucused with the Republicans, he would have lost his seniority and his chairmanships, but the Senate would have been tied and the Republican Vice President Dick Cheney would have been a tiebreaker. That probably would have been held against him if McCain put him forward as his choice for a running mate.
But 2004 is definitely a possibility. Listen, it’s no secret that John Kerry and John Edwards was an awful ticket, and yet, Kerry almost won the 2004 election because of the backlash against President Bush. It was well-known that McCain and Bush were not close, especially after the 2000 Republican primaries where McCain was Bush’s only serious challenger and Bush’s campaign used some dirty tricks against McCain (and McCain’s family) in the South Carolina Primary. I think McCain could have been nominated as a Vice Presidential candidate by the Democrats at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I think the Kerry/McCain ticket would have picked up some appeal from the anti-war Republicans and some moderates, as well as some of those Nader voters. Although Nader didn’t win any Electoral votes, he did win over 400,000 popular votes and in an election as close as 2004 was, that could have shifted things enough in the really close battleground states to have been the difference in 2004 and swing the election to John Kerry.