Forty-Five? The Politic Looks Ahead to 2016

Just one month after the polls closed on Election Day, speculation and preparation are already well underway for the 2016 Presidential contest.  Democrats are searching for a candidate that can generate the enthusiasm President Obama inspired in his 2008 — and to a lesser extent, 2012 — run.  Any credible Democrat must also match the President’s turnout machine and fundraising prowess while maintaining his diverse coalition of supporters.  Republicans, on the other hand, will have to endure a period of soul-searching after losing to a President many believed was eminently beatable.  Before long, however, candidates will emerge for both the Democratic and Republican Presidential nominations.

According to Richard Socarides, a Democratic political strategist and commentator who served as Special Assistant and Senior Advisor to the Clinton Administration, “Voters always gravitate towards candidates that can inspire and articulate a vision of the future.”  As of today, four candidates stand as the most likely choices for the Democratic nomination come 2016: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo and Martin O’Malley.  Although the Republican field is less defined, four of the most likely GOP standard-bearers are: Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan.

The Democratic Field

1. Hillary Clinton

No speculation about potential Democratic candidates could begin without a mention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  A widely popular former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, Clinton has solid domestic and foreign policy credentials, as well as significant campaign experience. A poll of likely 2016 Democratic candidates in Iowa found Clinton with a 41-point lead. The problem? Clinton has stated that she has no intention of running for office and plans to step down as Secretary of State in early 2013.

Whether she is serious — and if she can be convinced to again pursue elected office  to the national spotlight with her popularity intact — remains to be seen.  Meanwhile, other possible candidates are left in a gray zone as they wait for her to make a decisive move.  Said Socarides, “If she decides not to run it would be a much more open field, with Vice President Biden being a very formidable candidate.”

2. Joe Biden

While he has made no outright mention of a 2016 Presidential bid, Vice President Joe Biden has not abandoned the possibility either, commenting that his recent reelection may not be the last time he votes for himself.  A veteran of numerous national campaigns, Biden shares Clinton’s campaign experience, though his reputation for gaffes and advanced age could hamper a 2016 run.

John Samples, Director of the libertarian Cato Institute’s Center for Representative Government, expressed doubts that a Biden candidacy would be successful — if he chooses to run at all.  Samples posited that Biden’s decision to run hinges on Obama’s second term and that “if the administration is running well, he can continue with that platform.”  Regardless, Biden’s decades in the national arena have exposed him to the public and give him a fighting chance for the Democratic nomination.

3. Andrew Cuomo

Another potentially strong candidate is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who would begin the contest with the support of a large, blue, and cash-flush state.  A former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Cuomo has accomplished much in his time in the Governor’s mansion, from legalizing same-sex marriage to cutting spending to maintaining a glittering 71 percent approval rating.

According to Socarides, a New York-based attorney, “He’s extremely popular here in New York. Cuomo has done a great job at reestablishing New York as the progressive center of the country.”  Cuomo has been coy about his national ambitions, yet even if he does not run in the upcoming Presidential election, he is only 55 and — as Socarides noted — could very well “run in 2020 or 2024.”

4. Martin O’Malley

Although he may presently be the longest shot on this list, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is perhaps the most likely to throw his hat into the race for the Democratic nomination.  In Maryland, O’Malley has been instrumental in pushing education reform, legalizing same-sex marriage, raising taxes on high-income spenders, and providing conditional in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.

Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, O’Malley gained valuable media exposure from his frequent talk show appearances and trips around the country as an Obama surrogate.  Indeed, party insiders are confident that O’Malley — who is already barnstorming early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire — is gearing up for a run.  Whether this will be enough to challenge Clinton, Biden and Cuomo remains to be seen.

Other possible Democratic candidates include Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren.

The Republican Field

1. Chris Christie

Chief among the potential Republican candidates for President in 2016 is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  A blunt former U.S. Attorney, Christie has significant policy achievements despite the blue tinge of his state.  Christie signed a bill this August that overhauls the New Jersey school system, for example, mandating that teachers will now be graded themselves and easier to fire.

Yet according to Roger Pilon, founder and director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, Christie is will likely struggle to win any national office.  “Christie damaged himself and his prospects by [getting] unnecessarily close to Obama in the days before the election after Hurricane Sandy struck,” said Pilon, asserting that Christie’s hurricane response weakened his standing among Republicans.  Moreover, Christie has decided to run for reelection as Governor in 2013, delaying the start of any potential national campaign.

2. Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush served as the Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.  During his tenure as governor — and subsequent years as a Republican rainmaker — Bush is perhaps best known for his enthusiastic embrace of Hispanics and immigration reform. Though Bush supports tightening border security, he also backed the DREAM Act and supports a pathway to citizenship for foreign workers. Because Hispanics represent an increasingly large voting bloc, political strategists argue that Bush’s ideas are ideal for a Republican Party that failed to garner even 30 percent of the Hispanic vote this year.

Many Republicans, however, are wary of supporting another Bush, given the relative unpopularity of his father and brother. “We’ve had two Bushes and that’s quite enough” said Pilon. Nonetheless, Jeb Bush would undoubtedly command a significant following if he decides to enter the Presidential race.

3. Marco Rubio

An eloquent and charismatic son of Cuban immigrants, Florida Senator Marco Rubio may also help the GOP appeal to Hispanic voters.  Rubio’s legislative record has not yet been particularly noteworthy, but his public speeches — including an address at the Republican National Convention — have endeared him to Republicans across the country.

Rubio stoked further speculation about a possible 2016 run this November when he headlined a fundraiser in Iowa, which hosts the first-in-the-nation caucuses.  Influential Republicans privately worry that Rubio’s youth and dealings as a Florida state legislator could hamper his candidacy.  But if he does decide he run, Rubio will nonetheless begin with perhaps the most support of any Republican in the field.

4. Paul Ryan

Arguably the most recognizable candidate in the possible Republican field is Paul Ryan, this year’s Vice Presidential nominee. Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, is notable for his tenure atop the House Budget Committee and his budget blueprint, which he titled “The Path to Prosperity.”  The document catapulted Ryan to fame for its sharp criticism of Democratic spending policies, as well as proposals to cut several trillion dollars in spending and close tax loopholes.

The chief architect of the Republican fiscal platform, Ryan garners support from both the GOP grassroots and his party’s most influential fundraisers.  Moreover, that Ryan emerged from his 2012 loss with his reputation intact indicates that his time in the national spotlight is far from over.

Other possible Republican candidates include Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, South Dakota Senator John Thune, Texas Senator-elect Ted Cruz and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

Joshua Faber and Aia Sarycheva are freshmen in Branford College

 

Published by Aia Sarycheva

Aia Sarycheva is a contributor to The Politic from Brooklyn, New York. Contact her at aia.sarycheva@yale.edu.

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