One of the most read articles on my blog last year was the 2016 presidential predictions I made right after President Obama’s reelection. A year has gone by, and we are about to begin the pre-pre-season of presidential politics, where “important people” make “big announcements,” so I figured we were due for an update on the field. Note: this is a long post so gird your help-laced loins and dig in.
The Democratic Candidates
The big fish here is obviously former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She is leading all polls, mainly based on name recognition, and has access to some of the finest minds in Democratic politics. I’ve contended that she is not running for president, but here is the breakdown:
Why she is running: Her associated PAC, Ready for Hillary, is already raising money and she has openly said she is considering it. If she runs, she has a pretty strong path to victory, with polls showing her competitive in red states like Texas and Tennessee.
Why she is not running: Health and legacy. Her (and Bill’s) health has been spotty over the last four years and the intense grind of a presidential campaign might not leave much left of her to sit in the Oval Office. The other reason is legacy. Right now, she would end her career as a successful senator and influential secretary of state. If she shoots for the presidency and falls short, she goes down in history as the two-time failed “woman” candidate.
My Prediction: Hillary takes the money she has raised and endorses one of the kick-ass women farther down on this list. She campaigns to get that woman elected and then spends the rest of her years helping women around the world through the Clinton foundation.
What about Joe Biden? Usually, the vice president tops everyone’s list for potential candidates, but I remain skeptical at best. While Biden has expressed interest in running, I believe he is doing what he does best, being an awesome team player. I think his interest is just a smoke screen so the other candidates can put together their teams in relative obscurity.
Why he is not running: Similar to Hillary, Biden is nearing the end of his political career with some great successes under his belt. I think the only thing left that he really craves is becoming secretary of state. He was the chair of the foreign relations committee in the Senate and loves the art of diplomacy.
My Prediction: The Biden endorsement serves as an early tip-off as to whom the Obama administration supports in the primary. After a few years as a private citizen, Biden resurfaces in the cabinet of a future Democratic administration.
So, if not them, then who?
Kirsten Gillibrand, the junior senator from New York, is a good place to start. This former congresswoman, now senator, has made a name for herself as a crusader against sexual assault in the military, often getting into public rows with her fellow Democratic senators to bring this issue forward.
Strengths: She’s media savvy, relatively moderate (for New York) and has some national name recognition.
Weaknesses: She was the number one recipient of Goldman Sachs funds of all congresspeople in 2011-2012. JP Morgan Chase has helped fund her campaigns over the last five years and I believe that 2016 will be fought over income inequality. Being in the bankers’ pockets will definitely hurt her.
Martin O’Malley, former mayor of Baltimore and current governor of Maryland has been openly discussing a run for the presidency. As mayor, he oversaw a 40% reduction in violent crimes in Baltimore (to the dismay of “The Wire” fans) and as governor, he has charted a pretty liberal list of accomplishments (implementing the Maryland version of the DREAM act, legalizing same-sex marriage, repealing the death penalty).
Strengths: If you are looking for a straight, white-bread Democrat, this guy is the model candidate. Little controversy, steady track record, straightforward personal life and history.
Weaknesses: Looking through the lists of potential candidates, I can only see him winning by default, simply because he is boring. When you’ve got all these fascinating and inspirational candidates (for the primary and the general), the Sears-model Democrat just isn’t going to get noticed.
Bernie Sanders, the country’s sole socialist senator, has expressed interest in running but very few people believe he has a real shot at the presidency. He is committed to not raising gobs of money from special interests and has advocated for such radical ideas as single payer health care, national legalization of marijuana and opposing the bailout of the financial industry . . . views that a majority of Americans support. Naturally, he is completely unelectable.
Strengths: He is remarkably honest, often eschewing the traditional politician’s dodge and offering up substantive policy arguments. He is quirky, media-savvy and quite likeable.
Weaknesses: Sadly, America is not ready to elect a socialist (Seattle aside). While he has the right ideas, the media will treat him like the second coming of Dennis Kucinich and shove him into the corner.
Amy Klobuchar, the senior senator from Minnesota, has long topped my list of “favorite potential vice-presidential candidates.” (Yes, I have these lists, what do you think I do in all my spare time?) As a legal expert, political moderate and very popular woman in a swing state, she would be an ideal candidate for president.
Strengths: Aside from those mentioned above, she also would get a free shot at the presidency without having to endanger her Senate seat (she’s not up for reelection until 2018).
Weaknesses: Amy who? She is not well-known outside Minnesota so it would be an uphill climb to build a presidential campaign.
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, has received much praise for his role in passing marriage equality in his state. However, his frequent and repeated embraces of Republican policies and politicians has earned the ire of his solidly liberal constituents. Then again, he
is was married to a Kennedy and will probably shift a little more left before running.
Strengths: He can fundraise like crazy through his family connections and his New York base. He is also wicked-good at debates.
Weaknesses: Similar to Gillebrand, the Wall Street guys have their hooks into him and he is far more conservative than his portfolio would suggest, which could lead to some friction with the base.
Brian Schweitzer, the former governor of Montana, has long been my favorite pick for presidential contender. His blend of libertarian (pro gun rights, pro medical marijuana, anti-Real ID database) and environmentalism (blocking cyanide mining, supporting wind, solar and biofuel in Montana) is a good fit for the emerging mountain Democratic coalition. This former soil scientist turned politician has cut a flashy trail through Montana politics, and will definitely make a splash on the national stage.
Strengths: Currently, he does not have a day job, leaving him plenty of time to campaign. His profile as a governor of a red state makes him a hot media commodity and his cowboy personality works well on screen.
Weaknesses: Despite his impressive work on climate change and renewable energy, he does support so-called “clean coal” and the Keystone Pipeline, seriously undercutting his credibility on environmental issues.
The Republican Candidates
In my view, this side of the race is much more exciting. The Republicans have an easier time this cycle because they are on offense, however, their continued alienation from any non-white, non-male, non-straight, non-young voters is continuing to cost them elections.
Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, is the current front runner for the nomination. In my previous post, I highlighted the need for a candidate who would appeal to the young libertarian wing, the business wing and the traditional conservative wings of the party. I now think Paul could pull it off. He has made a national name for himself on issues such as auditing the Fed and oversight for drone use while still appealing to mainline conservatives with his attempt to shut the entire government down.
Strengths: Cross-over appeal with disaffected Democrats and libertarians, and a strong network of online fundraising left over from his father’s campaigns.
Weaknesses: Paul has some serious issues with race. He has had several staffers resign for racists comments or incidents, he wants to roll back the Civil Rights Act, specifically the provisions that forbid businesses from refusing to serve minorities. He has since walked some of this back, but it will be return. While it isn’t necessarily a problem during the primary, it could prove toxic in the general election.
Chris Christie, the loud-mouthed governor of New Jersey, is another popular contender, but I think his goose is cooked. His moderate persona and role as Republican governor of a blue state makes him an attractive candidate for the general, but many Republicans blame his praise of Obama’s role in the Hurricane Sandy clean-up for Obama’s 2012 victory. Add to that, some lingering corruption issues from Jersey and you have a boat that’s dead in the water.
Strengths: The media loves his brassy style and he has proven a very effective fundraiser.
Weaknesses: The Republican base wants to skewer him and then perhaps burn him in effigy. If there is an injection of realism into the GOP in the next year, he has a shot, but the last few years make me very doubtful.
Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, used to be the golden child of the 2016 team. He was a fresh, Latino face on the Republican side and being elected from the largest swing state in the union certainly helped. Unfortunately, he has a major problem. He was forced to kill his signature bill, immigration reform, when he discovered that Republican voters and elected officials don’t really want any sort of immigration reform that does not involve a bigger fence. How he made it this far without realizing that? I’m not really sure.
Strengths: He is a charming, if thirsty, public speaker and he will offer a strong contrast to the other old white candidates.
Weaknesses: He is young and a bit gaffe prone. I could see him being a top shelf vice president candidate but his own campaign is going nowhere.
Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, is also mulling a run. I think he might surprise many people who wrote him off after his complete implosion during the 2012 debates. He should have been a top tier candidate last time but for whatever reason, either lousy staff or his own bottled crazy, he completely choked. If he makes a second go of it, I imagine he will bring his A-game (unlike the Seahawks against the Cardinals last week. What the hell?)
Strengths: He is a great fundraiser and has an impeccable conservative track record in Texas.
Weaknesses: Apparently, he likes to get drunk before debates and major speeches.
Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, should be everyone’s first pick for vice president. She is the first female and first Latina governor of New Mexico. While she is a former Democrat (up until 1995), her conservative record as governor is pretty solid. She handily beat a pretty competitive Democrat in her 2010 campaign. Watch to see if she runs for reelection in 2014, that will signal whether she is going to be involved in this presidential race.
Strengths: Won a swing state, and is what is cynically referred to as a “two-fer,” being both Latina and a woman.
Weaknesses: A former Democrat? She won’t get far in the primaries on her own.
Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, has many of the same challenges and benefits as Martinez. She is the first woman and Indian to hold the governor’s mansion in the Tarheel state. Her administration has been solidly conservative and she helped lead the fight against Obamacare on the local level.
Strengths: Governor, woman, in charge of a state holding one of the earliest primaries.
Weaknesses: Having grown up Sikh might be a deal breaker for the evangelicals within the party. Also, there is some sort of scandal involving her having an affair with a conservative blogger. It is probably false, because seriously, who would have an affair with a blogger?
John Thune, senator from South Dakota, is pretty much the Republican version of Martin O’Malley. He is what people picture when they think about a traditional Republican candidate. He has been in the Senate for a while, racked up a steady conservative record and is relatively telegenic. He has done nothing to make waves, one way or another, and was considered for the vice president slot by both McCain and Romney.
Strengths: He is inoffensive to Republican voters and will toe the party line.
Weaknesses: He is really, really boring.
What About ????
Yes, I left some people out because I don’t believe they are seriously considering running. Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren and Mark Warner. Why? Because all those people are really happy doing what they are currently doing.
Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are making good money on the conservative speaker circuit (from Fox News to your medium-sized county fair!). Schumer wants to be majority leader after Harry Reid retires, Elizabeth Warren is really enjoying her role as slow-roaster of Wall Street crooks and Mark Warner just wants to stay in Virginia.
Let me know your thoughts on the 2016 race in the comments below. I will circle around and reassess these candidates as they jump into the race.