I can sense your excitement as you see the title. You probably perked up a little bit and your eyes widened. Just three months after the long and grueling 2012 race, we can start speculating about the not so far off next presidential race (cue throwing the confetti).
The narrowed list of potential Republican nominees I came to is Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Susana Martinez. These are the most floated names, and a few of them have made pretty big splashes recently. With no incumbent to run against in 2016, the initial field on both sides will be at least a dozen. But a lot of these names are people like Michelle Bachmann, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, etc. are the usual crowd that entertains the fringe and uses the coverage to sell books or be relevant in the media.
Condoleezza Rice is a stretch. Seeing as she was someone so knit into the Bush administration and Iraq, I don’t see it happening. The same might apply to Jeb Bush. He may be miles ahead of his brother in viability for a run and a former Florida governor, but something seems laughable about electing another Bush to office after W’s unpopular presidency, particularly if Obama’s second term ends on a positive note.
It is obvious Scott Walker has presidential ambitions ever since he compared his unrelenting policies in Wisconsin to Reagan cracking down on air traffic workers. If he decides to run in 2016 he will be a crowd favorite for leading the charge cracking down on unions and showering the state in tax cuts. The ultimate test for him will be to win the 2014 governors’ race. A win would affirm his policies in the state as make him much more viable for the presidential race, while a loss would doom his prospects. He will be hurt by the lackluster job growth in Wisconsin and the heavily partisan fighting that came as a result of his agenda. This might make him a strong contender for the primaries, but he would struggle in a general election.
Marco Rubio is another favorite prospect for 2016. The State of the Union response is often a tell from the party thinks has potential, which he was given the honor of this time around. Marco’s Cuban American background is seen as a way of helping the Republicans overcome their poor support among minorities, particularly Latino Americans. But to actually bring in that support he needs to be behind the immigration reform efforts to not make him seem out of touch. Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico would also be able to pull these same strings, and might be a good prospect since she was given a speaking spot at the RNC right before Paul Ryan. The Republicans desperately need to get some viable women in their field to limit the old white guy vibe the party tends to have. But she doesn’t have the name recognition her potential male counterparts will have, and without much controversial legislation like her Arizona counterpart, she doesn’t have much to set her apart (Jan Brewers papers please law is cause for not having her on this list.)
I think New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is the clear choice for the Republicans. There was a lot of pressure for him to get into the 2012 race but I think he, like many Republicans who opted against running, figured the race was going to be a lost cause. He has shown he’s willing to separate with his party on issues like immigration and gun control. He’s loud and edgy on the policies he puts forward. He has cut down major infrastructure projects in the name of fiscal responsibility and pledged to not raise taxes. He is somewhat moderate compared to his likely competition, which gives him one of the better prospects in the field for a general election. His trouble will be being forced to move too far right in the primary as Romney did. It might also help to lose a few pounds. He could probably pull off the Chip n Dale Chris Farley skit right now.
On the Democratic side, the names I’ve seen the most are Hillary Clinton, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Joe Biden, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Antonio Villaragiosa, and Cory booker. The Democrats will also have several other names coming to test the water.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is in his last term as governor, and he has recently made a push to give easier access to late term abortion when a woman’s health is at risk. This bold and potentially toxic topic looks like a good position to pivot from if he’s planning a 2016 run, and it would give even more fodder for his progressive edge.
As great as I think Joe Biden is as a debater and a campaigner, I don’t know if he would be up for another campaign, though he has been a very active Vice President. I haven’t heard of strong push from grassroots to get him into position or obviously from sources close to him, since that might be an awkward leak coming from a fresh second term Vice President.
Martin O’Malley is another progressive potential who has had his name mentioned. He helped legalize same sex marriage in Maryland as well as a bill that allows some educational financial aid for children of undocumented immigrant’s state under certain criteria. He’s a catholic like Biden, which would give him some additional support from faith oriented liberals. He’s a popular governor according to public polling, and is likely to win a third term as governor should he chose to run.
Cory Booker and Antonio Villaraigosa are also seen as fresh, upcoming stars in the party. Both are successful mayors and have pursued gun control and education reform. They might add something to the primaries, but their low name recognition would need to be overcome quickly to give them a chance against the big party names.
Hillary Clinton however, is by my view, the democratic nominee for 2016. She had tremendous support in her 2008 run against Obama, and left her recent office as secretary of State extremely popular. There are several groups and PACs already nudging her to run, and she hasn’t made an effort to quiet them. She has the name recognition and past campaign foundation, the track record as one of the most traveled diplomats in U.S. history, the superstar status of her husband, the financial base from her 2008 run, and the very likely support of Obama for a run. The Democratic primaries will be tough for her again if people like O’Malley and Cuomo are up against her, but with her household name and impressive resume I don’t think the primaries will be as bloody as they were in 2008, which may in the end help her chances in a general election. Assuming the rest of the Obama presidency goes without major scandal, support for the first female democratic president that is ideologically consistent with her predecessor would be high.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is another possible candidate. He would certainly be an interesting addition to the mix. He’s slightly fiscally conservative on a few issues and is a big part of the business community. But he’s also a champion of social policy, instituting the smoking ban and 16 oz. soda in New York. He is a staunch supporter of abortion rights, gay marriage, and gradual amnesty for undocumented immigrants. He has huge personal wealth at his disposal which would make a dandy war chest for campaigning. He is also an independent. I have no clue how that would work out if he chose to run as an independent, but since this is his final term as mayor, he has the potential to shake things up in a big, third party kind of way.
And who would I be if I forgot the libertarians! I’m not sure if Ron Paul has another presidential run in him, but his tea party supported son Senator Rand Paul would have his supporters at his back should he decide to run. He gave the tea party response for the state of the union, which clearly signifies prestige as he followed in the enormous footsteps of Michelle Bachmann from last year. I can only imagine how fizzled out the tea party will be in 2016 and I see about as much hope for Rand as I did for his pappy. He doesn’t have that cute grandpa vibe.
Assuming the more moderate Republicans don’t get cleaved from the right by a more conservative candidate, dooming the Republican chances at the presidency, my prediction is that Hillary Clinton will end up facing Chris Christie in the 2016. I think Clinton will inevitably claim her long sought prize of the presidency in that fight.