November 5, 2014, 12:01AM Eastern Standard Time: The 2016 United States Presidential election officially commenced.
The confetti is still fresh on the floor of campaign headquarters in Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, and beyond yet the political operatives have begun their process of crunching numbers and laying out potential candidate scenarios for 2016. What, if anything did the results and dynamic of the 2014 mid-term election tell us about the 2016 Presidential campaign?
Is pre-destined Hillary still on track to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Is Senator Elizabeth Warren a serious threat to Hillary? Will any other Democrats emerge from their fox holes and challenge the former Secretary of State? What happens if Hillary decides she’d rather focus on giving $250,000 speeches and pass on 24 months of campaign craziness?
On the Republican side of the ledger; will the grownups be able to control the message and agenda on Capital Hill, or will the rhetorical fire bombers prevail? Who will run for the GOP nomination? Will the “war on women” continue or has an armistice been reached?
One of the most compelling messages out of the election was the Republican Party’s ability to present a “reasonable” slate of candidates to the voters. Unlike 2012 and 2010, there were few, if any, nut-job candidates on the red team ballot. Voila!….look at the results. It’s amazing what happens when candidates are reasoned, thinking people. It’s acceptable to be pro-life; just don’t present as the jackass who wants to burn down the city clinic. The theme of thoughtful exploration of issues beyond the social third-rail proved decisive. Independent voters were given choices they could actually vote for.
Democrats were in a tight box defending the perfect storm. Many contested states were red (Montana, Alaska, South Dakota, Georgia, Arkansas, and Louisiana). Iowa was an open seat as liberal stalwart Tom Harkin opted for the golden dinner-speech circuit and retired. This coupled with a President who continued down a destructive path of self-absorbed arrogance. His insistence that the election was about HIS policies was a gift to the Republicans that kept giving. The underlying mood of the country was morose.
Where does this leave the 2016 campaign?
For the Democrats, Hillary is the elephant (donkey) in the room. It’s a challenge to imagine she won’t run, but she and Bill were less than successful campaigning for Democrats during this cycle. The most jarring and personal disappointment was Mark Pryor’s beat down in their home state of Arkansas.
Hillary will be in her 70th year on January 20, 2017. Does she have the fire and stamina to run 24 grueling months to win the prize? Will her record hold up to scrutiny? She’s burning calories distancing herself from the current administration, yet she was a central part of it. She is viewed with skepticism by liberal players in the Democratic caucus. This has led to her attempt to appease them. Republicans are salivating over future political ads created around: “Don’t let anyone tell that, ah, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs” tagline. She will be bludgeoned with that comment by Republicans. Hillary has the same challenge moderate Republicans have during the primary season: the perceived necessity to lean outside their philosophical equator to appease the party fringe. Another issue facing Hillary is the lack of a compelling resume. In the clear light of mid-morn: what has she accomplished and managed successfully? She has been a lawyer, First Lady, junior United States Senator (8 years), United States Secretary of State (4 years), and million dollar speech giver. Her resume lacks successful management experience and given the dubious foreign policy record of the Obama administration, her time as the country’s senior diplomat is hardly a ringing endorsement. Another challenge for Hillary is she is not Bill. Where her husband connects easily with people, Hillary is a challenged campaigner. The lessons of the 2008 electoral fiasco are not lost on the pages of campaign lore.
Hillary is the Kardashian of politics: famous…..for being famous. She is the presumed nominee……because she is the presumed nominee. It’s her birthright within the party. This is why the door is open for the voice of Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Warren is two years younger than Hillary. While she is a fresh voice in the Democratic Party, she has zero chance of being elected President. If the past 6 years have demonstrated anything, it’s that rookie ideologues fail as Presidential experiments. The public will not roll that die again. This dynamic scuttles Texas Senator Ted Cruz as a viable candidate.
The other obvious Democratic candidate is the affable Vice President. Joe Biden never met a person he could not befriend. His curriculum vitae is solid. He has one glaring shortcoming: he cannot win on the national stage, having run unsuccessfully for President at least twice. There is a shocking scarcity of workable Democratic talent available for the White House vacancy. Could it be that Hillary must run because the party has so few options? Very few names jump out as the past two years has been so dominated by Hillary-speak. Few potential candidates could find a voice. Governors Cuomo of New York or O’Malley of Maryland? It’s a lineup in need of players, and the dugout is empty save a couple bat boys and girls.
There is a theme promoted by many “intelligentsia” that the United States must have a woman in the White House, or at least the Naval Observatory. Why? As the Democrats lurch toward a Hillary coronation, Republicans contemplate a woman on their ticket. Really? Leadership must be based on proven competence and ideas as opposed to checking off a politically correct gender/race box. Exceptional leaders may don any race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender; but that alone is not a qualifier to hold the reins of responsibility and power of the United States.
Unlike Democrats, the viable Republican Presidential roster is solid. The list includes governors Kasich (Ohio), Walker (Wisconsin), Martinez (New Mexico), Jindal (Louisiana), Daniels (Indiana), Snyder (Michigan), Perry (formerly Texas), Pataki (formerly New York), and Bush (formerly Florida). The electorate has taken a bite of the no-experience apple and found its taste bitter. Senators Cruz and Rubio, while oft mentioned, will not win a general election. The public is worn out on obnoxious, polarizing, and self-absorbed Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio, while a deft orator, remains bereft of experience. An irony of the Obama presidency is its death-star impact on rookies of either party.
Until recently, Rand Paul presented an interesting option. The Republican Kentucky Senator with a sincere independent and libertarian streak has an insurmountable challenge overcoming his commitment to isolation in a world fraught with greater danger with each passing day. There will of course be noise from Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, but that’s all it is.….noise.
Each morning that Hillary wakes and has not communicated a clear intention to run (or not run) for President is another wasted day for Democrats. The United States will elect a 45th President in a little over seven-hundred days. By hiding in a cloak of inevitability she does herself no favors, and is in fact crippling the efforts of other Democrat candidates as the entire party is paralyzed.
Illustration: Girl Before A Mirror by Pablo Picasso