It’s only been one week since Barack Obama was re-elected president of the United States and I am already suffering from election withdrawal. As you could likely tell from the frequency and intensity of my Facebook posts, I quite enjoy politics. For me, it is the ultimate blood sport and, unlike the NFL or NBA, there are real-life consequences for all of us. Nowhere are the political stakes any higher than in presidential elections. As Americans, we have the unique distinction of selecting the single-most powerful elected official on the planet. That is an awesome responsibility.
I also enjoy the theatre and spectacle of presidential elections. In the modern era, presidential campaigns have become, for all intents and purposes, made-for-television events. Actually, these campaigns are more like reality shows, where we follow the candidates around 24/7, watching their every move and hanging on their every word. But now that the election is over, there are no more debates, conventions, stump speeches or televisions ads. After a few days of election post-mortems, even the media turns its collective attention elsewhere. Given these circumstances, what are political voyeurs like to me supposed to do?
Well, there is a silver lining: the 2016 presidential election will be here before we know it. Presidential campaigns in this country are interminable, so we can expect to see potential candidates trying to raise money and increase their profiles by making trips to states like Iowa and New Hampshire over the next few months. And with congressional mid-terms elections less than two years out, the parties will be jockeying for position for the 2016 presidential race. Color me content.
Here is a look at some potential candidates for president from both parties:
- Hillary Clinton – Secretary of State: The transformation of Hillary Clinton’s public image over the past 20 years has been remarkable. Once considered a shrill and polarizing figure, Clinton is now one of the most respected and admired people in the world. She is retiring from the State Department after four grueling years on the road and has steadfastly denied any interest in or intention of running for president again in 2016. I’m not buying it. If Clinton runs, she would be the prohibitive favor to not only win the Democratic nomination, but also the White House in the general election. In short, it will be too tempting to pass up, especially in light of the historical significance. By the way, there is a reason why no one campaigned harder for President Obama than former President Bill Clinton, who recognizes that his wife would be far better off running for president in an open field than against an incumbent Mitt Romney. It will be Clinton’s race to lose.
- Joe Biden – Vice-President: Republicans and the media tend to underestimate Biden. He is an experienced and shrewd politician. Having said that, the avuncular Biden is known more for his gaffes than his political acumen. Also, Biden, who failed to gain any traction in his two previous runs for president in 1988 and 2008, will be 73 years old in 2016, which would make him the oldest person ever elected to the White House. While a Biden-Clinton showdown would not rend the party in the same way that the titanic Obama-Clinton battle did in 2008, Democrats may want to urge Biden to bow out gracefully so they can unite behind Clinton. Good luck with that, however, as Biden has already sent signals that he intends to run in 2016.
- Andrew Cuomo – Governor of New York: Cuomo, a former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Bill Clinton, has enjoyed an approval rating of over 70% in New York. He also gained national attention for his leadership on legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. However, it will be interesting to see whether the sins of the father will be visited upon the son. Cuomo’s father Mario was also the governor of New York and the darling of the Democratic Party in 1980s. The elder Cuomo turned down overtures to run for president, as well as an appointment to the United States Supreme Court, choosing instead to run for re-election for governor in 1994. He lost to George Pataki and has largely faded from the public scene. Mindful of his father’s missed opportunities, the current New York governor may look to leverage on his popularity and throw his hat in the ring.
- Martin O’Malley – Governor of Maryland: O’Malley is the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and one of President Obama’s most ubiquitous surrogates. His national ambitions are well known. O’Malley was given a high profile speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention in September, although his speech was considered a disappointment by some. O’Malley is a loyal and dutiful soldier for the Democratic Party, but he lacks the name recognition of other potential candidates like Clinton and Biden. He might be better suited for a vice-presidential role in the short term.
- Mark Warner – Senator from Virginia: Warner, a former Virginia governor and business executive, considered a run for president in 2008. Instead, he sought and won a seat in the Senate. Warner is a moderate and has been heavily involved in the ongoing debt negotiations as a member of the so-called Gang of Six. His voting record might give him some credibility with independents and conservatives, but it remains to be seen how it would play among rank and file Democrats in the primaries.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer (Montana), Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand (New York), Gov. Deval Patrick (Massachusetts), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) and Mayor Corey Booker (Newark).
- Jeb Bush – Former two-term Governor of Florida: Bush would be the candidate coveted most by party elites and donors. He left office in 2007 with an approval rating of 60%. More importantly, the Bush family, to their credit, has always been ahead of the curve among Republicans on reaching out to Latinos, the fastest growing demographic in the country. Jeb speaks fluent Spanish and is married to a Mexican-American. He has also criticized the party for becoming too extreme on immigration and deficit reduction. The biggest challenge for Bush, who has not run for office in 10 years, is whether the “Bush brand” has been so severely tarnished by his brother that it would be impossible for him to overcome.
- Chris Christie – Governor of New Jersey: Christie was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Republican National Convention. Many Republicans hoped that Christie would run for president in 2012, but he declined. He was also considered for the slot of Romney’s vice-presidential running mate, which ultimately went to Paul Ryan. The feisty and intemperate Christie is somewhat of a wild card for Republicans. He was criticized for focusing his convention speech on himself rather than his party’s standard-bearer Mitt Romney. He also ruffled some feathers for effusively praising President Obama for his handling of Hurricane Sandy on the eve of the election. Christie is up for re-election in New Jersey, a deeply blue state, in 2014 and his performance will go a long way in determining his prospects in 2016.
- Paul Ryan – Congressman from Wisconsin: The Chairman of the House Budget Committee and 2012 vice-presidential nominee is a rock star among conservatives. His controversial budget plan is still the ideological playbook for the Republican Party. However, history is not on Ryan’s side. In the last 50 years, there have been a total of 12 losing vice-presidential nominees – and not one of them has gone on to win the White House. Two additional notes of caution on the 42 year old Ryan: 1) he has never won a statewide election; and 2) the last (and only) time a member of the House of Representatives ran successfully for president was in1880 (James Garfield).
- Marco Rubio – Senator from Florida:Republicans received just 27% of the Latino vote in 2012.Rubio, who is Cuban-American, will be front and center as the party looks to “soften” its stance on immigration.It also doesn’t hurt that he is from the perpetual swing state of Florida, which Romney lost by a margin of 70,000 votes. Notably, Rubio will be in Iowa, the site of the nation’s first presidential contest, to headline a fundraiser for Governor Terry Branstad later this month.
- Rick Santorum – Former Senator from Pennsylvania: Republicans have a long history of picking the candidate that finished second in the previous primary contest (see George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain and, most recently, Romney). As the old saying goes, the GOP does not fall in love, it falls in line. If form holds true, then Rick Santorum will be the heir apparent to the party mantel in 2016. However, Santorum is a culture warrior whose draconian views on issues like immigration, abortion and gay rights will only serve to exacerbate the demographic divide that could be the death knell of the party.
Gov. Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Gov. Susana Martinez (New Mexico), Gov. Mitch Daniels (Indiana) and Gov. Nikki Haley (South Carolina).