Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Early Field for 2016 - Things Are Wide Open in Both Parties, Revisiting an Economic Model from July

Who Will Run in 2016?
It's classic in political circles.  The day after the election, a friend of mine, who happens to be a staunch Republican, after paying off a $20 side wager that we had on the election outcome (we had an even odds bet that in order to collect on my end three things had to happen: a. The President had to win the popular vote, b. The President had to win the electoral vote and c. Democrats had to retain control of the Senate - this is further proof that you should make bets based on facts not emotion - like a sports fan, he bet on his favorite team rather than the likely winner), said simply "just a little over 1,400 days until the next election".  And so it is.  Politics is eternal and the 2016 field is already forming.

Assessing the field at this early stage is obviously incomplete.  People can decide not to run.  Unexpected candidates can emerge.  A lot can change.

But at the same time, it's highly unlikely that someone that those of us who sit in political circles have never heard of will win either party's nomination.  In ever election cycle since World War II, the ultimate nominees have been a sitting or former Governor, Senator or Vice-President with the lone exception of Dwight Eisenhower, a phenomenally popular general.

Harry Truman was a sitting President who defeated Thomas Dewey, the Governor of New York
Dwight Eisenhower, a General in World War 2, twice beat Adali Stevenson, the Governor of Illinois
John F. Kennedy, a Senator, defeated Richard Nixon, former Governor of California and former Vice President
Lyndon Johnson, then the sitting President, defeated Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona
Richard Nixon beat Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and then Senator George McGovern of South Dakota
Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia bested the sitting President, Gerald Ford
Former Governor Ronald Reagan of California beat Carter, then defeated former Vice President and Governor of Minnesota Walter Mondale
George H.W. Bush, the sitting Vice-President, defeated Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts
Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas then bested Bush and also defeated Senator Bob Dole of Kansas
Governor George W. Bush of Texas beat sitting Vice President Al Gore and then bested Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts
Senator Barack Obama defeated Senator John McCain and then bested former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts

So it seems highly likely that the next two nominees either hold or have already held a Senate seat, a Governor's seat, the Vice Presidency, or some combination of the 3.

So who are the likely stars? 

Let's start with the Democrats:
Democrats have a bid of gap in good governors, thanks to some of the big Republican takeaways of Governor's mansions in 2009 and 2010.  The GOP holds 29 of 50 governors seats and the Democrats hold only 20.  Still, 20 is a pretty big field to draw from and there are some high-profile politicians with a lot of skill in that mix.

Among governors, the most likely candidates are:
(1) Andrew Cuomo of New York
The popular son of Mario Cuomo, the man who famously missed the Presidency by declining to run in 1992, a year he seemed a sure lock on the nomination if he wanted it, might go where his father didn't.  He is a strong public speaker, as was his father and brings a fantastic resume, having run Housing and Urban Development under Bill Clinton, been Attorney General in New York and now Governor of one of the largest states in the country.  Party loyalists love Cuomo and he is popular in New York.
(2) Deval Patrick of Massachusetts
In his second term as Governor of Massachusetts, Patrick successfully survived the 2010 GOP rampage that took out many of his peers.  He was one of the party's favorite speakers at the 2012 DNC, with his speech that Democratic-loyalists felt destroyed the story of Mitt Romney's success as Governor in Massachusetts.  Patrick is a likable, smart guy who is also clearly a gifted orator.
(3) Martin O'Malley of Maryland
O'Malley is the current Governor of Maryland and former Mayor of Baltimore.  He is extremely well respected in the Democratic party and well-liked in his home state, although he hasn't yet established a high profile outside of political circles.
(4) Tim Kaine of Virginia
Technically still a Governor, Kaine is about to become the United States Senator from Virginia (Virginia has a single term limit on Governors.)  He is a fierce ally of President Obama's and has performed extremely well in swing-state Virginia in some tough state-wide races.  He is also a very likable, down-to-earth guy.
(5) Brian Schweitzer of Montana
The gun-slinging, social libertarian leaning centrist Governor of Montana has an everyman appeal, a quick political wit and a proven ability to win in Republican areas of the country.  He's a rising star in the party and we should watch him.

 Interestingly, even though the Democrats have a lot of Senators, there are not a ton of viable candidates out of the Senate.  Many Democrats there are either long-standing Senators who don't appear to have an interest in the Presidency (such as Barbara Mikulski in Maryland) or poor national figures, who can win locally but would be a disaster in a national race (such as Harry Reid of Nevada.)
Here are the ones that I could see running and winning
(1) Dick Durbin of Illinois
The fiercely loyal Obama supporter and majority whip in the Senate is known for building consensus int he Democratic party and getting things done legislatively.  He's not the most inspiring of speakers, but is clearly both intellectual and pragmatic, two useful traits in the Presidency.
(2) Kirsten Gillebrand of New York
Gillebrand has been an absolute rock star in the Senate.  Plucked out of virtual obscurity from her suburban House seat by then Governor David Patterson to appointment in the Senate, many speculated that she might not make it long in office.  Instead, after winning election to a partial term decisively, she went on to be one of the big influence makers in the Senate, brokering a deal on both the 9/11 first responders relief bill and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal.  She is likable, down-to-earth and one of the hardest working Senators.  She just won a full term this year without serious competition.
(3) Elizabeth Warren
The newly-minted Senator-elect from Massachusetts in perhaps the most beloved political figure on the left and figures to be a force in the Senate.  She comes with baggage form this year's race though, including a very nasty campaign fight with Scott Brown and open questions about whether she lied about her ethnic heritage to gain an advantage in academia.

Perhaps the most intriguing possibilities are neither sitting Governors or Senators.  Here are my top three:
(1) Hillary Clinton
If she runs, the former Senator and current (but supposedly soon-to-be-departing) Secretary of State would be the immediate front-runner.  She has said she isn't running, but many in political circles don't believe her.  It's hard to see her losing the nomination if she ran, but then again, it would have been hard to see her losing going into 2008 too.
(2) Joe Biden
The former Senator and current Vice President first ran for President in 1988, a full 28 years before the 2016 election cycle.  He has hinted repeatedly about running in 2016.  As sitting Vice-President, you have to put Biden in the mix, but his penchant for gaffes and his lack of ability to build support in either 1988 (when he dropped out after a plagiarism scandal) or in 2008 make him a longer-odds candidate, in my opinion.
(3) Cory Booker
The Mayor of Newark is perhaps the most intriguing wildcard in the race.  The Rhodes Scholar was seen a few years ago as a rapidly rising star on the national scene.  He has taken it slow, remaining as Mayor for 6 and a half years and building a stellar reputation for the city's turnaround.  Personal superhero stories about Booker abound, including personal pulling a person from a burning building and shoveling snow to clear snowed-in residents.  Booker is rumored to be contemplating running against Governor Chris Christie next year, which would set up an epic showdown of powerhouses from the two parties.  If Booker wins, he's definitely in the mix in 2016.  Rumors of his homosexuality (Booker has never been married and has never been seen dating) could still be a detraction on the national scene, but the voting public has shown an increasing acceptance of gay people in elected office.

On the Republican side, the field is loaded with talent, mostly from the broad range of Governor's seats they hold.

(1) Chris Christie
The brash, straight-talking New Jersey Governor has become a national star.  He is favored to win re-election next year (although a race against Cory Booker would probably be a pick 'em race) and has received accolades nationally for both his managing of New Jersey's finances and his response to Hurricane Sandy.  Christie may be to brash for the national scene and might be to moderate for the current GOP, but he can't be ignored as a candidate.
(2) Mitch Daniels
The libertarian-leaning conservative from Indiana is the guy that many people wished had run this cycle for the GOP.  He is pragmatic and broadly-appealing in his home state, if not a particularly inspirational speaker.  He will leave office in 2013 due to term limits.  He chose not to run in 2012 and may not be interested in the office, but if he is, he is surely in the mix.
(3) Bobby Jindal
The Louisiana Governor may have finally overcome his odd and creepy State of the Union response in 2009.  He has a fantastic biography and has been a very effective Governor in Louisiana.  He has also been storming the national scene preaching GOP inclusion since the election, a message that is much needed for a party that lost virtually every constituency except older married white women and older white men.
(4) Susana Martinez
I've had my eye on the conservative, well-spoken Governor of New Mexico since she took office.  She won election in a blue state, holds views that are acceptable to the right-wing of the party while also holding the distinction as the highest-ranking elected Republican official of Mexican heritage (she was born in El Paso, in case you were wondering about eligibility.)  Watch her if she is interested.
(5) Nikki Haley
The South Carolina Governor ran an impressive campaign in 2010 that brought her to the Governor's Mansion.  She is beloved in the party, popular in her home state and a fresh face for the GOP.  Definitely one to watch.
(6) Bob McDonnell
The Virginia Governor, who will be term-limited out of office in 2014, is respected as a strong leader, an excellent speaker and a solid conservative.  He's on virtually everyone's list of potential nominees.

The GOP doesn't have a great field of Senators at the moment, as compared to their stacked field of Governors, but there are a few worth mentioning:
(1) Marco Rubio
The Senator from Florida is already taking trips to Iowa.  He's loved by the Tea Party, has a fantastic personal story and is a great orator.  He isn't that accomplished yet, but arguably, neither was President Obama when he first ran.
(2) John Thune
The youthful-looking South Dakota Senator makes every insider's list.  He is a key influence-maker on the hill, but he is not a particularly great public speaker and is virtually unknown outside of Washington, DC.
(3) Rand Paul
It seems likely that libertarian Rand will carry forward the mantle that his father carried for super-limited government.  I can definitely see Rand running, but it's tough to see him winning the nomination.

There are a few who are not sitting Senators or Governors who intrigue me.
(1) Jeb Bush
The former governor of Florida is, in many ways, what his brother George W. was not - he is a true compassionate conservative, having taken a pragmatic, inclusive view of governing and he is a smart and articulate guy with broad appeal.  They also still love him in Florida.  His biggest issues are that he may be too moderate for today's GOP and that the Bush name may be so tarnished as to exclude him.
(2) Rick Santorum
The former Senator from Pennsylvania surprised everyone to finish second in the running this time around.  I've written extensively about how the GOP tends to nominate the "next guy in line".  Could that be Santorum next cycle?  His radical views on social issues are a problem in a general election, but Santorum has a lot of assets, not the least of which is one of the strongest work ethics I've ever seen.

Could we see a legitimate third-party candidate in 2016?  As with most cycles, it is unlikely, but let's look at the prospects:

(1) Michael Bloomberg
The Mayor of New York has the financial resources to make a go of it.  The Republican-turned-Independent has run the largest city in the US and is well liked.  He has both business and governing background.  He would get real votes.  I'm just not sure he is interested - he turned down a window to run in 2008 and 2012.

(2) Charlie Crist
The former Republican-turned-Independent Governor of Florida represents a pragmatic, moderate voice in a sea of polarized partisanship.  But he couldn't even win as an Independent in Florida for a Senate seat - so can we really think he could beat two major party candidates nationally?  And where would the money for his campaign come from?

(3) Lincoln Chafee
The Rhode Island Governor is yet another Republican-turned-independent.  Often called the "last moderate in the Senate" (not quite true), Chafee won as Independent in Rhode Island.  His long time in politics might give him the donors to get his campaign off the ground.  And his liberal social views and moderate economic views make him a great match for the evolving electorate.

The field will no doubt shift and change, but these 11 Democrats, 11 Republicans and 3 Independents represent a lot of the likely field.

Does Economics Tell Us Everything?
Back in July, I built a linear regression model based on the absolute unemployment rate and the change in unemployment rate that projected that Barack Obama would win 52% of the 2-party vote for President.

The current tally for the Presidency?
Barack Obama 63,448,632
Mitt Romney 59,634,222

Obama's % of the two-party vote? 51.5%.

Guess what?  It's the economy, stupid.

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