Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Episode 90: The GOP Awakens (2016)

Well I promised a brief look at the potential contours of, and possible candidates within, the 2016 GOP field, so here it goes:

First, my long-list contains 64 names.  Beyond the Heavyweights and several Contenders, it includes some complete non-starters, a few has-beens, and a couple of never-was types.  The most shocking element here is that the road to the Republican presidential nomination is so open that many of the lesser names could gaze into a mirror and say, without an excessive amount of self-delusion, “You know, I could pull 15,000 votes in Iowa and win a ticket to New Hampshire.”  And the mirror wouldn’t even laugh back.

Charlie Cook, the celebrated political analyst and prognosticator of the highest order (who, by the way, nailed the closeness of the MD gubernatorial race while some folks Who Shall Remain Nameless were saying that LG Anthony Brown had a 93% chance of victory), was recently quoted in The Kansas City Star as expecting the eventual GOP nominee to be a “tea party Senator or Governor from the Midwest.”

Actually that call isn’t as bold as it might seem.  If you winnow the list of names down to the 20 candidates most likely to run, and further assume that only around 12 of those will go as far as establishing an exploratory committee, there are multiple tea party-aligned Senators and heartland Governors in the mix [in boldface below].  Let’s assume the following field going into August of next year:

Senator Rand Paul (KY)
Senator Ted Cruz (TX)
Governor Bobby Jindal (LA)
Dr. Ben Carson (MD)
Governor Rick Perry (TX)
Former US Senator Rick Santorum (PA) or former Governor Mike Huckabee (AR)
Business Executive Carly Fiorina (CA)
Governor Chris Christie (NJ)
Former Governor Jeb Bush (FL) or (unlikely) former Governor Mitt Romney (MA)
Governor Scott Walker (WI)
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton (MD)
Possibly either Governor Mike Pence (IN) or Governor John Kasich (OH)
And a couple of others, such as a Congressman Peter King (NY) or Senator Bob Corker (TN)

Carson falls somewhere between Morry “The Grizz” Taylor and former Senator Fred Thompson on the Serious Candidate Spectrum.  Is he really running for a statewide office in Maryland?  For an appointment as Surgeon General? Stay tuned, as…

Wait. I am not done.  Bolton is one-note on defense and is no more than a Cabinet possibility at best.  If you assume the “others” will end up being “also-rans” then at least a third and possibly close to half of the Serious Candidates [in terms of likelihood of obtaining the nomination, not necessarily ability to govern] will be tea party Senators or Rust Belt Govs.

Oh did I forget Senator Marco Rubio (FL)?  No.   I think he will choose to take a pass and look for another opportunity down the road. I think he understands that the electorate likes to “fix” the perceived shortcomings of the current Administration.   Carter too soft, too bogged down in details?  Let’s get a tough talking, CEO-type in Reagan.  George HW Bush too out-of-touch with the problems of working families?  Let’s elect the populist from Arkansas who eats at McDonald’s. George W. Bush doesn’t have the intellectual heft? Let’s vote for the Brainiac Senator from Illinois.  Obama too cerebral/aloof, lacking a long history of building relationships with Congress?  Perhaps it’s time for someone who comes across as warmer, or someone who has been around the Establishment longer, a “Known Entity.”    Hmmm…

Of course this is all incredibly reductionist.  If I had to bet, I would say the Republican field will consist of six Serious possibilities after the Iowa caucuses (slightly more than the historical norm as I believe multiple campaigns will be prepping for a long, drawn-out process).  There will be two social conservatives, two more establishment types, Rand Paul and someone else, perhaps Fiorina.  In the end, I expect it will come down to a slog for delegates with perhaps as many as three Serious candidates competing until the end of the primary season.  The Establishment choice (Bush although I would keep an eye on Pence), Rand Paul and maybe someone who was accruing just enough Delegates along the way to prevent anyone else from obtaining a majority, someone who might use that clout at the Convention to get a spot on the ticket or at least be a king (or queen) maker.  Senator Cruz may be that third person in this scenario.  Oh for the joys of a Brokered Convention.  Let the political scientists dream!

Anyway, I am certain I will talk about the individual attributes and policy stances of all of these people, and others, over the course of the next 14 months or so.  Everyone is in their decision-making mode now.  Go/No Go.  Internal/family deliberations will conclude over the next few weeks.  I expect a couple candidates will announce early, in the first quarter of 2015, while most will state their intentions in April, May and early June of next year.

Just a bit of Hot Stove League speculation as we hurtle toward 1/1/15.   

Looking forward to focusing a bit more on state and local public policy issues in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.


  1. You didn't mention Bob Ehrlich.... multiple exploratory visits to NH. Re: Ben Carson- did you see his thoughts on Ferguson being the fault of women's lib?

    1. Glad to see someone else noticed his travels.

      Oh I am indeed aware of Ehrlich's recent actions, just as I was aware of Jim Gilmore's "effort." Will be fun to watch if he makes it to the debates but ultimately, his best hope is a Cabinet appointment.

      Carson will have his moments with the Base, and saying outrageous things is delicious red meat to certain elements of the GOP, but he isn't a serious contender. Frankly, he is far more viable as a statewide GOP candidate and i think he will only hurt his brand with a presidential run. His decision...