Pardon the brief hiatus dear readers.
You see, my compadre Slats was mistaken for being a man of confidence by a handful of local officials in a small fishing village in Guatemala, about 10 kilometers outside of Champerico. So that took a bit of time to sort out. Two tips: taking the 14 out of Escuintla is not a “short cut” and there is no Yelp for locating top-notch English-to-Spanish-to K’iche’ translators. Lessons learned. Crisis resolved. Situation = Askew. Back to “Normal.”
Oh such flights.
As the calendar pages hurtle (of their own accord??) off the wall, we find ourselves slightly less than six months away from the Ames Straw Poll. With the Iowa Republican Party deciding (unsurprisingly) to retain the event for the current presidential cycle, this means it is quite likely that at least one GOP presidential candidate, someone who hasn't even officially announced yet, will see their electoral ambitions dashed on a hot August night, somewhere in the general vicinity of Pearson Hall, on the Iowa State University campus. Home of the Tusslin’ Cyclones.
The thrilling element here, and there is one, is that I count 23 potential serious or semi-serious Republican candidates who might jump into the fray. I anticipate that that number will dwindle down to 14 by August 2015, but the prospect of such a crowded field should tantalize any self-respecting political junkie.
Consider this: from 1980 to 2012, in the election cycles when there was a legitimate contest for the GOP nomination, the fields included 10 to 13 candidates. Now, I am including some, let us call them lesser lights, in those tallies. For example, Fred Karger in ’12, Alan Keyes in ’08, Herman Cain in ’00 (yes 2000, but he didn’t get past the exploratory stage), Morry “The Grizz” Taylor in ’96, as well as Ambassador Ben Fernandez and future Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld…a couple of times. Not to disparage any of these individuals, but they either exited the process very early (as in the year before the Election) or they performed miserably once the caucuses and primaries got underway. As was expected of them.
In this cycle, there are fewer apparent “longest of long-shots” in the race. Are there favorites and relative heavies? Absolutely. Moderate long-shots? Sure. But complete non-starters? Not so much. Even some of the non-traditional candidates are interesting from an electoral perspective. Consider Dr. Ben Carson. Some are quick to dismiss him out of hand. Will he emerge as this cycle’s Santorum 2012? Doubtful, but he has a personal narrative and a bit of a nascent constituency. I think he ends up somewhere between Bauer 2000 and Gingrich 2012. The presence of other, better-known, social conservatives in the field will block his path to the nomination, but I predict he will run a credible campaign.
With six (yes six), occasionally over-lapping, significant voting blocs in today’s Republican Party, potential candidates are envisioning multiple paths to victory, based on the coalitions they believe they could forge…with the right financial resources, talent, communications, calendar, fortune, intervention by Providence, etc….I will elaborate on this in future posts but the six are, in no particular order: Social Conservatives, Libertarians, Establishment Center/Right, Tea Party-Aligned, Working Class Cultural Conservatives, and the small number of remaining GOP Moderates & “Liberals.”
Examining each of those blocs, with the recent decision of Senator Bob Corker to take a mighty pass this time around, are 23 likely candidates.
I believe that at least seven and possibly all nine of the following group will announce that they are running for President this year:
Paul, Carson, Cruz, Perry, Santorum, Bush, Huckabee, Walker, and Christie.
With the exception of Carson, all are Governors or Senators or former Governors and Senators. All have appeal within multiple GOP constituencies (some more pronounced than others). This is the single strongest Republican field since ’80. Frankly, it is probably deeper based on this tier alone.
Beyond that first grouping, I anticipate that at least half of the following will enter the race:
Jindal, Fiorina, Graham, and Rubio.
No slouches here. I think Graham’s entry, if it transpires, could diminish the perceived value that South Carolina primary generally enjoys. It could be akin to Harkin ’92 when other Democratic candidates avoiding competing on the Senator’s home turf, which inflated the importance of the New Hampshire primary, which helped Clinton and his “Comeback Kid” narrative and the rest is history. Fiorina, despite her 42% performance against Senator Boxer in 2010, should not be underestimated. With her business credentials and (potentially) being the only woman on many Republican presidential primary ballots, she could catch fire and go deeper into the calendar than most of the other contenders.
Many within the third group will ultimately decide to forego being a presidential candidate in 2016, but I project at least a couple will mount challenges:
Bolton, Pence, Gilmore, Ehrlich, Pete King, Pataki, Kasich, Snyder, Palin, and Trump.
OK, Trump is a non-starter, but his celebrity (read: notoriety, apparent lack of filter, and not inconsiderable wealth) will generate some buzz…if he gets in (I don’t believe he will). Governor Mike Pence is serious, as is John Kasich, but they will have to ramp up their efforts, soon, if they want to compete in the Not-so Invisible Primary. Especially with fellow Midwestern Governor Scott Walker garnering attention and making interesting staff hires.
Sarah Palin. She has indicated interest. Ignore that. If she runs, it will be an attempt to prop up the Brand. Based on her public statements, I generously estimate a 9% chance that she gives it a shot in 2016. In reality, it is most likely under five percent.
Beyond these 23, are there others? Why yes, I am glad you asked.
My long list has 67 Republicans. Don’t worry, I won’t run through them all, I will just mention one more worth noting:
Mitt Romney. Yes, I know he just bowed out. I peruse Le Monde like you do. But let’s assume, for a moment, that it is late August 2015. The Bush campaign is hobbling along. His controversial positions on Common Core and immigration, in conjunction with some gaffes, lower-than-expected fundraising totals, declining poll numbers, and various miscues make him look vulnerable. Christie acts like Christie and is on the brink of imploding after yelling at some Iowa farmers. Pence and Kasich decided to stay home, so Walker is left standing as the top choice of the Establishment Right…barely. Would Mitt see himself as the only one standing in the way of a Cruz or Santorum or Huckabee nomination? He is probably the only one who could jump-start a campaign around Labor Day and pull a serious organization together. In short, keep glancing over at Romney. It might not be over for him. And if he is a candidate by September 15, 2015, you read it here first!
A long post? Absolutely. Yet the primary season itself is long and full of wonder. Savor it. I mean it, commence with the savoring already!
Now if I can only find that luggage. Waiting for a call from La Aurora International Airport…
Stay tuned, as more will follow. Count on it.