There has been a sudden rush of breathless op eds and
public statements about the “frontrunners” and "new leaders"
of the Republican Party. Simultaneously, there have been
similar accounts proclaiming that Hillary Clinton has the
2016 Democratic nomination “all sewn up” if she wants to
It is quite possible that Marco Rubio and Rand Paul will run
for president in the next cycle, and that Mrs. Clinton (who will
be almost 70 years old in 2016) will also throw her bonnet into
the ring. But in spite of the media fetish to begin the next
presidential election, even before a the winner of the most
recent election has barely begun his second term, the sudden
outburst gives new meaning to the notion of prematurity.
What we do know is that 2016 will not have an incumbent
president running. Although the incumbent Democratic Vice
President Joe Biden could run (and has hinted he might), he will
be 74 years old that year, much older than anyone has ever been
to begin a presidency.
Rand Paul had a sensational success in his recent senate filibuster
which forced the Obama administration to answer a question
about the use of drones. Without endorsing anything else he has
done or stands for, I praised him for his pluck and ingenuity,
something the more experienced senate leadership has so far
failed to do. But one relatively small incident does not qualify a
person to be president, much less his or her party’s nominee.
Marco Rubio is an attractive political personality, but faces many
hurdles should he run for president, including the thorny issue of
And what about enormously successful Republican governors
such as Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Susana
Martinez and Scott Walker? What about former Governors Jeb
Bush and Mike Huckabee, or current Senators Eric Portman
and John Thune? What if Congressman Paul Ryan or Governor
Rick Perry decide to have another try? The GOP has a very large
and serious bench.
(A side note: Recently, some conservatives indicated they have no
time for New Jersey GOP Governor Chris Christie. This is curious
inasmuch as Mr. Christie is the most popular incumbent governor
of either party in the nation, and New Jersey is a Democratic state!
He is also arguably the most gifted political communicator of either
party, but no matter, throw him overboard.)
As for the Democrats, they are not without many younger and
talented figures. What about Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senators
Mark Warner, Amy Klobuchar, Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Manchin?
Or former Senator Evan Bayh?
As I recall, in 2005, Mrs. Clinton had a “lock” on the Democratic
nomination. Barack Obama had not even won his first election as
Speaking of Mr. Obama, both parties have a history of new faces
emerging later in the cycle. What makes anyone presume that the
American voter in either party wants a senior or aging figure to run
Most importantly, perhaps, neither party has firmly established a clear
new identity for the 2016 cycle. Republicans, it has been often noted,
have suffered from initiating two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) and
presiding over the beginning of an extended recession with prolonged
unemployment. A clearly left-of-center Democratic president and
Congress have so far been unable to bring the nation clearly out of its
economic woes, and the fiscal impact of the new Obamacare is only
now being felt, with numerous warnings of dramatically higher
healthcare insurance costs ahead for many Americans.
It is interesting to note that there is no serious Democratic presidential
prospect for 2016 who is as far left, or further left, than Mr. Obama.
At the same time, there is a crisis of ”branding” for the contemporary
Republican Party, still recovering from the shocks of 2012.
Conservatives in that party are locked in a messy combat over
immigration, marriage and assorted social issues.
Democrats, as 2016 approaches, will have to debate internally policies
about entitlements, deficits and education ---policies which might be
very different than those now being followed by the current Democratic
Since we do not know how the 2014 midterm elections are going to turn
out, whether or not chronic unemployment will go down significantly,
whether or not inflation will reappear, and of course, the global political,
military and economic conditions that will prevail in 2015-16, it is merely
self-indulgence that proclaims who the leaders of the Republican Party
are, and who are even the likely nominees of both parties will be in the
It might be more worthwhile to concentrate that energy on the problems
and the political figures we have now.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.