Thursday, March 19, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Campaign 2016 Update 1

Although Election Day, 2016 is nineteen months away, the
campaigns for the next cycle, especially the presidential
race is now underway. Until the end of this year, however,
news events, polls and strategies are so much in their early
stages that any observer needs to be very cautious about
drawing any conclusions. Particularly in the presidential
nomination races in both parties, the campaigns are quite
unsettled, and few contenders have even formally declared
their candidacies. With that important caveat in mind, here
are some of the latest developments in Campaign 2016:

This is the time that numerous “minor” candidates for
president begin to test the political waters, especially in the
Republican race. Most notable among these is physician
Ben Carson who has for months been hinting his intentions
and has already built a grass roots following across the
country. Donald Trump, the celebrity hotel tycoon, is a
perennial candidate-to-be, and this cycle is no different.
Mark Everson, a CPA and experienced federal bureaucrat,
has just formally announced his candidacy. Carly Fiorina,
a former corporate leader, has been actively preparing her
presidential campaign. There will no doubt be more, some
well-known and others unknown. Since Wendell Willkie in
1940, however, no originally unknown or “minor” candidate
has won his or her major party’s nomination.

It’s been a difficult period for frontrunners. Although he is
raising substantial campaign funds, and has signed on some
of the biggest names in his party, Jeb Bush is having some
apparent trouble with his party’s conservative grass roots.
His terms as governor of Florida were quite conservative,
but immigration, education and tax issues seem to be
now standing in his way. Since the first of the year, Mr. Bush
has also received a serious challenge from Wisconsin Governor
Scott Walker, a conservative with some appeal to more
moderate Republicans. Almost forgotten for the moment,
the potentially formidable New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie appears to be putting his first national campaign
together out of the limelight. Democratic frontrunner
Hillary Clinton, former first lady, senator and secretary of
state, has had an almost disastrous first months of 2015,
and her “inevitability” as the eventual nominee of her party
is now being questioned seriously. Her best asset remains
the lack of a first tier challenger, although Massachusetts
Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Maryland Governor
Martin O’Malley are receiving increased attention in the
media and on the early campaign trail.

A long period of inconclusive speculation about the
presidential campaign lies ahead in the spring and summer
of 2015. Only in the autumn as the debates begin and the
real campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire commence
will this all-important contest of the 2016 cycle begin to take
much better shape.

Races for the U.S. house and senate are just beginning, with
challengers to vulnerable incumbents in both parties still
mostly unknown. It is expected that Republicans will retain
control of the U.S house easily in 2016, but Democrats could
make a net pick-up of seats. In the U.S. senate, more than
twice as many Republican than Democratic seats are up in
2016, but that is perhaps misleading. The number of
probably vulnerable incumbents is only 6-8 on the GOP
side, and 2-3 on the Democratic side. Nevertheless,
retirements could change that picture. It already has in
Maryland where long-time Senator Barbara Mikulski
surprisingly announced she would not run again. This seat
is probably still safe for the liberal party, but a Republican
won the Maryland governorship in an upset in 2014, and
there could be a very bitter battle for the Democratic

A young incumbent Illinois GOP congressman. Aaron
Schock, suddenly resigned recently, but his district likely
will remain conservative. New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob
Menendez is facing serious allegations in the media, but so far
no formal charges have been filed. Should he resign, his seat
would be filled by appointment by GOP Governor Chris Christie.
Allegations, scandals, normal retirements, and controversies
will almost certainly continue to appear over the spring and
summer, but it is difficult to anticipate yet any change of control
of the Congress.

Nevertheless, presidential election cycle years usually produce
surprises, political fireworks, and high media melodramas.
In the world of today, anything can happen.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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