The way to win a presidential nomination in 2016 might be
to be behind most of the time. It remains to be seen if this
notion will prove to be true this cycle, but there are signs it
could be the ultimate strategy.
Certainly, the earliest frontrunners in the nomination races
of both major parties are in some jeopardy, especially in the
Republican race at this time. Former Florida Governor Jeb
Bush filled the vacuum from pre-campaign favorite New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie when the latter faded
following controversies in the Garden State. Then, one by
one, new major entries, including Wisconsin Governor
Scott Walker and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, soared to
the top of some polls. With Ohio Governor John Kasich, not
yet announced, already announced Texas Senator Ted Cruz,
and unannounced Kentucky Senator Rand Paul with apparent
potential to go high in the polls. a number of other GOP
hopefuls, including Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry,
Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee also have notable potential.
Considering his charisma, it is easy to see that Mr. Christie
might make a comeback after the presidential debates begin.
In fact, his dip in the polls and public attention might be the
biggest break he receives in his as yet unannounced run for
the presidency (as he is given time to repair his public image).
This is reminiscent of the 2012 GOP nomination contest when
virtually all of the major candidates, at one time or another,
led in the polls until Mitt Romney, the early favorite, won at
On the Democratic side, former First Lady Hillary Clinton has
led throughout the earliest phase of the campaign, but has
faced relentless criticism and controversy. Her poll numbers
continue to decline in spite of a furious effort by her friends
and supporters to maintain her as the prohibitive favorite.
With minor announced or likely opposition including former
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Vermont Senator
Bernie Sanders, Mrs. Clinton remains substantially ahead, but
that could easily change if some or all more formidable
opponents, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren,
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Minnesota Senator
Amy Klobuchar, entered the race later in 2015. The commonplace
comparison here is not with 2012, but with 2008 when Mrs.
Clinton was also far ahead until the primary/caucus season began.
I know I have written on this theme before, but repetition does
serve the reader an important purpose, I think. at this very early
stage when poll numbers are almost irrelevant, and so little is
known about the chemistry of the nomination contests when the
candidates have to face each other in television debates and on the
actual primary/caucus campaign trail.
My point is that 2016 might not resemble either 2008 or 2012, or
any other recent presidential cycle. Nor might the usual standards
for predicting outcomes apply, including early fundraising prowess,
name recognition, and poll numbers. With an open contest in both
parties, a potentially new electoral college map, deep nationwide
anxiety about unemployment, growth, national security and the
nation’s role in the world, I suggest that smug predictions about
final outcomes in November, 2016 are incredibly risky in May,
2015. Not only that, I suggest, whether we like it or not, the
current state of political indecision is likely going to persist
throughout the next several months, especially over the summer.
This will not prevent, of course, endless speculation provoked
by meaningless polls, quickly-forgotten incidents, candidate
media-determined flubs, and ponderous comparisons with past
cycles by various pundits and commentators, myself included.
It’s a good time, however, to take nothing for granted.
Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.