The time has come when the details of the 2016 presidential
campaign are beginning to matter. The extended preliminaries are
now almost over, the debates have begun to have impact, and it is
now that the details of campaign organization and strategy are
having increasing impact.
Although the Republican field remains overlarge technically in
number, the “weeding out” of weaker candidates has already
begun. A few minor 2016 figures remain (e.g., Rick Santorum, Jim
Gilmore, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul,
Lindsay Graham, et al), but a picture of the likely finalists is
beginning to emerge. The inherent volatility in this race prior to
the actual voting in primaries and caucuses continues, and will do so
until mid-January. Currently, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is the
“flavor of the week,” and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush seems
“on the ropes.” Between them are the candidacies of Chris Christie,
Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Donald
Trump, each of them with their own gyrating poll numbers.
The debates have provided a great deal of “free media” to all the
candidates, and a few of them have capitalized on this exceedingly
well, particularly Mr. Trump, Dr. Carson, and Mrs. Fiorina. But now,
as the actual voting approaches, other critically important factors
come into the dynamics of the field.
These factors include campaign funding, campaign organization
and staff, campaign priorities on issues and candidate
appearances, some (but not all) endorsements, and the
campaigning stamina of the candidate himself or herself.
The most recent state polls reveal that “details” are beginning to
count for something. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, the
favorability numbers have shown some dramatic change in some
cases, particularly for Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
In Mr. Christie’s case, for example, he has gone from troubling
net negative favorables to significant net positives. This
development happened not only because of each candidate’s
debate performance, but also because each of them is
campaigning heavily in those states.
The number of personal appearances, however, does not alone
guarantee success. Mr. Santorum and Mr. Huckabee are already
well-known (from their 2012 campaigns) in both Iowa and New
Hampshire. It should not be a surprise that their numbers
Mr. Bush’s numbers have taken a significant “hit” in recent
weeks, primarily because of his debate performances. He does,
however, have significant resources on the ground, including
campaign cash and organization. He is considered better at the
one-on-one aspect of campaigning, and both Iowa and New
Hampshire are “one-on-one” states. It might be premature to
write Mr. Bush just now.
The key, at this point, is pace, priorities and timing. If
presidential candidates are to survive and succeed, they must
have resilience in resources and stamina.
The “First Four” primaries and caucuses (Iowa, New Hampshire,
South Carolina and Nevada) are not very likely to settle
the contest this cycle, and perhaps even the “Super Tuesday”
that follows on March 1st will not settle it. If that is so, some very
large “winner-take-all” states in the northeast and far west
remain to be counted before the convention.
Who stands the best chance to win these delegate-rich states
if the contest is down to three or four finalists?
That is the question we all might be asking after these
preliminary rounds of the 2016 cycle are concluded. The answer
could provide us with the name of the nominee, and, perhaps as
well, the next president of the United States.
Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.