Tuesday, December 30, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Cautionary Advisory

Here is a cautionary advisory from The Prairie Editor:

The discussion about 2016 presidential politics taking place
now will not, one year from now when the contest will have
begun in earnest, much resemble the discussion we will be
having then.

Today the pundits and potential candidates are spinning their
wheels in public. In private, of course, serious maneuvering
is already taking place, especially in the retention of consultants,
advisers and other campaign operatives, as well as initial contact
with major donors and the preliminary organization plans and

First of all, we don’t know for sure who is running. Probably, we
know most of the candidates in both parties, but some of the
biggest names remain somewhat uncertain. Second, we don’t
know which candidates will have traction. Third, there are always
contenders who do much better than originally expected, and
those who do much worse. Fourth, surprises always happen
after the contest more formally begins, usually between Labor Day
the year before the election and New Year’s Day. Fifth, certain
late-breaking events, domestic and foreign, often can profoundly
shape the campaign season.

Only when the announced candidates are known, show their
political cards, begin their publicity campaigns, and appear in a
debate together, is the true chemistry of a presidential nomination
campaign visible. That is especially true since the 2012 cycle when
there were so many debates, as well as a number of late-entering
major candidates in the Republican contest. It has been said that
the two major parties will try to cut back the number of debates in
2016, but this will be easier said than done. This cycle, the contest
is open in both parties.

On the Democratic side, there is an early and seemingly
overwhelming favorite, Hillary Clinton, but she was similarly
dominant in 2007-08, before bring  upset by Barack Obama. In
2015, Senator Elizabeth Warren seems to be mounting a growing
campaign to replace Mrs. Clinton, and former Senator James
Webb has now appeared for some serious media attention. Should
Mrs. Clinton surprise everyone by deciding not to run, the bats
would be cleared from the liberal belfry, and a donnybrook would
likely result. Serious candidates such as Governor Andrew Cuomo
of New York could then possibly get in the race with former
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, California Governor Jerry
Brown, Vice President Joe Biden and a parade of other wannabes.

The Republican contest is now an open field. Perhaps as many as
a dozen or more conservative candidates could enter the race,
including a few bats from their conservative belfry, but the early
primaries and caucuses should narrow their number quickly to
much fewer contenders.

By December, 2015, we will have long known whether or not Mitt
Romney decided for another run, whether or not Jeb Bush’s
surname is a help or hindrance, whether or not the New Jersey
bridge incident still hurts Chris Christie, and whether or not Rand
Paul is more than niche candidate. We will also know much more
certainly whether or not there will be severe Obama “fatigue,”
especially among independent voters.

Even then, the real campaign will lie ahead. Who knew or forecast
in December, 2011, for example, that the lead in the polls for the
Republican nomination would shift back and forth over the next
few months between at least six candidates, that as late as the week
after the South Carolina primary, New Gingrich might win, or that
at the very end, Rick Santorum would be the last contestant left to
battle against Mitt Romney?

The discussion today about the 2016 presidential election might
bear little resemblance to the reality only a year from now, but
it does serve a purpose. It’s like batting practice and pitcher
warm-up before a baseball game. We watch for little signs and
revelations about the conditions and techniques of the players.
It’s also fun just to watch.

But it’s not the game itself when a lot more is at stake, and the
unplanned occurrences and the unpredicted chemistry of actual
competition come into play.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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