The 2016 Field Part One: The Democrats

 Hillary Clinton is the favorite for the nomination. If she runs, she will almost certainly be the nominee of her party. She isn’t the best candidate for the democrats though. On paper, Clinton looks like the perfect candidate. As a woman a Hillary presidency could lock up the women vote for the democrats for decades and she already has a large fundraising base. But she is not a “third term for Bill”. Her agenda is significantly to the left of her husband and she strikes me as more of a creature of congress than Barack Obama. She lacks decisiveness and this could cause her to be influenced by the Democratic leadership in Congress. She carries some significant baggage as well. Although media liberals pointed to her “stunning” record as secretary of state, there are few strong accomplishments of her tenure in the state department. She called Basher al-Assad a reformer in 2011 and her disastrous (and possibly dishonest) handling of the Benghazi attack to much to discredit her record. As for the Assad statement, any argument from her to explain it is unlikely to succeed. In 1976, Gerald Ford claimed that “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” in a debate with Jimmy Carter. Ford explained that he was referring to countries such as Yugoslavia and Romania which in truth were not Soviet dominated: Josip Broz Tito chartered an independent communist course and in Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu was something of a maverick in the eastern block who was openly critical of Moscow, perhaps most famously backing the Czechs in during the Prague spring. Both Tito and Ceausescu were brutal dictators in their own right and were frequently associated with the Soviet regime. In the 1970s the American public often held the misguided notion that the eastern block was a unified communist force as opposed to the fractured coalition that it actually was. Despite this, the gaffe had taken its toll (even with the explanation it was a rather inaccurate remark) and it may have cost Ford the election.

Joe Biden is an interesting possibility. He has publically acknowledged his interest in running for president, and has the experience: he’s been a senator and is currently the vice president. But Biden is often gaffe prone. His mistakes range from asking a paralyzed veteran to stand up to making a racist remark about Indian-Americans. He is old by Democratic presidential prospect standards: he will be 73 years old in 2016. My guess is that he will run but it would be a surprise if he were to be the nominee. Another man considered to be gaffe prone is Howard Dean. Unlike Biden, his reputation largely stems from one (in)famous quote from the 2004 election cycle. The “Dean Scream” incident hurt his chances. Dean is something of a darling to the party’s left wing but it seems unlikely that he could win a general election.

Like the Republicans, Governors are represented in the 2016 field. Jerry Brown was recently the subject of a glowing portrayal by Rolling Stone magazine that portrayed the 75-year old California governor as the force behind a “California Miracle”. It is true that Brown fixed a deficit disaster but did so by passing a massive tax hike. Rolling Stone has been notably silent on the budget balancing of Chris Christie and John Kasich. Brown is indeed long in the tooth. His first term as governor began in 1975 when he succeeded Ronald Reagan. Brown has pursued a number of goals of the left wing ranging from green energy support to a bill allowing students to use whichever bathroom they choose regardless of their sex. But his state’s economy continues to lag behind the rest of the country. Brown would not be a good choice for the Democrats and he’s unlikely to be the nominee. Another governor in the running is Martin O’Malley of Maryland. O’Malley has received the unfortunate moniker of “tax man” for a long series of tax increases including one tied to how much rain falls on a property. He’s well liked by the party’s base and if Hillary doesn’t run he will have a very good chance at being the party’s nominee. That’s not to say he would be a good nominee. Andrew Cuomo would be a better choice. Cuomo is disliked by the left but could draw some moderate Republican votes, especially if the GOP runs a candidate from the far right. He has been good for business, launching a ad blitz touting the laudable advances made in the Empire State to attack business. He also made a spirited but so far unsuccessful attempt to legalize abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, a move that endeared him to the party’s base and could net him valuable money from Planned Parenthood’s coffers in 2016. A few other governors have been mentioned as potential candidates. Christine Gregoire in Washington has had her name mentioned but there are few accomplishments to speak of, and that is needed to launch a bid for the White House. Brian Schweitzer is the proverbial joker-in-the-deck. The Montana Governor had some of the highest approval ratings in the country during his tenure in office. On one hand he has a number of accomplishments that boost his credibility with the Democratic Party’s liberal base: he has proposed a single payer system in Montana and seeks to increase education funding. However he is a strong supporter of gun rights and was a notable critic of the Obama administration during the GM Stillwater controversy. His stance on gun rights plus his status as a governor from the flyover country that is hated by the party’s liberal elites destroy his chances of getting the nomination. Delaware governor Jack Markel’s name is out there too but he doesn’t strike me as being much of a factor. A few months ago, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper would have been a leading contender, but his star is fading. He now leads by only 1% in the latest polls on the upcoming governor’s race, an advantage that is well within the margin of error. The recall of a pair of Colorado state senators left a bitter taste in the mouth of many and matters were not helped with one of the ousted officials blamed the election without a shread of concrete evidence on “voter suppression”. Remember, this is in a democratic controlled state. Questions such as why a democratic administration would suppress their own supporters have gone unanswered. Hickenlooper has gotten a great deal of bad publicity from the recall.

Aside from Hillary Clinton, a number of female candidates remain factors in the 2016 field. Kirsten Gillibrand, a moderate-turned progressive senator and former congresswoman has been mentioned as a possible candidate but lacks the name recognition. Amy Klobuchar, the senator from Minnesota, appeals to the party’s base and could be a factor (especially if Hillary does not run). She is a firm supporter of abortion rights, gay rights, progressive taxation, and clean energy subsidies. She could be a factor. Elizabeth Warren is the darling of the progressive left. The progressives thought they had their candidate in 2008 with Barack Obama but many on the left are bitterly disappointed with him. It is this wing that considers Warren to be the ideal candidate. Like Klobuchar, Warren is a name to watch. Finally there is former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, who is currently the Health and Human Services Secretary under Barack Obama. She appeals to the party’s female wing and could be a factor, but like Gillibrand, Gregoire, and Klobuchar, she is somewhat lost in Hillary’s shadow (a phenomenon that has not seemed to obscure Elizabeth Warren very much). Janet Napolitano has been mentioned as well but it would be a shock if he contended for the nomination.

A few other candidates remain. Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, has been suggested as a possible contender but mayors rarely do well in presidential races (just as Rudi Giuliani). Virginia senator Mark Warner is a possibility but he lacks a notable accomplishment or personal fact to get his name out there.

In conclusion, the field is not very strong, and the nomination is probably Hillary’s to lose.