Yes, I’m back to election stuff already. No, I’m not sorry.
Okay, I’m a little sorry. But only a little.
For this post, I’d like to take a minute to step back and look at the big picture. I’m sure I’ll be providing plenty of election input on individual candidates and issues for quite some time, but I think we need to set the stage first. After talking with several people who describe themselves as being of average political knowledge, I discovered that they were surprised to learn of the many different candidates for president next year. Thanks to all the sporadic coverage that each candidate is getting, I realized that not many people actually know who is running or planning to run for president, especially on the Republican side, where the field is already well over a dozen candidates. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to compile a list of every person running in each party (I will make a separate post for the Democratic candidates, to avoid making this one any lengthier).
Disclaimer: I will be providing information on each candidate, as well as my personal views on them and what I think their chances are in 2016. This is not an unbiased list by any means. I fully accept that my opinions of these candidates may not line up with your own, and that is perfectly fine. I am viewing each one as an undecided voter with an above-average political knowledge, but you are welcome to view them through any lens you see fit.
Now that we got all that mumbo-jumbo out of the way, let’s get down to it. So Rich, in no particular order, can I have the first
circus clown contestant please?
Jeb Bush, COME ON DOWN! Yes, the son of good ole George H.W. Bush and brother of the president that Fox News pretends never existed, is first up on the list. Now, Jeb hasn’t officially announced his candidacy yet, but it’s basically set in stone that he’s going to run. He announced in December of last year that he was “actively exploring a presidential run,” and he’s been touring swing states and holding fundraisers ever since. He’s either going on a very specific Bush family road trip, or he’s planning to run for president. I’m more inclined to believe the latter is true, because who would want to sit in a car for hours on end with brother George? Can you imagine how terrible that rendition of “99 WMDs on the Wall” would be?
As far as Jeb’s chances are concerned, he, like many other candidates, falls under the “it depends” category. Let me explain. Someone asked me last week if I thought Jeb would get the Republican nomination. My answer? It depends on if he can distance himself from his brother (who many Americans still regard as a terrible president thanks to the Iraq War and the economic collapse) and still propose conservative policies.
George was a hard-right Republican, so Jeb will not only have to shape his own agenda, he’ll have to carefully meander through the failed policies that his brother pushed through less than a decade ago. That’s a hard enough challenge to overcome in the general election, but in the super conservative Republican primaries? Jeb is regarded by many pundits as a moderate conservative, which is about as rare these days as a unicorn made of pixie dust. But if he pushes himself too far right in order to get the nomination, he’ll be crucified for proposing another term under a failed Bush doctrine. Jeb is unfortunately stuck between a rock (or more specifically, a bag of rocks, owing to George’s intelligence) and a hard place. That’s a crutch not many other Republican candidates have to bare, and it’ll be interesting to see how Jeb handles that labyrinth.
Welcome to the party, Jeb. Who else do you have for me, Rich?
Marco Rubio, COME ON DOWN! Rubio is actually one of the Republican candidates I’m legitimately excited for in 2016. Unlike Jeb, he has officially announced his candidacy, and he definitely has a lot going for him right out of the gate. He’s the son of Cuban immigrants, and at 43, he’s the youngest candidate in the Republican field so far. But beyond being a Spanish-speaking Republican who isn’t a complete nutcase, Rubio has one thing that no other candidate in his party has: youth. Barring the argument that he’s too inexperienced to be president, Rubio brings to the table a fresh face, youthful enthusiasm, and, most importantly, a sense of normalcy and American acceptance.
Unfortunately for the Republican Party, they’ve been stuck in a stereotype loop as the “party of old, white men,” as the post-2012 party “autopsy” reported. But Rubio, with his cheesy smile and Cuban background, breaks that cycle. I think that moderate and undecided voters are tired of seeing the Republican Party slap a new face on the same old white candidate every four years as if it’s some new, exciting change in policy and direction.
Look at the major Republican candidates of the last three elections: George Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. Every one of them is an old, white, rich man who had trouble convincing minorities that he was going to bat for them. That’s a problem for Republicans, and with the slowly decreasing white majority of voters, they need a new strategy for pulling in minority votes, or they might as well kiss the White House good-bye forever. I would love to see Rubio be the new face of the Republican Party. Along with everything I just mentioned, he’s actually proposed some reasonable legislation (save for immigration reform, ironically) that is miles ahead of what his far-right Tea Party colleagues are pushing.
If Rubio can make it through the primaries, where he’ll have to put on his ultra-conservative hat and play ball with the hard right-wingers, he could make a very compelling case in the general election. Also, I really want him to choose a running mate named Polo, just for the comedic value.
Marco, good luck to you. Rich, who’s next?
Rand Paul, COME ON DOWN!! I have mixed feelings about Rand Paul, son of long-time Senator and failed presidential candidate Ron Paul. Don’t get me wrong, I love papa Ron. He’s truthful, he stands by his morals and his reasoning, and he marches to the beat of his own drum — a beat that hasn’t changed in decades. Ron Paul was talking about government surveillance oversight before the Internet even existed. The guy is consistent, which is something we sadly don’t see anymore. But apparently that apple fell far from the tree when it hit Rand on the head.
How do I say this nicely? Sometimes I see Ron Paul’s libertarian spark in his son. And sometimes I wonder how Rand got his head that far up his ass. I will say that he is a libertarian at heart, but sometimes he ventures into the social conservative pool and has fun splashing around in the water. Rand does have an excellent policy on government surveillance, which is to say that he doesn’t want to government to spy on its citizens. I think most Americans can get behind that. He’s even filibustered on multiple occasions to get something done about oversight and government authority when it comes to things like drone strikes on U.S. soil. He makes some noise when he starts a fight, and he usually picks issues that are worth making a fuss about.
That being said, Rand will have to establish himself as more than just a security and foreign policy hawk. Running for president means you have to talk to everyday Americans, soldiers, doctors, farmers, and a myriad of others. Paul has no established economic policy as of late, which will hurt him in the primary. It’s one thing to support a cause vehemently, but Americans tend to not elect one-issue presidents. If Rand wants to play with the big boys (I use that term loosely, considering the Republican field at the moment), he’ll have to get his game plan together, and quick.
Rich, can we have another lucky contestant, please?
Chris Christie, COME ON DOWN! I’m actually on the fence about Christ Christie, the governor of New Jersey. On one hand, he’s been mired in scandal and controversy ever since the “Bridgegate” story broke, and he’s been fighting for positive publicity for nearly two years now. On the other hand, I respect his speaking style and his take-no-shit attitude. He doesn’t beat around the bush, which sometimes comes off as rude to reporters or constituents. But we need a no-nonsense presidential candidate on the right, and Christie definitely brings a certain Jersey flair that nobody else in the party has.
Still, he needs to dig himself out of the rut that he’s still in following the bridge issue. Too many Americans see him as just another corrupt politician, and he has to change that image before he tries to throw his hat in the ring.
And finally, a mostly unknown challenger managed to wiggle his way onto the list. Who is this mystery candidate, Rich?
George Pataki, COME ON DOWN! I know, I know. “Who’s George Pataki?” I asked myself the same thing when I was compiling the list and came across his name. He’s officially announced his candidacy for 2016, and he’s actually got an executive record to bring to the table. He was governor of New York for three terms (one during 9/11), and he might be just the guy to shake up the Republican field in a meaningful way.
Pataki is a fiscal conservative without a doubt: he wants tax cuts, tax cuts, deregulation, smaller government, and even more tax cuts. But he’s also a social liberal, something that’s essentially foreign to the Republican Party. With wedge issues like gay marriage and abortion becoming less like wedge issues, the GOP has yet to present a united front in a world that’s slowly turning more and more socially liberal. Record majorities of voters from both parties now support same-sex marriage, and Republican leaders have said some outrageous things about rape and incest abortion cases (I’m looking at you, Todd Akin), which has helped the pro-choice movement push forward on the issue.
George Pataki will be the only candidate on that stage who identifies as pro-choice, which will present him with a tremendous obstacle from the start. Unfortunately, we still live in a world where a large portion of voters (especially those on the right) vote based on one issue. Whether that’s gay marriage, or more increasingly, abortion, Pataki will get the short end of the stick. Because of this, he will have his work cut out for him as he tries to push through the other candidates and present the case for moderation. In a sense, Pataki is like Jeb Bush, but with the freedom to shape his own policy without worry of it resembling his brother, the president. In New York, Pataki was able to shrink the government and still get the support of Hispanic and Asian voters, which is a huge deal for the Republican Party, which barely gathered any minority support in 2012.
I for one am interested to see Pataki try to define his character and his position as a Republican who wants a smaller government, but still stands on a socially liberal platform. This kind of candidate hasn’t existed in quite some time, save for Ron Paul, who didn’t get much response from Republican voters in 2012. Pataki will somehow need to smooth his stances over with Republican voters to survive the primaries. If he gets the nomination, he has a real shot at actually winning the general election. But getting out of the woods won’t be easy for George. I’ll be keeping my eye on this underdog throughout the primary season.
You may have noticed that this list is called the “We Might Actually Have A Chance” Edition. To put it simply, there are a LOT of Republican candidates. I couldn’t fit them all into one post, because it would be insanely long and I wouldn’t want to subject you to that kind of droll reading. So I decided to compile this list as a serious one. In other words, these are the candidates that I could legitimately see as the Republican candidate for president on election day next year. I’ll be building another list, which will include the other Republican candidates who, for lack of a better phrase, have a snowball’s chance in hell at getting the GOP nomination, much less winning the general election. So keep your eyes on the blog, because that list will be coming soon!!