It’s been three months since I wrote the last update, and what’s really remarkable is how little has changed. Yes, we’ve had a string of announcements (with more coming this month), but the state of the field has remained basically static. My guess is that behind the scenes things are tightening but that we won’t know how until some candidates start dropping out.
As usual, I’ll begin with the Republican field:
Best Bets – Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio. Same as three months ago, except that I’ve followed others in moving Rubio up a bit. Basically, Bush hasn’t edged out his fellow Floridian, so I take that as a good sign for Rubio’s chances.
Hey, It Could Happen – Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich. GOP election victories in 2010 and 2014 give them an especially broad field of viable candidates this cycle. All of these candidates have traditional qualifications (current/former governors and senators) and reasonable support in the party. None are at odds with significant groups within the party, and so are unlikely to be clearly vetoed. It just depends on what happens if one of the top tier candidates stumbles, who it is, and how they do it. Of the five, I’d put Perry and Huckabee slightly ahead of the others. Despite Perry’s poor performance in 2012 he’s got a pretty compelling conservative claim (beating out Jindal) and Huckabee has strong connections with the evangelical grassroots (ahead of Santorum, I think). I keep thinking – and others keep suggesting – that Kasich could break out soon, but I’m beginning to think the combination of Walker and Bush may have already taken the air out of his campaign.
Ain’t Going To Happen – Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Lindsay Graham, George Pataki, Chris Christie. Some of these (Fiorina, Carson, and Trump(?)) are exciting to their followers but have none of the conventional qualifications that will make them believable general election nominees. (And Carson’s experiencing the challenges of an inexperienced campaigner diving into the deep end.) Others (Graham, Pataki, and Christie) have conventional qualifications on paper but no real shot at the nomination. Graham is too much like McCain, but with less flair, for the GOP base. His main focus, hawkish foreign policy, is too widely shared by other nominees to make him especially relevant. Pataki’s time has passed and his abortion stance (pro-choice, or not pro-life enough) mean that he’d he faces an insurmountable obstacle to the nomination. Similarly, Christie is too moderate and too tainted to win out in this pack.
Not Dropping Out – Ted Cruz, Rand Paul. At some point, members of the “Hey, It Could Happen” crowd are going to conclude that it’s not going to happen, drop out, and maybe try to pick a winner. (Though, as I said, one or two might also get elevated to the “Best Bets” along the way.) The same is likely true for the “Ain’t Going to Happen” crowd, though the fact that they’re in the race in the first place may suggest that they’ll be slower to come to grips with the narrowness of their chances. (Unless, of course, some are already running for a VP or cabinet slot and are simply waiting to know who they should bow out to.) But Cruz and Paul are likely to have sufficient support and enough ideological commitment to stay the long course. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if both of them stay in until the convention to try their hand at shaping the party, even if they have nowhere near the delegates to have any real impact. Basically, it will be Ron Paul’s 2012 playbook, but with two ideological warriors instead of one and maybe greater appeal for each. Paul’s libertarian foreign policy views will make him reasonably easy to dismiss, but Cruz’s anti-RINO crusade could be quite a thorn in the nominee’s side, even after the nomination is wrapped up. If nothing else, they’ll keep it interesting.
And the Democrats:
It’s still Clinton – Hillary Clinton.
Message Men – Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley. Bernie will hold on to his anti-class and anti-finance industry message, but can he stick to his ‘no negative ads’ rule? It’s not completely clear yet what O’Malley’s message will be or if it lasts. I think he could have something if he focuses on Baltimore/race/urban poverty. It won’t be enough to defeat Clinton, but it keeps him on the political radar for the future.
Out Of the Woodwork – Lincoln Chafee? When you have no shot at a future in Rhode Island politics (couldn’t get reelected as a senator or governor) and no shot at the nomination, why not run for president? Honestly, what’s the downside as a last political hurrah? Heck, maybe he’ll even raise some awareness of the metric system.
What are your thoughts? See anyone that you think I should reconsider?