Countdown to 2016 : A Look at the Candidates

The last presidential election may have just taken place, but already the leading contenders for that coveted nominee position are jostling for attention and staking their claims. We look at some of the leading contenders for both the Republican and Democrat parties.

It would interesting to see a study on how many Presidential nominees were being named in predictions like this four years earlier. In my many years of watching politics, it often seemed that the eventual nominee was a surprise.

Nevertheless, here’s my list of politicians whose names are being bandied about at the moment. The party nominee of 2016 may be among them. If not, the younger ones even have a chance at the election beyond that.

To review, there are two majority parties in the US – the center-left Democratic party, and the center-right Republican party (aka, the GOP). Expect the next President to be from one of those.

The sitting President in his first term has few contenders for his party’s nomination – the incumbent president is seldom, if ever, denied the nomination if he seeks it. But this is President Obama’s second and last term – although, some supporters have talked of overturning the Constitutional amendment that sets that limit. Normally, there would be large list of contenders. This time, one person is towering over the party choices.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come to the forefront after years of struggling to get there. And, for now, she is the presumptive heir to the nomination. She has been in the public eye for a long time and people have become used to her. She has only held on elected position – Senator from New York – and that came after being the President’s First Lady. But, until recently, she held the prestigious position of Secretary of State (in other countries, it would called “Foreign Minister”).

If she does nothing bad in the next four years, she will almost certainly win the Democratic nomination.

Even so, there will always been hopefuls fighting against the odds.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is an ambitious man. The son of a former Governor of New York. A strong liberal, though he surprised many with his fiscally conservative policy as Governor. However, he needs to be able to bury his past – the policies he implemented during his time in the Clinton administration led directly to the financial crisis. His decision to run may depend on Hillary Clinton not running.

Vice President Joe Biden would normally be a major contender by this point. But his age plus his tendency to commit goofy gaffes makes him look like an eccentric grandpa more suited for a rocking chair. Expect him to throw his hat in the ring. Expect it to be flung aside.

Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland has been considering a run but he is little known outside of Maryland (which is why he needs to start preparing right now). Two women senators, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York get a lot of national publicity without even trying.


There is more uncertainty among the Republicans. That makes it most interesting.

I should start with the unlikely Sarah Palin. She was the Vice Presidential candidate on John McCain’s bid for the Presidency in 2008. From the start, she became famous and influential, and a Tea Party favorite (the Tea Party is a group of Republicans that are attempting to restore to the American political scene the original ideas of the Founding Fathers). However, I doubt she will be a top candidate in 2016. There are too many young up and comers.

And by failing to make the effort in 2012, along with her mysterious resignation from the Governorship of Alaska, she now appears to be an indecisive person. And she never really managed to make herself likable – i.e., overcome the left’s “taint brush.”

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is a child of Cuban immigrants. He decided to challenge the Republican’s official choice for Senate and, with the Tea Party’s backing, overcome a huge deficit in public support to win the Senate seat. He’s a extremely personable man with a knack for inspiring speeches. But right now, he is involved in the new immigration bill hacked out by committee that might adversely affect his standing with the right wing.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is part Cuban. Like Rubio, he had to defeat his own party’s preferred choice, then defeat the Democratic candidate to take his seat in the Senate – again, the Tea Party seems to have made a difference. He quickly became a target of the left for his outspokenness. They are trying to taint him as too contentious as they did Sarah Palin. He will need to show other facets, or follow after Sarah Palin.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is another rookie Senator. But he has a famous father, Senator Ron Paul, who has taken a libertarian stance in many attempts at the Presidency. Drifting somewhat from his unsuccessful father’s stances, and with the Tea Party’s blessing, Rand won his seat.

He recently raised his profile considerably by filibustering, a la Jimmy Stewart-in “Mr Smith Goes to Washington,” against a man nominated for Obama’s cabinet. Rand’s issue with the nominee was his position on the use of drone weaponry in the US. The filibuster ended when President Obama promised that drone weaponry will not be used against US citizens within the US borders without due process – a considerable victory for the young man.

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Fat and feisty, he maintains an usual popularity in a largely Democratic state. But he damaged himself when, during the Presidential elections, he toured areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy with, and practically fawned over the incumbent President Obama.

Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is one of the most fiscally astute congressmen around. As the Vice Presidential nominee on Mitt Romney’s failed ticket, he now has an uncertain standing. But he has time to turn things around.

Two Southern Governors have gotten a lot of press. Coincidentally, both are of East Indian extraction. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. And Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina. Both have very conservative records.


A curious statistic should be mentioned. A Presidential candidate from New England has not won a Presidential election since John Kennedy in 1960. That’s 13 elections ago (and 8 presidents since five of them won a second term). I’m not counting Bush I nor Bush II as New Englanders even though they were both born there. They’ve lived in Texas since 1948, and their political seats were for Texas. That’s how they would be perceived, especially by Southerners.

Of the Democrats that I mentioned, all but Gov. O’Malley are New Englanders. (I don’t know if New England born and bred Hillary Clinton’s position as wife of Southerner Bill Clinton makes a difference. Her one elected position was as Senator from New York.) Of the Republicans, only Gov. Christie is a New Englander. All the others are from the South, except for Paul Ryan.

It’s worth remembering how large the population is outside of New England. Couple that with the fact few voters have fully formed political philosophies, so some might just vote for “one of us.” (The candidate’s original home region, if different from his current region, may play a minor part in that thinking.) It’s not a coincidence that so many Presidents since John Kennedy have come from the South (Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bush I, Bill Clinton, Bush II). The remaining were from the Mid-West (Ford, Obama) or the West (Nixon, Reagan). Reagan and Obama originated in a different region then where they spent their political lives.

It would be foolish to discount the New England candidates based on 13 elections. I suppose it may be clung to by supporters of candidates who aren’t New Englanders. But election day decision making in a large country is too complex.

Article by John Eyon

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