|Democratic Presidential Nominee 2016. You saw it here first.|
Hillary Clinton is not going to be the Democratic nominee. She’s standing at 65% in the Democratic polls, after all, with anyone else in single digits (except Joe Biden, at 10%). That looks unprecedented. That looks prohibited. But Hillary Clinton is not going to be the Democratic nominee.
First off, polls at this great distance from the election reflect little more than name recognition. They do not measure enthusiasm. The Democrats have almost no big names on their benches, except for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. The real news here is that Biden has no chance of the nomination. The Democrats do already know him, and they have clearly chosen not to support him. But since most Democrats have no idea who Martin O’Malley is, how can they support him?
This will certainly change. Democratic primary voters prefer dark horses. To them, politics is religion. They crave a savior figure, someone with superhuman qualities. A “lightworker.” Remember the posters that once read “JC (Jimmy Carter, not Jesus Christ) Will Save America?” Anyone too well known is off the list. Too many known warts and imperfections. To be plausible, you must start out as almost a blank slate in the public mind, so they can project their fantasies on you.
That’s not Hillary Clinton, is it? She was too well known to make it last time around; she is better known now. The very fact that almost any potential rival is a relative unknown, ironically, seals her fate. There is too much opportunity for opposition to coalesce around one savior figure. Some untested Howard Dean, or Barack Obama, or Jimmy Carter, or George McGovern or Bill Clinton is likely to surprise in Iowa, and then go on to storm through the primaries. It is just impossible to tell who it might be now. My best guess is that it will be a woman, because Democrats are not going to feel good about voting against a woman unless it is for another minority.
On the Republican side, there is the opposite situation: they have many plausible candidates. The key to their nomination is that any viable candidacy has to achieve dominance over one or another of the party’s constituent factions. Without this, they will not have the organizational power to survive the primary process.
Ted Cruz, the current poll leader, looks as though he has a solid grip, for now, on the Tea Party. Rand Paul is the obvious choice for the Libertarians. The party establishment seems to be behind Chris Christie. That leaves one major faction unaccounted for, without an obvious candidate: the Christian right.
|Current slight favourite in a wide-open race.|
The big name best positioned for raising their flag is Mike Huckabee, if he is interested. Rick Santorum’s current poll numbers are not encouraging for him. Bobby Jindal has a shot here, buoyed by his school voucher initiative. There is also opportunity here for a dark horse.
I see a realistic path for Jeb Bush as well. He has an automatic faction of establishment support, as a Bush. Christie faces serious challenges in the early primaries, like those Rudy Giuliani faced, or Mitt Romney, because, as a Northeasterner, he has inevitably taken positions that will not appeal to the Iowan grassroots. Florida’s early primary then becomes Bush’s possible ace in the hole to take out a faltering Christie. The establishment support would then move to him. He’s run well against a Democratic dark horse, too—as an experienced hand at the tiller, after the amateurism of the Obama administration.
Paul Ryan also has a shot. Because he comes from a nearby state, he could probably put together a good ground organization in Iowa, allowing him to score a possible upset—a result that makes him look stronger on the ground than in recent national polls. This then becomes the press lede, and he gets a lot of coverage going into New Hampshire.
The basic math is this: if any one candidate ends up as the champion of two of the four main Republican factions, libertarians, tea party populists, establishment, and Christians, he gets the nomination. Though in the past, the Establishment alone has often been sufficient. Who is most likely to do this?
And the Christian right is the one faction that seems most up for grabs.
Ted Cruz’s path looks clearest for the moment—Tea Party plus Christian right. But Tea Party support is rather fickle.
Next to that, I’d take Jeb Bush’s chances. Establishment plus Christian right. That’s the combination that put his brother over the top. But he starts from a position of dominating neither.