Yesterday, I reviewed the upcoming 2016 Democratic primary fight. Generously speaking, the contest is Hillary Clinton versus a series of progressively less interesting pretenders to the throne. It’s not a fair fight, more like US v. Grenada lopsidedness. The fight for the Republican nomination, on the other hand, is quite another story.
While an old adage is that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line, the reality is somewhat more complex. Democrats have surely had their share of idealistic primaries (2008, for one), with three of the last five being utter snooze fests. Either a President ran for re-election (1996 and 2012) or a Vice-President ascended to the nomination gracefully (2000). Republicans, on the other hand, have only had one such contest in the last five Presidential cycles (2004). While the original frontrunner often ends up winning (2008 and 2012), the fights are regularly nasty and brutish. 2016 looks to be another such ugly brawl.
I have split up the prospective Republican candidates into four main categories: Establishment Conservative, Establishment Tea Party, Fringe Tea Party and Outcast. In making these distinctions, I admittedly use the term Establishment freer than most others would. Instead of what many others do, which is to say make a distinction between business interests and grass roots evangelism, I use the term to simply denote one who has climbed up the ladder in national politics. Tonight, I will delineate the first category.
1. Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida
The son of President George Bush, the brother President George W. Bush and the father of Texas Land Commissioner Republican nominee George P. Bush, this Bush is comparably open minded on a wide array of issues. He made headlines a few months ago when he noted that many undocumented immigrants crossed the border in what he considered an “act of love.” But that’s not all! Bush has also gone on record advocating for the Federal Government to stay out of the gay marriage debate (in a huge departure from his brother’s administration).
All this makes Bush a formidable foe against any of the Democratic contenders (read: Clinton), if he somehow were going to emerge from a Republican primary. Personally, I have some major doubts.
2. Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
Christie, much like Bush, is an openly pragmatic Republican. He is willing to compromise, and has some centrist positions on issues. He freely acquiesced to a State Court order legalizing gay marriage in his State. He has even become a modest proponent of Medical Marijuana.
However, Christie has largely been seen as damaged goods. Since the beginning of the year, his Presidential prospects –no, his entire political career– have been put in jeopardy because of the scandal called “Bridgegate.” In its simplest explanation, the scandal revolves around some of Christie’s closest aides –who have now all resigned or been fired– scheming to artificially augment traffic in a town whose Mayor did not endorse Christie’s re-election efforts last year. Progressives were overjoyed by this revelation, and relished in the opportunity to call Christie an evil, vindictive, nefarious, Nixonian monster.
For his part, Christie has been inconsistent on whether or not Bridegate affected his willingness to run for President. In May, Christie said that he was “thinking” about running for President. Just the other day, however, Christie was far more dismissive about the whole thing.
3. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas
Wait, Rick Perry is not among the Tea Party crowd? I was skeptical of such an assessment for many years as well, but I think that Paul Burka’s recent article in Texas Monthly finally convinced me otherwise. Perry is a creature of the times, but he is not a Tea Party rabblerouser. His path into State Government was honorable. Furthermore, in a contrast of Perry to Greg Abbott (the Republican gubernatorial nominee), I have always said that Perry, for all his faults, is a straightforward guy. His political views are not as malleable as the sands in the wind, much like Abbott’s are.
This has been shown remarkably well in the last year, as Perry has seemingly become the voice of reason on many issues. Perry’s big pot reveal is probably the best example.
Perry, for his part, is doing everything he can to not only stake out his own ground in the middle, but preserve his conservative bona fides. Definitely sounds like a Presidential candidate to me.
4. Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana
Pence is best known as a pragmatic Midwestern Governor. The Washington Post reports that many in the party are “wooing” him and that he is “listening.” He has a bipartisan mindset, and his administration chose to expand Medicaid through Obamacare. Not good for a primary campaign.
5. Jon Huntsman, former Ambassador to China
Huntsman has been super open about his interest in another campaign. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Huntsman was warmly interested in the idea. For his part, he has began to make trips around the country, including a keynote appearance at the 2014 Texas Tribune festival later this year.
A former Governor of Utah, Huntsman likely permanently disenfranchised himself from Republicanism when he accepted a job to serve as Obama’s Ambassador to China, a position he held from 2009 to 2011.
PART 2 TOMORROW!