Lord of the Idiots

The 2016 Presidential election has officially entered silly season. There are plenty of political issues on which, no matter how heated and recalcitrant my positions may be, I can understand that there are two realistic answers to the question. On others, however, the same simply cannot be said. Natural selection occurs, the world is more than 5000 years old and vaccines do not cause Autism. Just for good measure, the earth is also round and the sky is blue.

Unfortunately, two serious candidates for president from the Republican Party are having some serious problems accepting one of those axioms, specifically the one about vaccines. First, as The New York Times reports, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) defended parents who irresponsibly opt out of vaccinations such as measles for their children, saying that parents “need to have some measure of choice” in the matter. In doing so, he broke with President Barack Obama’s position, which is that all children should be vaccinated against preventable diseases.

Christie unsurprisingly received a barrage of criticism for his remarks, and despite attempts to walk back the remarks, the damage was done. But suddenly, a new contender has emerged: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).

In an interview with NBC News, Paul spoke frankly about his views on immigration. A reputed civil libertarian, Paul took exception with the alleged individual liberty violations inherent in mandatory inoculations. Most troubling, Paul lent his support to the deleterious hoax that vaccines can cause profound mental disorders such as autism.

“I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” he said in his CNBC interview.

This doesn’t happen. He would have been better off saying that a magical unicorn deposits gold ingots in his backyard; at least, that way, nobody would have their health put at risk because of his baldfaced lies. There was one study linking Autism and vaccines (specifically the MMR one). It was discredited, many times. The doctor in question had his license revoked, and eventually retracted the entirety of his findings. It has since come out that he just fabricated the whole thing.

Why Paul, a medical doctor, would support such preposterous dribble is beyond comprehension.

Mandatory vaccinations should be self-explanatory. Individuals with compromised immune systems or other serious ailments often cannot manage the stress of receiving a vaccination (which is minimal for those with functional immune systems), so they must rely on herd immunity. Those who can vaccinate but do not selfishly put those who cannot at risk. It is not just foolish, it is negligent and hurtful.

I never thought we would actually have to defend the validity of the measles vaccine in a presidential election. What century is this? Say what you want about Rick Perry, but his unequivocal and succinct response to all this silliness was absolutely spot-on. His partisan compatriots should learn a thing or two.

The Rick Perry legacy

Tomorrow, Governor-elect Greg Abbott will take the reigns from Rick Perry and officially become just ‘Governor Abbott.’ For the first time since the Clinton administration, Texas will have a new governor. Indeed, Perry has served in office for more than 14 years, shattering all the old records set by his predecessors.

I’ve been putting off writing about this, because I do not necessarily feel qualified to editorialize about political events that transpired in 2000 or 2001. I was six years old when Perry assumed office, so opining on some of Perry’s first acts would be a lot like my father talking about his experience in observing Dwight Eisenhower or Allan Shivers’ respective tenures in office.

Perry, of course, took office on December 21st, 2000, the day that George W. Bush resigned the governorship in preparation to become president. Perry had served as the Lieutenant Governor since 1999, and previously served two terms as Agriculture Commissioner from 1991 to 1999. He also served two terms in the Texas House of Representatives, from 1985 to 1991, the first two of which as a Democrat.

I’m not going to meticulously go over the ebbs and flows of his time in office, others have done a much better job at that. Rather, I want to examine two ideas about Perry that have always stayed with me from his time in office. Contrary to what some may expect from me, they are actually quite positive.

If this makes sense, Perry is an ideologue –but in a good way. When he first took office, his co-leaders were quite different. The Speaker of the House, Pete Laney, was a Democrat, and the acting Lieutenant Governor, State Senator Bill Ratliff (R-Titus County), was a tremendously moderate Republican who could absolutely not succeed in one of his party’s primaries today (think Nelson Rockefeller, except from East Texas). After the conclusion of the 77th Legislature in 2001, Perry vetoed a record number of bills. Even when compared to Ratliff’s successor, David Dewhurst, Perry was right-wing.

Today, however, Perry is seen as an establishment figure. Bud Kennedy at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram opined that he could run for president as the “anti-Cruz,” a more pragmatic establishment type. Compared to, as of tomorrow, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick or Attorney General Ken Paxton (or even Abbott), Perry is on the moderate side of his party. Obviously, the governor did not tack to the left in an era when so many others zoomed the other way. On the other hand, Perry has a firmly planted set of core beliefs, which does not change because of partisan winds. Love him or hate him, that’s an admirable quality, one that is less and less common in successful politicians.

Second, Perry — at his core — always appears to have all of Texas at heart. Sure, there was the rampant cronyism/corruption. But any even rudimentary student of Texas political history knows that is the rule and not the exception. Unlike Abbott or Patrick, in my opinion, Perry genuinely believed what he was doing would be good for the average Texan (as much as he may have been mistaken in some instances), not the average Republican primary voter.

I have found myself agreeing more and more with the band of Democrats who feel that Perry’s successors will be considerably worse than him, and we will one day covet the comparable pragmatism in the Perry administration. There is certainly some truth in this, but it is important to not get carried away.

Perry pushed through venal so-called “tort reform” that lobotomized much of our court system, including the resurgence of cruddy legal jurisprudence typically only found in Great Britain. He was instrumental in the horrendous gerrymandering scheme that reduced 90%+ of legislative districts to uncompetitive backwaters. More recently, he vigorously pushed the omnibus anti-abortion legislation that Wendy Davis filibustered and he attempted to coerce an unfriendly prosecutor into resigning by threatening (and following through) to veto funding (this is what he was indicted regarding).

Obviously, Texas can’t get much worse off on many fronts, but on others it surely can. Perhaps most horrifying about Abbott and his ilk is that they have no central moral principles, nothing preventing them from grandstanding and demagoguery in the face of an increasingly extreme minority that monopolizes the political process. When they start demanding book burnings or the rescinding of the bill of rights, Perry would have rightly put his foot down. Abbott and Patrick, to the contrary, I’m unsure about.

Adios, mofo. We’ll miss you (sort of).

Catching up, Part III

Last week, we saw the brief rise and spectacular fall of the self-aggrandizing Texan believing their own delusions of grandeur. Specifically, I’m talking about Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a Tea Party favorite who launched a last-minute challenge to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the two term incumbent. Gohmert, when all was said and done, received two other votes: Congressmen Randy Weber (R-Texas) and Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma). A grand total of 25 Republicans defected from team Boehner, allowing the speaker to still be easily re-elected.

The total shellacking of the right-wing by establishment Republicans lead Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune to openly wonder if it was a harbinger of things to come for the quixotic race to topple State House Speaker Joe Straus (R-Bexar County). State Representative Scott Turner (R-Rockwall County), a Tea Party favorite, is challenging Straus for the gavel but will likely only garner two dozen votes or fewer.

Meanwhile, a great deal of attention has been placed upon the prospective 2016 Presidential candidates. Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) have already taken official steps toward running, making a mainstream victory in the Iowa Caucuses highly unlikely. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the party’s 2012 nominee, has begun assembling a new campaign team. The Washington Post reports he is “almost certain” to run for president once more. This coming the same day that Romney’s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), announced he would not run himself.

On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) continues making cacophonous rabble, but has done little to put together a real campaign. Grassroots activists continue pining for Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), no matter how many times she says, in no uncertain terms, that she will not run. That contest still looks like Hillary Clinton’s to win, lose or draw…almost certainly to win.

Kubosh for Congress?

kubosh

Texpatriate reports that a concerted effort has begun to draft City Councilmember Michael Kubosh (R-At Large 3) into running for congress, specifically within the 7th District. Kubosh would challenge the incumbent congressman, John Culberson, in the Republican primary, if he were to run. Kubosh’s office did not immediately return a request for comment, but sources close to the councilmember confirmed that he is intently thinking over the decision to run and he has specifically not ruled it out.

Granted, the 2016 primary is still more than a year away, and a whole lot can happen between now and then. But Kubosh would instantaneously have the superb name recognition needed to run a credible campaign against Culberson, who is not exactly a sterling representative of his constituents.

Culberson, a former state representative first elected to congress in 1998, is an astonishingly lightweight politician. In most sessions, he introduces only a handful of pieces of legislation (sometimes none at all) and does little to nothing to see those bills through the process. His sole claim to fame is grandstanding against the proposed Richmond Avenue light rail line, which he has successfully blocked through bullying, intimidation and dirty tactics for many years. Even though the area in question is no longer in his district (it is in Congressman Ted Poe’s), he has gone to possibly unconstitutional lengths to deny federal funds for light rail expansion. He has also, more recently, set his sights on blocking a bus rapid transit line on Post Oak Road in Uptown.

Ostensibly, this is because of a dedication to property rights. But in literally any other instance, Culberson is a lousy defender of the people against claims of eminent domain, namely when the Katy Freeway was recently expanded. It is obvious he sheds crocodile tears on this issue. Sources close to Kubosh, on the other hand, intimate that he would be more amenable to light rail expansion, much like Poe.

All this is to say that Kubosh would be a remarkable improvement just as a result of not being the incumbent. But since taking office on council in January, Kubosh has served in his own right as an effective and well-intentioned officeholder. Whether or not you agree with him on specific issues, his dedication to the job is nearly unmatched among his colleagues.I have, overall, been a big fan of his tenure and would be most excited to see him run for congress.

A bail bondsman by trade, Kubosh first got his start in politics by organizing the successful referendum effort against red-light cameras. He later lead the charge against an asinine ordinance that criminalized feeding the homeless on public property. Historically associated with Republican causes, many within the political establishment feared that he would be a right-wing rabble-rouser on the council. However, his tenure has proven to be anything but, as he has become a steady, compassionate and articulate voice on the council.

I’d like to see Kubosh in Washington. But, given the choice between Kubosh and Culberson, I’ll pull out all the stops to retire the incumbent congressman.

Jeb Bush 2016

The New York Times reports that former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) has taken the first decisive step toward running for president in the upcoming 2016 election. Bush created something called a “leadership PAC” that actively explores the possibility of running for president. It is tantamount in all but name to an Exploratory Committee, and few — if any — serious observers contend that there is a realistic chance he would not follow through and run at this time.

Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H.W. Bush, is largely seen as the continuation of a quintessential Republican establishment dynasty. While the family may have been, in some circles, considered on the rightward periphery of the party in 2000, times have markedly changed since that time. Specifically, since the advent of the Tea Party, Bush has been lambasted by the base of his own party as insufficiently conservative on immigration-related issues. Earlier this year, he even suggested unauthorized border crossings were an “act of love,” drawing the ire of the right-wing. Bilingual and the husband of a Mexican-immigration (additionally the father of Land Commissioner-elect George P. Bush), Bush is seen as a uniquely formidable Republican opponent for Democratic presidential contenders, namely former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Prompted by Bush, a few other names have clamored to reiterate their longstanding almost-campaigns. The serious politicians who belong in that category include Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), among other less glamorous options.

Last month, I prognosticated that Cruz has the best chance of the pack to be nominated, and I reiterate that comment again tonight. Make no mistake, the ultra-conservatives (Tea Party) are in firmer control of the party now than they were four years ago. They have only been enraged over the years as their preferred candidates have been cast aside in favor of comparable-pragmatists, such as John McCain and Mitt Romney, who then fell in the general election. Bush — or Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), for that matter — will be shunned because he will be seen as a continuation of the “play it safe” strategy.

Of course, the success of a presidential candidate has little to do with ideology, because the American public does not care enough to understand said ideology. They care about the charisma and soundbites of the messenger. That is why Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in a way that Gerald Ford likely would not have, even though Reagan was significantly more conservative.

Much in the same respect, Cruz is a phenomenal messenger in a way that none of the other candidates are. Not since Joseph McCarthy have the Republicans had a national figure so comfortable with making things up and completely disregarding the truth without so much as a modicum of shame. The only difference is that the media is so impotent and feckless nowadays that there is no Edward R. Murrow to call him out. Cruz is confident, assured and smart, so the base in his party goes along for the ride, even though I think it is fairly obvious he would sell them out in an instant to further his own interest. When the time comes, I believe, the general public will similarly fall for him.

If the Tea Party is looking for a knight in shining armor, they will be sorely disappointed just about any way. Cruz may be appealing, quoting Cicero and all. But in the end, his most rapid supporters will just be muttering “Et Tu, Theodore?” At least Bush puts his cards on the table.

New 2016 tidbits

During the summer, I wrote up a fairly lengthy analysis of 2016 Presidential candidates, both Democrat and Republican. Since that time, one Democrat — Jim Webb — has unofficially thrown his hat into the ring by forming an exploratory committee, a formality that always precedes an official announcement. Meanwhile, a Republican — Ben Carson — looks all but certain to make some type of official announcement in coming days. Neither, in my opinion, will make much of a difference, but it is fun to analyze them anyways.

First, as The Washington Post reports, former Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) looks to be the first major contender. Webb is a ferociously moderate Democrat, the epitome of so-called “blue dog” values. A longtime military officer, his service culminated with him being the Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration. He thereafter served one term in the Senate from Virginia, from 2007 to 2013. He declined to stand for re-election because, as he put it, he hated Washington and its dysfunction. Historically, he has also been a somewhat harsh critic of President Barack Obama, both deriding Obamacare and lambasting the president’s general use of executive power.

Now, I’m surely not the most obsequious fan of Obama, notwithstanding my recent adulation. I think, given his horrendous unpopularity, that the Democrats would not be all that misguided to look toward a candidate not afraid of criticizing ‘the anointed one,’ so to speak. I think former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the definitive Democratic (if not general election) frontrunner, is playing a somewhat safe middle ground by not complimenting or criticizing Obama too heavily. From a policy point of view, I don’t find anything wrong with Webb. He almost reminds me of a modern-day Jimmy Carter. But America, politically speaking, has gotten far dumber — and far less open minded –since the days of the the peanut farmer from Georgia. The media crowns winners years in advance now in the dichotomous, “four legs good, two legs bad” dystopia that we currently live in. Even though I would still venture to say that Clinton is the better candidate because of both policy and, especially, general election standing, her political future has been written years in advance as practically an inevitability.

Second, with Bloomberg Politics doing the honors, Ben Carson has all-but-officially-announced his intent to seek the Republican nomination for president. A brilliant surgeon, Carson’s intellectual prowess does not appear to extend to the political arena, where he bumbles from one conspiracy theory to the next. In addition to having no political experience whatsoever, Carson appears more than willing to cater to the lowest common denominator. I believe he recently suggested he would literally live in some type of socialist autocracy by 2016, if my memory serves me right. If he’s campaigning for a seat on a Fox News talk show, right on. But if he’s serious about the presidency, we should insist he move along.

Otherwise, there are plenty of the same Republican names flirting with the issues as there were in the summer. A few new names include Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who does not have much of a base to prop him up. Additionally, although he hasn’t made official comments one way or another, Governor John Kasich (R-OH) is starting to cause more of a buzz. A pragmatic Republican, he has developed a penchant for moderation, and has received a generous pour of positive press since his landslide re-election.

But perhaps the most significant point I wish to discuss tonight is what I feel is the growing momentum around the inevitable campaign of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). All other things being equal, I think he would win a Republican primary held today. Perhaps more importantly, I think he would also defeat Clinton in a general election.

Cruz is brilliant and articulate. Those with little exposure to him generally like what they see, and he would be sure to extend this mindset to the campaign trail. And while, nationally, his identification is generally negative, the vast majority of Americans do not know who he is. If, for example, I walked around West Campus in Austin, the setting of my apartment, and stopped the first 10 people I spotted, I doubt more than five would be aware of the existence of our state’s junior senator. This, at ostensibly the best pubic institution of higher learning in the state. Transport me to a state outside of Texas, and I’d postulate the number drops to three. For most Americans, including most who will vote in the 2016 election, their first exposure to Cruz will be after he would lock up the Republican nomination.

This is where what I call Cruz’s “Obama resemblance” becomes so important. Throughout the summer, I highlighted what I found to be a similarity. While many other pundits have made the Cruz-Obama connection, including my contemporary Erica Greider in Politico, these profiles have all focused on the duo’s lack of experience (less than one full term in the Senate). However, rather than experience, Cruz’s reminiscence to Obama is his cult-like popularity among his party’s base, and how it provides a uniquely strong transition from primary to general election mode for a presidential candidate.

Throughout the 2008 primaries, and even continuing into recent times, Obama has enjoyed almost a messianic popularity among the most diehard Democrats, the ones who vote in all the primaries. I lamented this fact in The Brandeis Justice last year. Similarly, Cruz looks like he is the holy one among Tea Party Republicans, the exact type who will hand him decisive victories in the Iowa Caucuses and South Carolina Primary, both of which will help propel him to victory in the Republican primaries. I have noted many times that Clinton’s weakness in 2008 was her record of centrism on many important issues. Democrats, fed up with perceived moderation in their party, flocked to the charismatic young guy who told them exactly what they wanted to hear; never mind that he was lying. Thus, Obama talked out of both sides of his mouth, appealing to his base with one breath and the general electorate with the other. Expect Cruz to do the same.

And Cruz, more than any Democrat could ever get away with it, sure does love to lie. Take, for example, is recent bout with the Net Neutrality issue. The gist of it is that internet service providers should — as they always have — treat all online data equally; that is, not intentionally slow down specific sites or applications (read: those who do not pay more).  The Oatmeal has a rather good illustration on all this. Cruz has ridiculously claimed that Obama wants to strictly regulate the internet, and even tax it, both of which are just baldfaced lies. But he keeps on lying anyway, and is rather good at it. Given the feckless, impotent nature of the media, people will eventually come to believe him and heed his words.

Democrats will largely be complacent with Clinton atop the ticket. More reassuring, demographics and tradition are on their side. But Cruz will, in what I have to think of as the more likely scenario, win by a squeaker.

Romney 2016?

About two months ago, I wrote a featured five-part series about the 2016 Presidential election, specifically all of the politicians (Democrat and Republican) who have been discussed as prospective presidential candidates. (If you don’t want to navigate through five different articles, I have abridged the entire thing onto one post here). I pointedly only considered candidates who had openly discussed the prospect of running for President, and not those who have unequivocally ruled it out of the picture or remained silent. Among those individuals was Mitt Romney. I wrote, back in July, that “There is still an active draft movement for Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts and the Republican Presidential nominee in 2012,” but no more. I kept my comments rather concise because, hitherto that article, Romney had been quite adamant with his intention to not run for President again. Romney, of course, was the Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, and then ran for President twice, in 2008 and 2012.

Last week, POLITICO reported that Romney’s tone had changed, ever so slightly, on his future Presidential prospects. The previous rhetoric regarding the future had changed from “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no” to “circumstances can change.” That’s a big change, and it’s the milquetoast, political way of telling the world you have somewhat changed your mind on the matter.

A few days later, POLITICO also reported on a Gallup poll out of Iowa that shows Romney decisively leading the pack for the 2016 Republican Iowa Caucuses. Romney received 35% of the vote in the survey, whereas the next-highest recipient was Undecided with 10% (number three was Mike Huckabee with 9%). When Romney was omitted from the survey, Undecided hops up to 17%, and Huckabee leads the humans with a pitiful 13%. Needless to say, Romney sure looks a panacea for Republican primary voters.

And, irrespective of one’s political orientation, you would be hard-pressed to not admit some of his comments in the 2012 election were rather prophetic. Specifically on the topic of foreign policy, what was once ridiculed as absurd conjecture on the instability of Iraq and the nefariousness of Russia, Romney has largely been vindicated.

That all being said, I’m not so sure that –even if he were interested– Romney would be an ideal candidate for the Republicans in 2016. While many polls have, indeed, shown that the American people have some buyer’s remorse vis-a-vis Romney and Obama in 2012, the same polls still show that Romney would not outdo Hillary Clinton in a 2016 match-up.

Let me be clear, speaking purely objectively, Romney would be a terrible choice for the Republicans in 2016. He lost last time not because he was outgunned by a superior candidate, but because he was such a lousy one himself. He lost an election against a vulnerable incumbent in a bad economy. The reason why was quite simple: he offended the American people by espousing extreme political positions and repeatedly putting his foot in his mouth. There is no reason to think he will not do the same thing once more.

Rick Perry, what have we?

The Texas Tribune reports that Governor Rick Perry has created the “Rick PAC,” a political action committee designed to funnel Perry-approved money throughout the country in preparation for this year’s general elections nationwide. Specifically, the group will reportedly focus upon Congressional campaigns around the country. Given the horrendously gerrymandered districts in Texas, I take it that none of his “investments” will be close to home.

No doubt, this is yet another stop in the road to the White House for Rick Perry, who obviously wants to run for President in 2016. My pertinent sources range from “he’s inclined to do so” to “it’s a 100% done deal.” Suffice it to say, it’s safe to assume we will be talking up a Rick Perry 2016 campaign for at least another year, if not longer. I talked up the prospects of Perry’s tentative run last month in my 5 Part series on the 2016 election, but at this point, I think the more relevant conversation is about Perry’s transition out of the Governor’s mansion and beyond.

Perry is indubitably a lame duck at this point in his governorship (Quack! Quack!). The Legislature will not go into session again during his administration, and future leaders such as Senator Ted Cruz and Attorney General Greg Abbott have already taken over the microphone. Perry is at best an afterthought at this point, existing as a mere formality in Texas politics, only breaking the mold to exercise one of his few powers or walk the other way on an issue. Even his great archenemy, UT-Austin President Bill Powers, will outlast him in public office.

Now, Perry will surely combat the descriptor of being hobbled or a mallard of any form. He obviously still sees himself as the marauding, swaggering cowboy with near-omnipotent influence over all of Texas. And, to a certain extent, he still is.

Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune opined on Perry’s power earlier this year, when he compared him to former Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullcok in the sheer amount of lemmings he has placed within every nook and cranny of State Government. It will take the better part of a decade for all this positions to come up for reappointment, and even then, bureaucrats have a pernicious penchant for adapting to new circumstances, such as a new Governor. Expect the old “Perry men” to quickly become “Abbott men” if and when the need arises.

But these debates aside, Perry’s de jure and de facto power in Austin will be reduced to zero in roughly five months. For the first time in many years, he will find himself evicted from public housing. Like any adjustment in one’s personal and professional life, the change may be frightening, but it also presents new opportunities. With unwavering alacrity, I am positive that Perry will be up for the challenge, whatever it might be.

In my opinion, Perry will make a major announcement of an “Explanatory Committee to look into a possible candidacy,” an evidently mandatory harbinger of the official Presidential announcement, sometime in March. That leaves a negligible amount of time in between his eviction from Colorado Street and the start of his stump speeches. The missing ingredient had been how to remain relevant between now and then. The “Rick PAC” will certainly be a good place to start.

Let’s talk about 2016!

I know, I know, the 2014 candidates are still in full swing, and then the 2015 municipal campaign (including a very exciting open Mayor’s race) will follow. But the 2016 election will soon be all-consuming in the world of politics, and I think a little crash-course in the candidates would be worthwhile, so one could simply jump right in the middle of the it all when the campaign inevitably becomes a tad less ambiguous. We will begin with the Democratic primaries, followed by a (much, much lengthier) series on Republican candidates.

The 2016 Democratic frontrunners begin and end with Hillary Clinton. Honestly, I am not really quite sure how I should describe her title anymore, given that she has had so many important ones. Clinton served as the First Lady of Arkansas from both 1979 to 1981 and 1983 to 1992, while her husband Bill Clinton served as Governor. She then followed him to the White House, and served as First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001. 17 days before the end of her husband’s Presidency, she began serving as a member of the US Senate, a position she held until 2009. At that point, she became the Secretary of State for four years, all of President Obama’s first term. Oh yeah, and she ran for President in 2008, coming astoundingly close to besting Obama in the Democratic primary that year. In fact, Clinton garnered more than 250,000 more votes than Obama.

Clinton has not officially announced anything pertaining to her Presidential ambitions, though she has said that she will likely make a decision by the end of the year. That being said, most insider-sources have agreed that she will run. A well-organized PAC, “Ready for Hillary,” has already been created, laying the groundwork for the expected run. However, the PAC is not merely run by overzealous supporters. Some of the Clinton family’s biggest political supporters, including James Carville and Harold Ickes, have signed on at the ground-level of this organization. George Soros, arguably the most prolific Democratic benefactor, has also donated heavily to the group. Closer to home, Amber and Steve Mostyn, possibly the biggest Democratic donors in Texas, have also underwritten the group. But the enthusiasm is not merely confined to activists and donors. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has preemptively endorsed Clinton for 2016, as has former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA). Tauscher is also noteworthy because she was one of Clinton’s top deputies in the State Department, serving as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, as well as the Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense.

I am confident that Clinton will run inherently because of the establishment support that has already surrounded her. As many will recall from last autumn, as the “Will Wendy Davis run for Governor?” question rung louder and louder, I was sold on her candidacy the instant that Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa began openly advocating for it. Politicians such as McCaskill would not preemptively endorse if there was actually a chance Clinton would not run. Politics does not work on wishful thinking like that.

Accordingly, it just makes for fatuous conversation at this point to debate whether or not Clinton will run. She’s in, and the polls show her squarely in the lead. For the Democratic primary in particular, polling shows Clinton simply eviscerating the competition. It’s not even a contest, more like the United States vs. Grenada. But, to be fair, none of the other candidates have gotten off the ground yet, or even really announced for that matter.

Chief among the other opponents (pretenders to the throne?) is Joe Biden, the Vice-President since 2009 and previously a six term Senator. Biden, who ran for President but performed disappointingly in 2008, still wants to be President. For his part, though, Biden has been significantly less successful in attracting donors and institutional support. Biden’s ace-in-the-hole, however, is that he has the ear of President Obama, who for his part praised Biden recently, though stopped far short of a full-blown endorsement.

A third likely candidate is Martin O’Malley, the Governor of Maryland. An outspoken liberal, he recently made headlines by criticizing the President for being too heartless on the unaccompanied minors at the border issue. Many will remember that O’Malley was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Johnson-Richards-Rayburn dinner in Houston, which I attended.

A fourth possible candidate is Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York. Cuomo is a social liberal but its quite centrist/pragmatic on fiscal affairs. This has caused him to draw the ire of the left, though Cuomo has unequivocally stated that he would not run against Clinton. Thus, I consider him an unlikely candidate.

So who would run against Clinton? Besides Biden, mostly ideologues on the left (such as O’Malley) or in the center.

Among the liberals would be Howard Dean, the former Governor of Vermont and Chairman of the DNC. The name may strike some as a shock, but Dean has openly flirted with the idea. “Never say never,” he recently said of the idea.

A far more skillful candidate than Dean that would appeal to the same base, however, is Elizabeth Warren, a Senator from Massachusetts. Warren has plainly said that she won’t run, but plenty of liberal figures have rallied to her side nonetheless. The New Republic called her “Clinton’s worst nightmare.” The New York Post even ran a barnbusting story about Obama secretly backing Warren over Clinton; it’s legitimacy is dubious at best. Still, this didn’t stop slightly-more reputable sources such as Fox News from repeating the allegations.

Far more likely, however, is a challenge from a pseudo-socialist such as Bernie Sanders, a Senator from Vermont. Sanders, who isn’t even technically a Democrat but an “Independent Socialist” who merely caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, would be quite the longshot to win (primary or general) but could have the effect of pulling the party to the left. The New Republic and The Nation, respectively, make that point quite well. Sanders, for his part, told Salon that he was truly interested in running for President but stopped short of any particulars.

The moderates’ best messenger, I’ve always thought, is Brian Schweitzer, the former Governor of Montana. Schweitzer is a strange mix of politician. As Ezra Klein noted (back when he was still at the Post) at the start of this year, he is the Democratic anti-Obama, castigating the President at every turn. However, many of his criticism are not really from the right/center. MSNBC fills in some of the details: while he is broadly pro-gas and pro-gun, he has libertarian viewpoints on programs such as the NSA and the Patriot Act. Furthermore, he is not shy about how much he hates Obamacare, but not for the reasons you think. Much like myself, he believes in a single-payer system. However, Time Magazine notes that Schweitzer may have sunk his chances by making some off-color comments recently. I’d say he sunk his chances when he dared to criticize Obama, President of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the 50 States and Protector of the Realm (this is a Game of Thrones joke).

Among more-usual moderates, Joe Manchin‘s –a Senator from West Virginia– name pops up. The National Journal has the full story on that, noting that a spokesperson simply told a hometown paper that “Senator Manchin is leaving all his options open for 2016, and will continue to look for the best way to bring common sense to Washington.” Manchin opposes both Obamcare and single-payer, and he famously put a bullet through a printed copy of Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal in a campaign video.

Last, but certainly not least, is Jim Webb, a former Senator from Virginia. Politico first reported that one. When asked point-blank on if he wished to run in 2016, he retorted with a laconic “I’m not going to say one way or another.” Webb, more than being a garden variety moderate, is a centre-left liberal who is a super-hawk on the deficit and the national debt.

Personally, I will probably support Clinton, but I truly wish for a vivid and competitive primary fight to ensue. This is not a knock on Clinton, merely a point that I do not think anyone should have a free pass. Furthermore, I think it actually strengthens candidates if they go through a primary fight, because it exposes their weaknesses and allows them to improve on their weaknesses. Take State Senator John Whitmire (D-Harris County) as an example. Many will recall that when his primary opponent, Damian LaCroix, first announced his candidacy, I applauded the contested primary. And yet, I (as well as the entire Texpatriate Editorial Board) strongly supported Whitmire in his re-election. Similarly, I think that Clinton could only become a better candidate by facing opposition from both her left and her right.

Among the other candidates, the only one I am truly enamored with is Schweitzer. Yes, he has a bit of an unpredictable mouth on him, but I admire a politician who says what he thinks, even if I disagree or am offended by something that is said once every blue moon. I consider it far superior to a guarded robot who never says anything of consequence.

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.

The main distinction between the outcast and the other categories is the presence of some semblance of political experience. The main distinction between the “fringe” and the “establishment” is how well-renowned the individual is on the national stage. Finally, Tea Party is a bit of an arbitrary descriptor, as there is no monolithic organization to which a member might belong, but I have done my best to weed out the so-called RINOs, to borrow the group’s lexicon. For example, in the 2012 Republican primaries, Herman Cain and Donald Trump would be “outcasts.” Michele Bachmann was “Fringe Tea Party,” Rick Santorum was “Establishment Tea Party” and Mitt Romney was “Establishment Conservative.” Hopefully, that clears it up.

ESTABLISHMENT CONSERVATIVES

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.

ESTABLISHMENT TEA PARTY

1. Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas
Cruz came out of nowhere to defeat Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the 2012 Republican primary for the Senate, marking the beginning of the end for the Lieutenant Governor and the beginning of the beginning for the closest thing the Tea Party has has for a leader since its inception. A former Solicitor General of Texas with a sterling track record at the US Supreme Court, as well as a graduate (magna cum laude) of Harvard Law School, Cruz is undoubtedly brilliant. That being said, I’ve never really noticed his assumed intellectuality being used in politics. Cruz goes for the gut through soppy speeches replete with straw-man arguments and sometimes outright fabrications. But it works for him, and he is reasonably the frontrunner for this contest.

Pick a conservative issue, Cruz has put his money on it. He lacks the strange libertarian excesses of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) while still maintaining nearly cult-like following from many in those same circles. Much ink will be spilled in the next couple years asking if Cruz is the Republican version of President Barack Obama, once also a first-term Senator with higher ambitions. Both have mothers whose families have been in this country for quite long, but both have fathers who were foreigners.

I equate Cruz with Obama because of one key reason, far removed from the parallels I just highlighted. Cruz is the “Tea Party Messiah” in a way that Obama definitely was –and to a limited extent, still is– among younger crowds. I wrote at length on this subject last year up in Boston, and already see the initial effects for Cruz on the other side. If Cruz is serious about running for President, which I believe he is, he will need to move back to the center, progressively taking more and more stands on issues that will be sure to tick off his obstreperous base. But, if the “Obama effect” holds true, he will be infallible. That could be a dangerous mix for the Democrats, which is why I am confident that Cruz stands a good chance of clinching the general election against Hillary Clinton. I still think Clinton is favored, but not by that much.

2. Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky
Paul, the son of longtime Texas Congressman Ron Paul, is every bit the politician that he father was not. He backs away from conspiracy theories, but has most of the courage to take a stand on civil liberties and foreign policy issues. He is unequivocally opposed to NSA Wiretapping, the USA PATRIOT Act, and most everything going on at Guantanamo Bay. He believes in isolationism, though he may fight tooth and nail against it being characterized by that word.

On other issues, Paul is surprisingly reasonable. He was supportive of the Supreme Court’s recent decision Windsor v. United States (striking down the Defense of Marriage Act), though he remains virulently opposed to same-sex marriage on a state-by-state level. Earlier this year, he co-sponsored a bipartisan piece of legislation that would generously liberalize requirements for felons to vote. He has even come out in favor of some limited relaxing of drug laws, much like his father.

Of course, Paul more than makes up on conservative bona fides with the rest of his positions. He believes that abortion in all cases –even the life of the mother– should be illegal and a constitutional amendment to that effect should be implemented. He opposes all gun control, government intrusion in healthcare and is radically opposed to many entitlement programs. His libertarian foreign policy arguments surely will draw the ire of the neoconservative establishment.

3. Marco Rubio, Senator from Florida
Rubio is an interesting figure. His positions on many political issues are notoriously hard to get hammed down, given how fluid they are depending on the day of the week. Specifically, on immigration reform, Rubio has been on both sides of the fence more than once. Originally a vociferous supporter of comprehensive reform, even a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, Rubio infamously changed his mind once he began taking flack on the matter.

More recently, however, he reportedly was back to talk over decisive action on the immigration front. In doing so, he has effectively become hostile against both sides on the issue. Not only the Tea Party, but pro-immigration reform groups now view his word as useless.

On other issues, such as climate change, Rubio has unequivocally stated his grave doubts on the topic, making him a late-night punchline for a number of evenings. While there are plenty of specs that would make Rubio an ideal candidate on paper, he has just had a few too many stumbles in the limelight. I mention the silly little water bottle incident not because I think it marks poorly upon his performance that night, but because it showed that the rest of his speech was utterly unremarkable. If a nominal screw-up like that occurs, it is only harped upon incessantly when there is nothing else good to cover–the 24 hour media has to cover something!

4. Paul Ryan, Congressman from Wisconsin
Ryan, obviously, was Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 Presidential election. For whatever reason, failed Vice-Presidential candidates never fare very well when they run for the top-spot the next go-round. Dan Quayle, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards immediately come to mind. Sarah Palin never even got around to running.

Now, you may be curious why I placed Ryan in the Tea Party crowd, as opposed to the establishment. After all, he is a self-described policy wonk and is Chairman of the House Budget Committee. I think Paul Krugman at The New York Times recently did a fairly swell job of dispelling that notion. Ever since the days of his Vice-Presidential campaign, he has used plenty of fuzzy math.

Ryan has what I would call “typical” views on most political issues, particularly within foreign policy, but he is far more malleable by the base than many of his colleagues. For someone who has been in Congress since the Clinton administration, I am hesitant to apply the Tea Party label, but think he has really jumped on the ship quite effectively. In that regard, he is eerily reminiscent of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial nominee.

Watch out for Ryan; that is, if he decides to run. He could easily run his campaign as a sort of successor to Mitt Romney. And say what you will about Romney, but the man has been vindicated on a number of issues since his failed campaign, particularly in the foreign policy sphere. I still do not think that Russia is the United States’ number one foe, but it is certainly more on our radar now than it was two years ago.

5. Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania
Santorum will have been out of politics for nearly a decade by this point, so I truly cannot tell why he would ever wish to take another longshot stab at the Presidency. Perhaps he is a glutton for punishment. Santorum has been making a plethora of trips to Iowa, and has publicly expressed interest in another run for the White House

I think Santorum is what I would call the “Eric Dick of the GOP primaries,” if he were to run again. The phrase, harkening back to last year’s failed Mayoral candidate, means someone who stands no chance of winning but could significantly affect the outcome nonetheless. Dick received over 10% of the vote in 2013, and I would expect him to garner a comparable percentage –much from the same people, low-information voters familiar with his commercials or amused by his surname– if he were tor run again in 2015. Not nearly enough to win, but certainly enough to have a huge impact if there were 8 candidates.

Similarly, Santorum has just enough support from evangelicals that he could win the Iowa Caucuses, even though he would be one of the last people that voters in 30+ States would ever support. This could throw a wrench into the plans of many candidates.

FRINGE TEA PARTY

1. Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas
Without question, Huckabee will not be the next President of the United States. Sorry to spoil it, but it is the ugly truth. That being said, the State of Iowa has an unmitigated love affair with Huckabee, and the former Governor returns the favor right back to the Hawkeye State. Huckabee, as many will recall, ran for President in 2008 and triumphantly won the Iowa Caucuses that year. He also won contests in Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Even as conservative as Huckabee may have been in 2008, he has moved even further to the right in the eight years since. While he has historically been a big opponent of the teaching of evolution, Huckabee was previously somewhat progressive on environmental and conversation issues. He even backed cap-and-trade in 2007, before President Barack Obama proposed the environmental regulatory overhaul himself two years later. But Obama backed the policy, so it immediately became poison for any Republican to touch with a ten foot pole.

ABC News reports that Huckabee has continued to shuffle in and out of Iowa well into this year. According to the article, one of Huckabee’s closest confidants confided that Huckabee is “seriously considering” running again. The Iowa Republican electorate is dominated by socially conservative evangelicals, who love Huckabee, so he would stand a serious candidate in Iowa. For the rest of the country, much like his 2008 campaign, not so much.

2. Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana
Bobby Jindal infamously delivered the response to the State of the Union in 2009, Obama’s first major speech since taking office. At the time, the Tea Party had not yet been formulated and Obama boasted an approval rating north of 60%. Predictably, Jindal stumbled and was derided overwhelmingly by the mainstream press and the general public. In all fairness, the speech was reminiscent of a patronizing kindergarten teacher, and he made a flippant comment about “Volcano Monitoring,” suggesting it was a wasteful expense. Not two months after the speech, Mount Rebout erupted in nearby Alaska and that “so-called volcano monitoring” was paramount in evacuating people to safety.

The National Review appears indubitably convinced that Jindal will run, but he just has far too much baggage for me to think he will be taken seriously. As the astute will recall, Jindal made waves back in 2012 for harshly repudiating failed Presidential nominee Mitt Romney following his defeat. The Boston Globe had that full story. A few months later, The Washington Post reported that Jindal called the GOP the “stupid party” for things such as rejecting science. But Jindal, in large part, does reject science. He signed a bill into law in Louisiana that condoned creationism in the schools.

All in all, Jindal appears to be much like some of the other candidates vying for this top spot; that is, without a strong base one way or another. His comments about the “stupid party” surely turn off the puritans, whereas his lack of any pragmatism on actual issues will make the more moderate elements cautious against support.

3. Peter King, Congressman from New York
Last September, King, the grandiloquent Long Island Representative, unequivocally announced “I’m running for President.” In the nearly year since, he has backed away from total decisiveness but still looks like quite a likely candidate.

King is also a strange being with complex political views. The New York Times gave a pretty impressive lowdown on some of his stranger escapades a number of years ago, when he launched McCarthy-style investigations into the lives of otherwise law-abiding Muslim-Americans. King has a real knack for making Islamophobic comments, and it is certainly his worst feature.

Otherwise, King is fairly moderate compared to the remainder of the House Republican Caucus. He openly loathes Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his “smug arrogance.” During last year’s Government Shutdown, King blamed Cruz and his lemmings for the entire issue, unlike most other Republicans.

4. Mike Rogers, Congressman from Michigan
The Huffington Post has the full story on this. A seven-term Congressman, Rogers appears eerily similar to a contender from the 2012 election. His name is Thaddeus McCotter. Himself a decade public servant, McCotter brashly entered the fray for President in an ill-fated three month campaign for President. Don’t expect much from him.

OUTCAST

1. Ben Carson
Let me start off with a precursor: Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Carson is an exceptionable brilliant man. Rising out of poverty, he attended Yale undergrad and then medical school at the University of Michigan. He went to work at John Hopkins, where he became a phenomenally gifted surgeon, and eventually the director of Pediatric Surgery. In 1987, he became the first person to successfully separate conjoined twins who were together at the head.

However, these impressive medical credentials do not give Carson the political credentials necessary to run for President. They just don’t. Longtime readers of my writings will be familiar with my notion that non-political expertise simply does not substitute political histories, when one runs for higher office. Carson would be supremely qualified to run for Congress, for example, but the Presidency is for politicians and generals…full stop.

On the topic of politics, however, it goes without saying that I strongly disagree with Carson’s viewpoints. He is an outspoken social conservative, and for an intellectual he has some surprisingly backwards views (such as a rejection of evolution). For Carson’s part, The Weekly Standard reports that he is warming up to the idea.

2. Ted Nugent
“I might run for President in 2016,” Nugent recently said, in comments picked up by Salon Magazine, among others. The Motor City Madman may have once been famous for B-hits like “Cat scratch fever,” but has more recently become something of a folk hero to the Tea Party. He has nearly made death-threats toward the President and is replete with offensive statements that rile up a base somewhere. Tea Party Troubadour? Sure. Future President? Nope.

3. Donald Trump
My position on a prospective Trump candidacy is probably summed up better by Seth Meyers’ epic roast of him at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner. “Donald Trump has been saying that he is running for President as a Republican,” Meyers said at the time, “which is surprising because I had just assumed he was running as a joke.”

In a lengthy interview with Time Magazine, Trump let on that he still had some desire to run for President. At the risk of stating the obvious, Trump would make a terrible candidate for President. Like Carson, he has no legitimate experience. Unlike Carson, he is not that bright or nonsensical. Evidently the joke is still on him.

CLOSING ANALYSIS

There are a number of other possible candidates who have never confirmed their interest in running. Many of these people would probably be among the strongest candidates if they were to run.

Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin,has been mentioned as an ideal dark-horse by many on the right. He has all the right conservative bona fides, such as vivid opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and Medicaid expansion. He notoriously went after the unions in one of his first acts. But he has also tried recently to moderate his tone ever so slightly, especially in a State such as Wisconsin with Democratic fundamentals.

Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval, respectively, are two more great candidates, if they were to choose to run. The Governor of New Mexico and the Governor of Nevada, respectively, both deal with State Legislatures strongly controlled by the Democratic Party, and work with them on bipartisan, pragmatic agendas and pieces of legislation. This would likely sink them in a Republican primary, however.

Among the other serious names thrown out there are Mitch Daniels (former Governor of Indiana), John Kasich (Governor of Ohio), Rob Portman (Senator from Ohio) and Rick Snyder (Governor of Michigan). Among the non-serious are Sarah Palin (former Governor of Alaska), Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State) and Allen West (former Congressman from Florida). Oh yeah, and there is still an active draft movement for Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts and the Republican Presidential nominee in 2012.

Notwithstanding some of the good prospecting candidates I first mentioned in the previous three paragraphs, I have some serious doubts as to how successful the Republicans may be against Hillary Clinton, if she is the Democratic nominee.

It is useless to speculate how the candidates with no Name ID would do once their recognition had been built up; that being said, just within the subset of candidates who already have sterling identifications, Clinton blows each and every one of them out of the water. I just do not see a way that any of them bounce back in a significant way, with the noticeable exception of Cruz.

Ted Cruz, as I noted back in my third part of this series, has the unique capacity to shift back to the center –even with the primary– without being clobbered by the Republican base. Those laughing him off as a silly and non-serious candidate truly need to readjust their sights. I recall a very similar thing being said about another Texan about 15 years ago…and that Texan wasn’t half as smart.

All in all, the 2016 Election will be quite the exciting spectacle. I, for one, am looking forward to covering it with great zeal and alacrity.

 

Let’s talk about 2016! (Republican primary, Part 4)

Editorial note: This article is the fifth installment in a series about prospective 2016 Presidential candidates by Noah M. Horwitz. On Saturday, he wrote at length about Democratic candidates. On Sunday, he wrote at length about Republican candidates in a subset he called “Establishment Conservatives.” On Monday, he wrote about Republican candidates in a subset he called “Establishment Tea Party.” On Tuesday, he wrote about Republican candidates in a subset he called “Fringe Tea Party.” This evening, he will write about Republican candidates within the “Outcast” subset.

I opined three days ago that there are four basic categories of prospective Republican candidates for President. The “Establishment Conservatives,” “Establishment Tea Party,” “Fringe Tea Party” and “Outcast.” The main distinction between the outcast and the other categories is the presence of some semblance of political experience. The main distinction between the “fringe” and the “establishment” is how well-renowned the individual is on the national stage. Finally, Tea Party is a bit of an arbitrary descriptor, as there is no monolithic organization to which a member might belong, but I have done my best to weed out the so-called RINOs, to borrow the group’s lexicon. For example, in the 2012 Republican primaries, Herman Cain and Donald Trump would be “outcasts.” Michele ovewas “Fringe Tea Party,” Rick Santorum was “Establishment Tea Party” and Mitt Romney was “Establishment Conservative.” Hopefully, that clears it up.

OUTCAST

1. Ben Carson
Let me start off with a precursor: Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Carson is an exceptionable brilliant man. Rising out of poverty, he attended Yale undergrad and then medical school at the University of Michigan. He went to work at John Hopkins, where he became a phenomenally gifted surgeon, and eventually the director of Pediatric Surgery. In 1987, he became the first person to successfully separate conjoined twins who were together at the head.

However, these impressive medical credentials do not give Carson the political credentials necessary to run for President. They just don’t. Longtime readers of my writings will be familiar with my notion that non-political expertise simply does not substitute political histories, when one runs for higher office. Carson would be supremely qualified to run for Congress, for example, but the Presidency is for politicians and generals…full stop.

On the topic of politics, however, it goes without saying that I strongly disagree with Carson’s viewpoints. He is an outspoken social conservative, and for an intellectual he has some surprisingly backwards views (such as a rejection of evolution). For Carson’s part, The Weekly Standard reports that he is warming up to the idea.

2. Ted Nugent
“I might run for President in 2016,” Nugent recently said, in comments picked up by Salon Magazine, among others. The Motor City Madman may have once been famous for B-hits like “Cat scratch fever,” but has more recently become something of a folk hero to the Tea Party. He has nearly made death-threats toward the President and is replete with offensive statements that rile up a base somewhere. Tea Party Troubadour? Sure. Future President? Nope.

3. Donald Trump
My position on a prospective Trump candidacy is probably summed up better by Seth Meyers’ epic roast of him at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner. “Donald Trump has been saying that he is running for President as a Republican,” Meyers said at the time, “which is surprising because I had just assumed he was running as a joke.”

In a lengthy interview with Time Magazine, Trump let on that he still had some desire to run for President. At the risk of stating the obvious, Trump would make a terrible candidate for President. Like Carson, he has no legitimate experience. Unlike Carson, he is not that bright or nonsensical. Evidently the joke is still on him.

CLOSING ANALYSIS

There are a number of other possible candidates who have never confirmed their interest in running. Many of these people would probably be among the strongest candidates if they were to run.

Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin,has been mentioned as an ideal dark-horse by many on the right. He has all the right conservative bona fides, such as vivid opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and Medicaid expansion. He notoriously went after the unions in one of his first acts. But he has also tried recently to moderate his tone ever so slightly, especially in a State such as Wisconsin with Democratic fundamentals.

Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval, respectively, are two more great candidates, if they were to choose to run. The Governor of New Mexico and the Governor of Nevada, respectively, both deal with State Legislatures strongly controlled by the Democratic Party, and work with them on bipartisan, pragmatic agendas and pieces of legislation. This would likely sink them in a Republican primary, however.

Among the other serious names thrown out there are Mitch Daniels (former Governor of Indiana), John Kasich (Governor of Ohio), Rob Portman (Senator from Ohio) and Rick Snyder (Governor of Michigan). Among the non-serious are Sarah Palin (former Governor of Alaska), Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State) and Allen West (former Congressman from Florida). Oh yeah, and there is still an active draft movement for Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts and the Republican Presidential nominee in 2012.

Notwithstanding some of the good prospecting candidates I first mentioned in the previous three paragraphs, I have some serious doubts as to how successful the Republicans may be against Hillary Clinton, if she is the Democratic nominee.

It is useless to speculate how the candidates with no Name ID would do once their recognition had been built up; that being said, just within the subset of candidates who already have sterling identifications, Clinton blows each and every one of them out of the water. I just do not see a way that any of them bounce back in a significant way, with the noticeable exception of Cruz.

Ted Cruz, as I noted back in my third part of this series, has the unique capacity to shift back to the center –even with the primary– without being clobbered by the Republican base. Those laughing him off as a silly and non-serious candidate truly need to readjust their sights. I recall a very similar thing being said about another Texan about 15 years ago…and that Texan wasn’t half as smart.

All in all, the 2016 Election will be quite the exciting spectacle. I, for one, am looking forward to covering it with great zeal and alacrity.