With the 2012 election now in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for politicos to move on to the next important thing. No, not the fiscal cliff, or comprehensive immigration reform, or the end of the Afghan War — it’s time to look at who’s got the mojo for the 2016 presidential election!
Here’s a quick look at the power rankings for the Democrats and Republicans who could succeed President Barack Obama, and a few who really probably couldn’t. Please note: these power rankings are based on a thoroughly scientific analysis of gut feel, conventional wisdom and a smattering of too-early-to-be-meaningful polling. Please, no wagering.
1. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Clinton has not indicated that she plans to run for president in 2016, and there are certainly reasons to think she won’t. For one thing, she’ll be 69 years old, old enough that nobody could begrudge her a happy, healthy retirement from public service. For another, Clinton has been praised for her work as Secretary of State; if she retires after four years as the nation’s top diplomat, few would question her place in history — a First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State of consequence.
Still, there’s also every reason to think that Clinton could make a run — and if so, every reason to think she could win. While Clinton will turn 69 before election day in 2016, that’s still slightly younger than President Ronald Reagan was when he was first elected. Clinton has a powerful network of donors dating back to her husband’s time in office. Moreover, her loyalty to Obama in 2008 after a bitter, divisive primary won over many who backed the current president, and her husband’s campaigning for Obama in 2012 won over many more. If Hillary Clinton runs, many Obama supporters would back her with the idea that it was simply her due.
Indeed, Hillary Clinton is in an extremely strong position if she chooses to run in 2016. It’s hard to imagine anyone beating her. Of course, that’s what people were saying in late 2004, and we all know what happened. There are no guarantees. But if Hillary Clinton decides to run again, it’s her race to lose.
It’s rare that a sitting vice president wouldn’t be at the top of a list of candidates. The fact that Biden is second to Clinton is less a reflection of Biden’s weakness than Clinton’s strength; clearly, if Hillary Clinton chooses not to run, Joe Biden would be in a very strong position to win his party’s nomination.
Biden has hinted that he is interested in running in 2016, but his age could be a consideration. Biden will be 73 on election day, and would turn 74 before being inaugurated, which would make him the oldest person ever to win a presidential election, even older than Reagan when he won his second term.
Still, as Biden demonstrated in his debate with Paul Ryan, he’s as sharp as he’s ever been. While Biden is certainly gaffe-prone, he clearly has a strong command of the issues.
If Clinton doesn’t run and Biden does, it’s hard not to think of him as the front-runner. Of course, Biden may well decide that at 74, it’s time to enjoy his grandchildren and retire after 46 years in public service.
Warren is in the position that Barack Obama was in eight years ago – a popular, respected leader who has just been elected to the Senate, who has a good rapport with the base, and who is already being touted for higher office.
Unlike Obama, however, Warren’s decision isn’t whether to run as a freshman Senator or to wait until she’s more experienced. Warren is 63 years old, and will be 67 in 2016. If she doesn’t run in the next cycle, she probably never runs for President.
Of course, there are worse fates than to be a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, and it’s entirely possible that Warren could decide that she’s already in a strong position to improve the way our nation’s financial system works. Nobody could blame her if she decided to try to stay in the Senate for the next 18 years.
If she does decide to seek the presidency, she’d certainly start with a strong base of support, especially among Democrats who want to see more done to address wealth inequality. I doubt she runs if Clinton is in the race, but if the Secretary of State decides to stay retired, I would expect Warren to take a shot — especially since losing in the primary wouldn’t keep her from running for reelection in 2018.
Andrew Cuomo has been named as a likely candidate for the presidency, and it’s easy to imagine him throwing his hat in the ring. The son of the respected Gov. Mario Cuomo, Andrew also served in the Clinton cabinet, as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Cuomo polls reasonably well, in no small part because he comes with inherited name recognition. He also gets deserved plaudits for shepherding same-sex marriage through the legislature and into law. That’s no small accomplishment, and deserving of respect.
Cuomo does, however, have an Achilles heel. As Governor, he has angered liberal New Yorkers by hacking and slashing at the budget, cutting taxes on the rich while cutting services for the poor. Cuomo has also been far from friendly to organized labor during his time in office.
To say this puts him out of step with the Democratic Party of today is an understatement. Cuomo’s DLC governance style is not well-known outside of New York, but then, he hasn’t run for president yet. If he does throw his hat in the ring, it’s beyond likely that he will be pounded by opponents — with his support plummeting as his positions become better-known.
There’s one more thing auguring against a Cuomo run — the candidate at the top of the power rankings. Hillary Clinton was a senator from New York. It’s hard to imagine Cuomo being viable if most New York politicians are backing the Secretary of State.
O’Malley has all-but-announced for the 2016 race, and certainly has a strong record to run on. O’Malley has been unabashedly liberal, pushing ballot initiatives for same-sex marriage and a version of the DREAM Act, both of which passed.
O’Malley did not wow anyone with his speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, but neither did he make any major mistakes. Moreover, his record of accomplishment in a blue, diverse state is indicative of a candidate who could lead the emerging Democratic majority.
For O’Malley, much will depend on his ability to lay the groundwork over the next two or three years. He cannot run for reelection in 2014, so he will have a full two years free to camp out in Iowa and New Hampshire. While it’s passing unlikely that O’Malley would beat Clinton or Biden, he could certainly be competitive among the next tier of candidates.
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