Booker’s meteoric rise has been driven by his boundless energy. It’s hard to hate on an elected official who takes Twitter requests for driveway shoveling and occasionally saves people from burning buildings.
Booker’s path to the presidency is not simple, though. For better or for worse, Mayor of Newark is not the type of position that screams “ready to be president.” To be a viable candidate, Booker must win higher office, and that means he must beat New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie next year.
If Booker wins in 2013, he will certainly have the opportunity to run if he chooses. But that’s a big if. Christie has gained very positive reviews for his handling of the post-Hurricane Sandy recovery effort, and Christie himself has to win to have a shot at 2016. In other words, 2013 becomes the New Jersey primary — the loser of the governor’s race is probably out of the running, at least for this cycle.
Even if he wins, though, Booker will be a year behind his opponents for the nomination, and will have to deal with the inevitable backlash should he run for governor and immediately begin running for president. For that reason, I doubt 2016 is Booker’s cycle, at least for the presidency. The good news for Booker is that he’s young, he’s got a bright future ahead of him, and if he doesn’t run, he’ll be at the top of the VP shortlist.
12. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio
Kucinich lost his House seat this year, and won’t have anything better to do. Why not run in 2016? Oh, sure, he won’t do better than he did in 2004 and 2008, but hey, it’ll keep him off the streets and keep him occupied. I think that’s a good reason to run.
The GOP primaries are almost certain to come down to a battle of vision between the Tea Party true believers and the old school, quasi-sensible hacks — the political operatives who recognize that purity is not a winning strategy. In the wake of Romney’s defeat, the hacks have been ascendant — hence the sudden embrace by some party leaders of immigration reform.
The true believers are unlikely to go gentle into that goodnight, however. They still have the powerful counter-argument that Romney was really a Massachusetts moderate who failed the movement. Their solution will be to run a candidate who has a proven track record of hating the poor and making the lives of women miserable.
The best-positioned candidate to articulate a message of purity is Paul Ryan. Ryan came out of the Romney campaign largely unscathed among the right; Romney pretty much put Ryan on a bus after the Vice Presidential Debate, which means Ryan wasn’t a visible part of the Romney campaign’s defeat. What’s more, conservatives can argue that Ryan’s budget plan would have won over voters in a way that Romney’s vagueness didn’t.
Ryan has the social conservative bona fides to win, and he’s certainly fiscally conservative. He’s not the only candidate that the right could rally around, but he’s probably the best-positioned. And while it’s possible that Republicans will embrace the hacks, I still tend to think that the energy and activism in the party is with the true believers. For that reason, Ryan starts out atop the list.
If the race is going to be between hacks and true believers, then the hacks are going to need a standard-bearer. There are certainly a few candidates to choose from, but none is in better position than John Ellis “Jeb” Bush.
Now, I can see you objecting, noting that the last time we had a President named Bush, things didn’t work out so well. Surely, surely, the Republicans wouldn’t go back to the Bush family again, would they?
Of course they would. For one thing, Republicans have largely blocked out 2001-2009 from their collective memories. For another, Republicans often look back to 1994 wistfully. Why? Because that year, George W. Bush won the Texas governorship, and Jeb Bush barely lost in Florida. Had Jeb won, it’s likely he would have been the Bush running for president in 2000. Would he have won? Maybe. And while it’s damning with faint praise, most observers do believe that Jeb is the more competent of the Bush brothers.
Since leaving office, Jeb has made a living acting like someone who is aware of reality, arguing in favor of immigration reform, and saying he’d be willing to accept some revenue increases as part of a budget deal. Of course, he’s also praised his brother, so he’s not entirely reality-based — but he at least has a passing familiarity with the concept.
There’s no guarantee that Bush runs, but if he does, he’s got the Bush network that he can plug into. That alone will scare off a number of potential candidates. If Jeb is the candidate, he’s probably the standard-bearer for the hacks, and we might get a chance to see whether America is ready for four more years of Bushes. (Spoiler alert: we aren’t.)
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