My Cup Runneth Over: The Tentative Field of Presidential Candidates for 2016

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By Matthew Rock.

It is 2015, and the presidential election season in the U.S. is roaring to life again.  Your correspondent would feel greatly remiss if he did not contribute to the myriad critical assessments already being written regarding the 2016 contenders.  After all, they want to be talked about, and your correspondent is more than willing to oblige.  Although one cannot guarantee the eventual party nominees will be effective, level-headed, or even fit to lead, the field of potential nominees certainly guarantees an entertaining and amusing election season, and insofar as entertainment and amusement make life worthwhile, Americans will find ample reason to live in the coming two years.  

For the Republicans:

Ever since the great schism between the Party Establishment and the Tea Party, Republican primary candidates come in two sorts: the stuffy boss whom you tolerate merely because he pays you, and the crazy uncle who foists conspiracy theories on you during Thanksgiving dinner.  I leave it to the reader to guess which description fits each of the following contenders.

Jeb Bush   

As the brother and son of two former presidents, Jeb Bush makes up one of the best pieces of evidence for the existence of an inherited aristocracy in America.  As the Governor of Florida, he was known as a relentless social and fiscal conservative who rolled back social programs, cut taxes, and passed endless pro-gun legislation.  However, his party has moved so far to the right he now qualifies as a Republican moderate.  He is white, relatively unexciting, and a sweetheart of business interests, which makes him the most like past nominees Mitt Romney and John McCain out of the 2016 field of contenders.  During primary season, expect Bush to spend the bulk of his day convincing party purists that his support of Common Core and immigration reform does not make him soft on abortion and crime, and watch out for him to receive fat checks from corporations to help this business-friendly Bush float along. If he does make it to the general election, one would expect him to emphasize his experience in politics and his smart business policies, and the only way his campaign may become even mildly entertaining is if good ol’ George H. and George W. emerge from their dens to make it a true family affair.

Chris Christie

New Jersey governor Christ Christie, the famed “moderate” among the Republican contenders, is akin to the tubby bully in the schoolyard whom you ordinarily cannot stand but from time to time does something moderately likable. When he welcomed President Barack Obama to New Jersey in 2012 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy despite warnings from top Republican Party leaders, the nation respected his pragmatism.  However, as his New Jersey approval rating currently hovers around 41%, down from a high of 75% in 2011, some say Christie has burned one too many political bridges—and closed one too many bridges as well.

In the BridgeGate Anomaly of 2013, members of Christie’s staff spectacularly acted independently of their boss and ordered the closure of lanes in Fort Lee, New Jersey, in what was speculated to be political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for his refusal to support Christie’s gubernatorial campaign.  Isn’t it amazing how these staffers were so enamored of their loveable boss they were freely willing to risk their future careers and perhaps even their freedom to exact revenge on the person who insulted him?  Perhaps a little too amazing…In a more likely scenario, when Sokolich withheld his support, Christie ordered his staffers to take away Sokolich’s bridge, much like when a 5-year-old steals his friend’s Nintendo DS for being an Indian giver.  Christie had sought Sokolich’s support to make it seem as though he as a conservative governor could build a successful bipartisan coalition in a blue state, which would have made him appealing to a national electorate; now, the indignant national electorate is quite convinced of the opposite.  In the primaries, expect from him a lot of yelling, a lot of sweat, and a lot of questions regarding scandal.

Rand Paul

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is the libertarian of the bunch, a breed perceived by some as the ultimate whack jobs of American politics.  His greatest asset is that when compared to his father Ron, Rand appears relatively sane.  In the dream world of his father, the Federal Reserve would cease to exist, American bases on foreign soil would be closed, and states would be allowed to decide which drugs to legalize.  Contrarily, Rand wants nothing more than to cut entire federal departments to eliminate the deficit, eliminate all gun controls, and outlaw all abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.  (Compare the lists again; Ron’s demands are indeed crazier.)  Rand is a dreamer, and, admittedly, he does have a certain allure in the way he paints the modern American cybersecurity and spying network as the making of “a police state” where liberty is choked off.  This man pokes and jabs at his party to expose its holes, while offering Christian-infused policy alternatives.  Rather than the crackpot crank his father is, Rand Paul is the eager young kid who asks “why” to everything the adults say and who eagerly presents his own dreamy, poorly-thought-out alternative to reality.  Expect this juvenile influence at every debate until American pragmatism sweeps away Paul’s libertarian idealism, however moderated it is compared to his father’s.

Ted Cruz

Texas Senator Ted Cruz (above) is the Tea Party favorite among the possible presidential contenders, and for good reason too.  Pundits largely attribute the Great Government Shutdown of 2013 to the remarkable pressure put on House Republicans by the capable Senator Cruz and his fellow Tea Party representatives; much credit should be given to Cruz’s leadership abilities, for it is quite difficult to convince a group of the nation’s top leaders to stop leading.  The shutdown curtailed programs, showed that Republicans were willing to risk the entire world economy to make a stand against Democrats, and made a mockery of the American government abroad, at least two of which were applauded by Tea Partiers.  Unfortunately, the sensible American need only ask himself one question—“Would I want the person who shut down part of the government to run the whole thing?”—and Cruz’s presidential hopes fly into the air like a freed dove at a dismal wedding.  As the American people have grown to expect, this Tea Partier will show up to the election party, start to annoy the guests, and promptly be asked to leave. Unless, of course, he receives an explicit endorsement from Sarah Palin, at which point your correspondent will do everything in his power to make sure Cruz stays at the party as long as possible on the off chance Tina Fey returns to SNL to make a spoof of the whole affair.

Marco Rubio

When Marco Rubio first defeated the Florida governor Charlie Christ in the 2010 Senate race, Republicans construed him as a devout Tea Party insurgent who would woo Hispanic voters to the Republican Party.  Five years later, Rubio has instead garnered the image of a policy wonk whose main focus is on reducing poverty and long-term unemployment through policies such as wage subsidies; furthermore, ever since he declared his unwillingness to discuss immigration reform without an agreement to secure the border, he has lost relevance among most Hispanic voters.  For the Tea Party, this is rather like ordering a seductive call girl and instead finding your mother on the doorstep. It is then difficult to fit Rubio into a standard Republican mold, since most Republicans were never mistakenly thought to be seductive call girls.  If indeed he does make a primary run, people will demand to know who he is.  If people like his response, Rubio may be at an advantage.  If people don’t, he is at a great disadvantage.  And if he cannot produce a response, mother may need to pack her bags and go home.

For the Democrats:

The number of well-known presidential contenders among the Democrats is astounding—astounding in that this number is one…

Hillary Clinton

The media has given relentless attention to Clinton’s likely presidential run; indeed, it is so well-discussed most Americans now take it as a granted fact, like gravity or oxygen.  Voters would be hard-pressed to name, let alone support, any other Democrat for a presidential candidate. According to some, if Hillary were to decide not to run, the Democratic Party may as well lie down and let this election season pass quietly. 

Although this statement is somewhat exaggerated, a decision for Hillary not to run would pose a tremendous problem for the Democrats, one so great this article would rather not consider the catastrophic consequences.  Thus, throughout the primary process and the presidential election, one may expect it to be a Hillary-fest on the Democrats’ side, which is much less fun than the label makes it sound.  Her campaign will address certain trademark liberal issues, but for the most part, one should expect Hillary to spend a great deal of her time in less issue-oriented campaigning.  She will try as hard as possible to keep her most hated foe, the media, at bay.  During this, she will deflect accusations made against her regarding the deadly Benghazi attack in 2012, which the State Department initially to an offensive movie rather than a terrorist plot, allegedly to protect Obama’s re-election campaign.  However, because Hillary will be the sole person in the candidate spotlight, she will find it much harder this time to throw a Hollywood director and a few State Department employees under the guillotine to remove scrutiny from her.

She will paint her tenure as the Secretary of State as a productive time that served to improve America’s reputation in the world (a view enshrined in her memoir Hard Choices), rather than one that led up to the rise of ISIL and expansion of terrorism abroad.  Unfortunately, given the excessive length and the unbelievable dryness of her memoir, the hardest choice it presents is whether to shred the book or burn it, and most Americans will find Hillary hate-talk on Fox infinitely more entertaining than the Hillary version of War and Peace. She will try to distance herself from the mistakes of the Obama Administration, which will be utterly impossible because she was a part of it and because she attempted to accomplish the same task of healthcare reform as the First Lady.  And she will further cultivate Hillaryland, her network of advisors, donors, and supporters.  This will not be so she can get donations and policy advice, but so that they can form a protective circle around her to hide her from CNN, MSNBC, and Fox whenever the former First Lady chooses to be in public.  Finally, fresh off the her Vanity Fair article, expect Monica Lewinsky to ask once or twice over the election process how Hillary could possibly expect to hold onto the presidency when she couldn’t even hold onto her man.  Your correspondent would like to urge Clinton to avoid tears at all costs possible, an admittedly hard task and something she failed to do in her 2008 run.  (At least try to keep it off camera this time, lest the iron-fisted Angela Merkel find it hard to look you in the eye.)  Hillary’s attempt to stay far above the scum of politics will very likely cause her to trip face-first into the muck; in presidential campaigns, no one emerges clean, a fact Hillary has yet come to grips with. 

Predicting a winner would be too premature, and indeed, none of the people discussed here have yet to announce a formal candidacy.  It may very well be none of these people are chosen in the primaries, let alone in the general election.  Whoever does win, however, will be in an unenviable position.  Although the American economy is back on track, the state of the world has not been this uncertain in a long time; a terrorist state, an aggressive Russia, an emboldened China, and a lethargic Europe combine to produce some of the most threatening diplomatic straits the U.S. has navigated in recent times.  Ultimately, these problems fall on the shoulder of the president, and the only path more dangerous than the campaign trail is the one walked by the person actually occupying the Oval Office.

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