Will America be Repeating Electoral History in 2016?

It’s only a couple of months since the mid-term elections in America resulted in a crippling defeat for President Obama as the Republicans swept into control of the Senate. Yet already, pundits are feverishly speculating about the 2016 Presidential Election. Excitement has been further heightened by the prospect of another Clinton-Bush match-up. Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida, and former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are seen as the front-runners for their parties’ nominations next November. This potential contest raises alarm for many who feel that the Clinton and Bush families embody a sense of dynastic privilege and entitlement. Since 1980 there has been only one election (2012) where neither a Bush nor a Clinton was running for President or Vice President.

So why does another familiar contest along these lines look more and more probable for 2016?

For Democrats and Republicans, the issue of name recognition is key. As both families have already occupied the White House, Americans generally already have a decent idea of where Bush and Clinton stand on certain issues. Furthermore, both politicians already have a vast network of contacts and resources that help when it comes to fundraising. George W. Bush eventually breezed past John McCain in the primary contest in 2000, due in large part to the inheritance of his father’s contacts in the Republican establishment. This provided him with big money and significant establishment support.

Nowadays fundraising capabilities are certainly essential for anyone running for President. In the most recent Republican primaries, even whilst competing in a very weak field, Mitt Romney spent $76.6 million to win the nomination in a brutal and prolonged contest. For 2016, many senior Republican strategists are encouraged by a Jeb Bush run, as in theory he has enough fundraising power to blow the opposition out of the water. Thus, reducing the possibility of another 2012.

Presuming she runs next year (and all the signs are that she will), Hillary Clinton will gain large support simply because of the lack of plausible alternatives in her party. In the 2008 Democratic Primaries, Hillary was edged out by a youthful, charismatic Barack Obama, who it must be said ran a near-flawless campaign. This time around, currently there are no similar formidable candidates who could seriously challenge the former Secretary of State.

One name that has been mentioned is Elizabeth Warren, the Wall Street-bashing liberal senator from Massachusetts, who many Democrats believe could at least force her opponents to the Left in the Primaries. Yet in a recent interview, perhaps to the relief of Hillary, Warren adamantly stated that she will not be running. The independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, seems to be leaning towards a run, but it’s doubtful that he can sustain a challenge in the long-term. It’s understandable why some are claiming Hillary Clinton has a lock on the Democratic nomination.

On the surface the Republican field should be the most open and unpredictable in years. As well as other big names, such as Chris Christie and Scott Walker, Mitt Romney is reportedly eyeing up another run. On the more libertarian wing of the party, Rand Paul, the Senator from Kentucky, a rising star in the Party who has stressed the importance of the youth vote. The Tea Party’s favoured candidate is the outspoken Senator Ted Cruz from Texas, who played a big part in the government shutdown of Summer 2013, famously speaking for 21 hours on the Senate floor in opposition to ObamaCare.

Yet it must be remembered that the Republican establishment knows the importance of electability in a general election, which makes it harder for more right-wing figures such as Paul and Cruz to gain momentum. Looking back through history, the establishment has always tended to nominate the more moderate candidate. Against as strong a candidate as Hillary Clinton, it’s probable that they will do so again.

So who would win in a prospective Bush-Clinton contest? It seems silly to make predictions so far away from an election. The signs are that for any Republican the path to the White House is more complicated than ever, due in large part to demographic changes and the complications of the electoral college system. On the other side, if the Democrats can repeat the turn-out operation that was executed so successfully in 2008 and 2012, then Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States. Whatever happens over the next 20 months, it’s clear that the 2016 Presidential Race will be one of the most exciting in recent memory.

By Chris Lyon

[Image Credit: Beau Lebens]


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