Feb 3rd 2015

An Early Look at the 2016 Contest

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

The election season has just begun and for those who have a consuming passion for presidential politics, the 2016 cycle promises to be a delight. A few months back, pundits were writing about the likelihood of a Hillary Clinton/Jeb Bush contest, but that speculation was clearly premature. While it appears that Mrs. Clinton will have little trouble winning the Democratic nomination, should she decide to run, the GOP contest is shaping up as a free-for-all.  

Polls are showing Clinton far and away as the strongest Democrat, with some saying that she is the only Democrat with a chance for the party to hold onto the White House. There are worries expressed about her "likability" or her positions on various issues, but these concerns fade when she is compared with her possible opponents. Those who have hinted that they may also run in the Democratic primaries are all individuals with solid credentials, but none of them appear to have the magic of a Barack Obama or a compelling enough personality, biography, or political platform that would elevate them as national contenders. 

The only Democrat who might appear as a serious challenger to Mrs. Clinton is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. She has a powerful progressive and populist message that made her the go-to star for Democrats running in 2014. Many compare her ability to excite voters to Barack Obama, but Warren has insisted that she will endorse Clinton and will not run against her.  

Without a strong opponent, Clinton will still face challenges from her party's liberal wing. Her organization and campaign war-chest should help her emerge victorious. In addition to her experience, she has, of course, the added assets of a husband who remains one of the most beloved figures in the Democratic Party, and the fact that her very candidacy will be seen as a breakthrough for the nation. 

Democrats want to win, and with a resume that includes being First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State, Clinton is seen as a hands down winner—if she runs. And all signs point to the fact that she will. Her supporters have already built a national network of millions of donors and she has assembled an all-star team of campaign professionals who are advising her and planning strategy for a quick primary win.

While the Democratic contest appears to be a lock for Clinton, Republicans suffer from a wealth of riches with more candidates suggesting they may enter the race daily. Those who have already taken some steps toward mounting a campaign or are hinting that they will so include: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush; former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; former Texas Governor Rick Perry; and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. They are joined by Senators Rand Paul (Kentucky), Mario Rubio (Florida), Lindsay Graham (South Carolina), and Ted Cruz (Texas). Add to this list: former New York Governor George Pataki, surgeon Dr. Ben Carson and former Hewlett Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina. The contest is wide open, with a glut of candidates representing the various competing wings of the GOP.  And therein lays the problem; with too many candidates competing for support from the same groups of donors and voters, the race could get ugly very quickly.

Until Friday when he decided against making another run for the presidency, Mitt Romney has an insignificant lead in early polling largely due to his name recognition from his failed 2012 bid. The other serious contenders (Bush, Christie, Walker, Paul, Cruz, and Rubio) are bunched together. 

What's interesting is that the strengths of many of the leading candidates are also their weaknesses. Though Jeb Bush is seen as the brighter and more capable son the former President, but with the country suffering from "Bush fatigue" some view this "dynasty" connection as a liability. Christie has a strong and compelling personality, but too often his brashness gets him in trouble. Paul inherits his father's fervent libertarian following, but as he has attempted to distance himself from his father's positions some feel that he has lost his clarity. Cruz is known as a brilliant debater and a cunning self-promoter who knows how to play to a crowd and get headlines. But he has alienated many colleagues who see him as more of an irritant than a leader. This leaves Scott Walker. Though not well known nationally, he is a solid conservative who could be the Republican "dark-horse" candidate. At the same time, being less well known than the other "establishment candidates" (Bush, and Christie) and the other "social conservative" candidates (Huckabee, Cruz, and Santorum) puts Walker at a disadvantage in the early race for money and supporters.  

In addition to struggling to both define themselves in such a large field and raise the money necessary to compete, the Republican candidates must also contend with the problem posed by their hardline conservative electorate who increasingly demonstrate intolerance for candidates who don't “toe the line”. A combination of Tea Party activists, anti-immigration crusaders, and social conservatives from the Christian right will play a dominant role in the early Republican contests. With candidates like Huckabee, Santorum, and Cruz in the mix, all of whom will play well with this crowd, the more mainstream conservative candidates will have their hands full trying to hold their ground while not alienating these voters. The GOP winner is assured a handsome campaign war-chest for the November, 2016 election—but he must first run the gamut of the primaries hoping to emerge unscathed and still electable.



To follow what's new on Facts & Arts, please click here.


Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "
Jan 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "Barack Obama cautioned in his final speech as president that, “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” Yet isn’t that exactly what America has been doing? In a decade punctuated by the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, a racial-justice crisis, an inequality crisis, and now a political crisis, we have only paid lip service to lofty democratic ideals. ... Sadly, this complacency has come at a time of growing fragility for the American experiment. Internet-enabled connectivity is dangerously amplifying an increasingly polarized national discourse in an era of mounting social and political instability. The resulting vulnerability was brought into painfully sharp focus on January 6. The stewardship of democracy is at grave risk. "