Predicting the Next Horse Race

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security.


With the president winning a second term, what many Americans hoped was just a brief detour into European-style statism turns out to be the opening chapter of a new era. Like other transformative presidents, President Barack Obama will, in effect, shape a decade of American politics and leave a lasting legacy on our nation. In concrete terms, we can expect the federal government to consume not the historical average of 20 percent of GDP, but rather the Obama average of 24 percent or more of GDP—permanently; we can expect the debt to grow and to eclipse the GDP; we can expect individual freedom to be more limited while government becomes less limited; we can expect the military to have fewer resources, a smaller reach and a lesser role overseas; and we can expect more Americans to expect more from the government and less of themselves. These are the consequences of the 2012 status quo election, as a schizophrenic America reelects a president with a gaudy record of serial spending, reelects a House with a mandate to stop the spending free-for-all and reelects a Senate too dysfunctional to do much of anything. There was no breakthrough, no mandate, no message—except to continue an unsustainable status quo.

Fatigued by nearly two years of presidential campaigning, the electorate may not want to start thinking about 2016. But this status quo election virtually forces us to look ahead.

First things first: Mitt Romney was an imperfect candidate, but he didn’t lead the GOP into oblivion. Parties have been written off into “permanent minority status” too many times to count. Things like this were said of the GOP after FDR’s landslide and LBJ’s landslide, after the post-Watergate elections and after Obama’s 2008 victory. And things like this have been said of the Democratic Party, too. After all, it won just two presidential elections between 1860 and 1908. In fact, just two Democrats were elected president between 1860 and 1932. After 1994 and 2004, the party pondered whether it had lost the country.

The coming years will bring new challenges (see above). And a number of governors, lawmakers and political veterans from both parties will answer these challenges with new solutions and new ideas. In no particular order, here are some names to keep in mind.

• Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said 2012 “was probably my time,” adding, “There’s a window of opportunity in life.” But the popular governor is still young, is known as a reformer and is widely respected by people within and outside his party. He would appeal to independents and Hispanics. The drawback of his last name—his brother remains deeply unpopular in polling surveys—will become less of a drag as time passes. It pays to recall that when Truman left the White House, he was considered neither successful nor popular. His approval rating was 26 percent at the end of his presidency, owing to the unpopular Korean War. But history’s verdict is much different today. George W. Bush, like Truman, made hard decisions and chose the hard path. Only time can validate those decisions and that path.

• Senator Marco Rubio, a fellow Floridian, is on everyone’s short list. To see why conservatives like Rubio, read his speech at the Reagan Library, in which he talks about the proper role of government, a vibrant civil society, a reformed entitlement system and American exceptionalism. The son of immigrants, Rubio offers a message of upward mobility, free enterprise and core values of faith and family that would appeal to many inside and outside the GOP—and especially to the growing Hispanic and Latino populations, who are playing a growing role in American politics.

• Gen. David Petraeus saved Iraq—and American honor—with his surge plan in 2007-09; led CENTCOM through some of its toughest years; took over command in Afghanistan at the eleventh hour; and has steered America’s military and intelligence machinery through the entire war on terror. He’s a fixer and a consummate man of duty in a country with lots of problems to fix and too few people willing to do their duty. Of course, the Benghazi debacle, which promises to haunt and hound the Obama administration through 2013, could impact the CIA. To his credit, Petraeus has made it clear that his agency did not cover its ears when Americans under fire called out for help. “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate,” a CIA official declared as the White House began to search for a scapegoat.

• Although she is a natural name for 2016, no one seems as damaged by the Benghazi debacle as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Moreover, she will be almost 70 by the time the next election rolls around. To be sure, that’s not too old to serve. After all, Reagan was 69 when he was elected, and Clinton’s generation of Baby Boomers will remain a key chunk of the electorate. But it is rare for the electorate to go back a generation. Obama, it pays to recall, was born at end of the postwar Baby Boom and/or the beginning of the post-Boom generation.

• The age problem also faces Vice President Joe Biden, who is even older than Clinton. Still, he has openly talked about a 2016 run.

• Other Democrats to watch for include the two Virginia senators—Mark Warner and Tim Kaine—and governors Deval Patrick and Andrew Cuomo.

• Soon-to-be-former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was recruited heavily in 2011-12 but said no. The likelihood that he will say yes in 2015-16 seems low, given his new apolitical role as president of Purdue University.

• A more-likely Hoosier to run for president is the governor-elect, Mike Pence. First elected to Congress in 2000, Pence is a small-government conservative committed to a strong defense and traditional values—firmly in the Reagan tradition.

• Sen. John Thune, the plain-spoken, tough-minded conservative from South Dakota, has hinted that he might run. Although he doesn’t have a big-state base, he has all the positions and traits of a solid candidate.

• New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could be a factor in the next cycle. He contemplated a run in 2012. His 2016 hopes may be impacted by frustrations some in the GOP expressed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, when he praised Obama’s help in dealing with the effects of the killer storm. But that could just as easily be spun as evidence of Christie’s ability to put partisanship aside.

• Rep. Paul Ryan was catapulted into the national consciousness and conversation when Romney asked him to join the ticket. The coming two years promise to position Ryan at the very center of the debate over the size and scope of government, which will only elevate him nationally. Indeed, Ryan, who retained his House seat, could arguably play a larger role in the looming fiscal fights as chairman of the House Budget Committee than as vice president—a post John Adams dismissed as “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived.”

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  • Lee

    Gotten to like Ryan a lot. Sick to death of Christie.

    • nancynance

      I wouldn't vote for Christie. Not in this or any lifetime. And no Bush. NO, NO, NO.
      Rubio yes. As much as I like Paul Ryan, I think Rubio would have been the better choice for obvious reasons! And I really do like him.

      • BS77

        I like Rubio.

  • Jossi

    Two days after the 2012 election you're already preoccupied and already predicting about the election of 2016? Do you have nothing else to write about? Looking at present situation I'm not even sure the US of A. might be able to hold an election in 2016.

    • BS77

      2016? Let's deal with 2012-2013 first. This election was not about "democracy" It was more about the shameless shilling and spin by the liberal media…the endless news about polls, polls and more polls. The endless campaigning and shutting out of all third party candidates…..The results were virtually pre ordained by the Lib stream media. It is a billion dollar AMerican Idol contest…..so, American sheeple voters…r….let's just watch, wait and see how this turns out in the coming months. I am very concerned about the stability of our economy and financial house considering the staggering debts, deficits and employment problems, fifty million on food stamps, millions living in poverty…it is a very serious situation…..I hate to see our nation go the way of Greece or England……

  • Burlington

    Scratch Jeb Bush, the country does not need another Bush. Age is creeping up on Hillary. In another 4 years she will be looking too rough. Christie must get a gasrtic bypass soon to make weight for 2016. To consider Biden as a possible candidate is a bad joke.
    My history professor, a contemporary of Hubert Humphrey and Harold Stassen at the University of Minnesota, said that there are only two cures for the Presidential fever, victory or death.

    • banastre tarleton

      right on ..hilliary too old , Christie too fat …the candidate must be hollywoodesk …Arnold would of been OK if he had not been born outside of the US…religion is dying in America and hollywood is filling the vacuum …obama is a perfect relection of Politicilly correct hollywood

  • Schlomotion

    If 2016 is Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, and Marco Rubio vs Joe Biden and Deval Patrick, it sounds like Republicans are planning for another close loss between candidates that nobody cares about. What can be said of people who plan a lackluster disappointment four years ahead of time?

    • Mo Schlotion

      I'm sure you'll be there to run. After all you have all of the answers.

  • BLJ

    Christie is a RINO (at best). Rubio is the best chance in my opinion.

  • Western Spirit

    Any Bush is a lost cause because George W. lost control of the economy for whatever reason and is being blamed for the whole collapse.

    Therefore no more Bush's need apply for the office.

  • Chezwick

    After 8 years of an African-American President, the next ethnicity-de jour will most definitely be Hispanic. In fact, demographics assure that Hispanics will be part of the Presidential landscape from now on. If the Dems don't nominate one for Prez in 2016, the eventual nominee will certainly pick one to be his running mate. Count on it!

    On the GOP side, Rubio looks to be the logical choice. My presumption is that Romney solicited him for the #2 spot…and he astutely refused, rightly guessing that an incumbent President would be hard to beat. Now, he is not tainted with the stench of defeat as we look ahead to 2016.

    Rubio's greatest challenge is avoiding potential personal foibles. Intellectually and politically, he's gold, a principled conservative with a moderate persona. But everyone – including himself – is aware that he's a rising star. Couple such an ego-flattering status with his age as a mid-life-crises candidate, and you have the possibility for a career-jarring scandal. Should he succumb, he might pick up the pieces and perhaps survive as a Senate candidate, but his aspirations for the Oval office would be dashed. Let's hope his character inoculates him from such a fate.

    • Chezwick

      PS – An Hispanic woman would conquer two demographic groups at once. Keep an eye out.

    • banastre tarleton

      Hollywood has always loomed large in the American psyche , but the Hollwood of Reagan is a world away from the Hollwood of today …Obama is a perfect reflection of P C , post modern Hollywood ….religion is dying a natural death in the West and Holywood is taking over it's role as cultural shaper of worldview and values ; many of the younger generation are far more influenced by TV than church and lets face it , the future belongs to the young …this is truly the dawning of the age of Obama , a postmodern version of the age of aquarious
      Future elections will be a political version of American Odol and the square ,dorkish traditional , conservative Romney types will have NO CHANCE

  • mlcblog

    Thank you. I am finding the best antidote to my sickness over the election (warranted in my book!!) is a strong dose of Reality. This article is very helpful.

    I do love that I am hearing true conservatives (not Rove,Kristol,Kraut) hammer that we need to fight and work as never before.

  • Hank Rearden

    Allen West

  • truebearing

    This article is a ridiculous exercise in denial. We are in the middle of an incremental coup, we just lost every important race, Obama is already feverishly working to ratify the UN Small Arms Treaty, and we're babbling about who will be our next paper tiger? WAKE THE HELL UP!!!!!!!!

    I know… why don't we nominate Kim Kardashian? She's popular with the Morons of America. I think she has some Arab blood, so she would probably be acceptable to the Hate Israel demo….and the black guys like her. Yep, she's my choice for leading America where it is inexorably headed.

  • wsk

    Who gives a crap?
    We have reached the tipping point in America where the losers, the lazy, the parasites, the leeches, the moochers and the occupiers now outnumber the producers. America is gone, Amerika is here and I don't think Amerika is a place worth saving.

  • Ghostwriter

    I've been reading posts like wsk a lot lately. It's hard NOT to feel that way. I believe that soon,a lot of those who voted for Obama are going to get buyer's remorse and that may happen sooner than later. I don't know what's going to happen over the next four years and I don't want to try. But,I've got a feeling things will change sooner than expected.

    • Mary Sue

      such buyers remorse would ideally be evidenced in house and senate races in 2014.

  • Grouchy Old Man

    Romney ran essentially a gentleman's campaign. Unfortunately, he forgot that you can never go wrong by underestimating the intelligence of the American electorate . Obama on the other hand got down and dirty.

    As long as the Rep Party thinks that they can win through logic and issues, the more we will continue to lose. Romney and McCain never took the gloves off. Let us learn from this loss that politics is NOT a gentleman's sport. The country is in the balance – let's learn to go for the throat!

  • FRONTPGMAGSUBSCRBR

    A caution about the increased (Roman) Catholic presence in the Republican party, on the Supreme Court, in the military services of the U.S., and in the immigrants, illegal and otherwise, into this country … Is this the design of a much larger, older, and vast an entity than any one nation today??? Read chapter 2 of Leo H. Lehman's 1946 book, Behind the Dictators, where he implicates the Jesuit order for this massive hoax and forgery, which first turned up in czarist Russia (instead of in France), for reasons explained. Goto:
    http://www.archive.org/stream/BehindTheDictators/

    • Ghostwriter

      I don't think it's fair to blame ALL Roman Catholics for what happened. Most are decent Americans. It's ridiculous to do that or we'd be living up to the stereotype liberals have of conservatives as being bigots.

  • guest

    Thus, is the circumstance a new nation was born of a hearty responsible people; sick, and fed up with a broken system under King George, where the cost was too high for those who produced, and freedom was silenced. I think it's time to revive that path, and leave those behind under King Obama, and start anew. Let those who made their choice eat their ballots when starving, and suffer totalitarianism, which will eventually lead to servitude under the guise of a union jack. Many people say "Let's fight the good fight" but I'm not sure there's much left to fight over but a rotting corpse thanks to the foolish and irresponsible among us. There's a bright future out there, but it's not here.

  • Ghostwriter

    Once more,guest is feeling how many right now feel. "America is lost! Let's just leave it!" That's not a fair thing to say and basically,it's an insulting thing. I believe we should try again. I admit I have no idea how to do this. I'll leave it to others to figure it out. We've been through tough times before and survived. The next four years aren't going to be easy,I can tell you that.

  • http://twitter.com/BruceFancher @BruceFancher

    Christie? I would sooner vote for Charlie Sheen.

  • Jeanne

    Four more years of 0bama and we may not ever see another election. The End.

  • cynthiacurran

    Rubio is the worst he will bang on the hispanic vote and the dems will get at least 65 percent of tat and Repubicians will still lose Oh, go for Rand Paul not as radical as the old man and get about million of the libertarian vote and Paul appeals more to the blue collar midwest than Rubio a Florida Cuban.

  • cynthiacurran

    Hispanics don't vote Republican that much and getting 5 percent may mean you still not win Florida or Colorado and you will not win states like Oh. Bush got rid of the qualifcations for homeownership like down payments to buy a house and got 40 percent that was one of the factors in the housing bubble and it pushed hispanics and other minorites to moved to Nevada one reason why Republicans lost Nevada. Notice Florida was also in the housing bubble. Republicans complain about moochers even in Texas where welfare is harder to get about 53 percent of those on welfare in Texas are hispanic the highest ehtnic group. Republicans would have to abandon welfare ewform to get a hihger hispanic vote.

  • Iron Yank

    Lets be honest here, the Republican party chose our last two candidates and they were both losers. If they push Bush or even Christie next time, I would quit the Republican party and never come back. Rubio needs to actually do something instead of just being hispanic. If he had any real accomplishments he would be viable. Of course after 8 years of Barak Obama anyone will look better by comparison.