When I was in sixth grade, I heard my peers and teachers actively discussing about the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Of course, I was naive about politics and didn’t have much to add, but I was still interested to learn about the presidential candidates.
Sadly, I was also exposed to negative campaigning, since it was more appealing than researching the candidates’ stance on pertinent issues. Having fallen victim to the infamous Swift Boat campaign against the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, I gave my support to the Republican incumbent George W. Bush.
Fast-forwarding to 2008, I was still ignorant about pressing issues like foreign policy and economics, as I was more fascinated by tangible social issues. One such issue involved increasing diversity in political offices, and as such, I endorsed the Democratic candidate Barack Obama.
The 2012 presidential election was the first election that made me more informed on politics. Considering that Obama would win the Democratic nomination easily, I focused more on the Republican primaries, which were quite entertaining. It was clear that a moderate candidate would win, since partisanship would hinder social progress.
The only moderate Republican candidates were Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum were too conservative; Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain were too controversial; Buddy Roemer was unknown; and Ron Paul and Gary Johnson were too libertarian.
As expected, Romney won the Republican nomination, but lost to Obama in the general election. This was interesting, as the two candidates were so similar in many ways (e.g. “Obamneycare”). Yet, I still supported Obama for reelection simply because he had a better plan.
Careful analysis on the 2012 primaries may provide some insight into the upcoming 2016 presidential election. It seems that if Hillary Clinton chooses to run, she will likely win the Democratic nomination, due to her popularity and experience.
Moreover, if Clinton wins the nomination, she can likely win the general election, especially if her Republican opponent is controversial or unoriginal. Her victory will also amplify the social change triggered by Obama in diversifying the Executive Office.
Perhaps under a Clinton administration, the U.S.-Germany relations could have more of a personal touch.
However, should a Democrat necessarily win in 2016? Since 1951, when the 22nd Amendment was ratified imposing a two-term limit for presidency, the two main political parties have exchanged roles of the presidency every four to 12 years in mostly regular patterns. This means that even if Clinton (or another Democrat) wins the 2016 election, there is a significant chance that they will be defeated in the 2020 reelection.
Unfortunately, I don’t see a Democrat winning in 2016 election, simply because Obama’s second term accomplishments are quite lackluster. This is observed in the 2014 congressional elections, whereby fellow Democrats distanced themselves from the president, which allowed Republicans to seize the opportunity and take control of Congress.
Despite a massive defeat in the 2014 congressional elections, Obama did enjoy some successes. The American economy prospered thanks to falling oil prices and a shale boom. Obama even improved foreign relations with Cuba, a historical milestone. Alas, Obama is a bit behind in popularity compared to his predecessors Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Even then, Reagan’s successor George H. W. Bush served only for one term, while Clinton was succeeded by a Republican in a highly contested 2000 presidential election.
So which Republican can win the White House in 2016? It’s hard to say, since the potential Republican candidates aren’t impressive. In fact, they are too similar to the 2012 Republican candidates. The media outlets are pointing favorable signs towards Jeb Bush, who recently organized an exploratory committee. Is that really the best we can do?
Don’t get me wrong. Jeb Bush is a moderate, like Hillary Clinton. Yet, political dynasties are the last thing we need. If a “Jeb vs Hillary 2016” were to happen, it is likely that Hillary Clinton will defeat Jeb Bush in a similar fashion as Obama defeated Romney back in 2012. Moderate Republicans are simply too similar to Democrats, but the Democrats here are more experienced and have a better plan.
Romney recently expressed his interest in the 2016 election, despite his prior refusal. However, it seems only temporary as he conceded to incessant pressure from his supporters. Even if he were to run, it is rather unlikely that the Republican Party will want to nominate him again and risk losing the general election. Likewise, it’s doubtful that Santorum, Perry and Bachmann will fare well if they were to run again.
Additional possible Republican candidates are Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Ted Cruz. Huckabee and Cruz are too controversial to succeed in the general election, while Christie risks alienating his own party for being “too left.” More information is needed for Carson, Jindal, Paul and Rubio depending on if they intend to run.
The most interesting potential Republican candidate is Scott Walker. Elected as a Wisconsin governor in 2010, he proposed a budget repair plan that significantly cuts funding for the state’s Medicaid and education budgets, as well as restricting collective bargaining rights for most public employees. Protests erupted in 2011, and voters attempted to recall Walker in 2012.
Instead, the surprising event happened. Walker won the recall election, as well as the 2014 reelection. The Wisconsin Supreme Court also upheld the Walker budget bill.
Aided by the Republican victory in the 2014 congressional elections, Walker likely has a strong chance in winning the 2016 presidential election. Otherwise, the Republican winner may very well be a dark horse.
Badri Karthikeyan is a senior at Drexel University. He can be contacted at [email protected].