It has been nearly eight months since I wrote about the 2016 election cycle. In a sane world, it would be another eight months before I felt compelled to break that streak. But we are now living in a world of more or less permanent campaigns and now that the front-runner has officially declared, I think it's worth going on the record with how I see the next 16 months playing out. I will start with the race, such as there is one, for the Democratic Nomination.
1. This Blog Endorses Lincoln Chafee. He will not win.
The foolish decision to invade Iraq in 2003 is the most important moment of this nation's history that I have personal memory of. For the first time since the Polk administration, this country began a war not just of choice, but of naked aggression. And the consequences were disastrous. The United States lost 5,000 lives, several trillion dollars and untold prestige around the world. The results for Iraq were much much worse, in human casualties and in future uncertainty.
Next year, I will probably vote for a woman who voted for that war in the presidential election. But I have no intention of doing so in the primaries. Luckily, there is one candidate with stellar anti-Iraq war credentials. His name is Lincoln Chafee. In 2002 he was the only Republican in the Senate to vote against the authorization of force in Iraq. He has since left the party. He was elected as an independent governor of Rhode Island and eventually registered as a Democrat. I will be voting for him in the Illinois primary next year. Dozens of others will join me. But he has no chance of being nominated. None.
Here's a look at the rest of the field:
1. The Nominee in Waiting: Secretary Hillary Clinton.
Hillary has been the presumptive 2016 nominee from the day she agreed to be Barack Obama's Secretary of State. Although her tenure was short on specific achievements, she didn't do anything to compromise her standing with the party or the voting public. So even eight months ago I wrote that she had a 70% chance of being the nominee. Since that writing, Elizabeth Warren has made clear that she will not run. Senator Warren was always the most credible challenger to Hillary and it's now obvious that she won't take up that challenge. Vice-President Biden has also shown no interest in running. I didn't think he was likely to beat her in a competitive primary season, but he could have at least sucked up some of her donor and volunteer base. He also had the right to run as Obama's preferred choice, a role that would have helped him a lot in the primary. I expect that Biden will try to keep a toe in the water just in case Mrs. Clinton screws up. But he's not making the steps necessary to run. That may have been related to his son's health challenges but I don't think Beau Biden's passing will change his plans for 2016. It's hard to put a precise number on Hillary's chances of being nominated but it is comfortably over 95%.
But Bernie Will Have a Surge.
Bernie Sanders has been actively campaigning for weeks and a few polls have shown him putting up respectable numbers in New Hampshire. He has also raised enough money to put up a respectable boutique campaign in the early primary states. And there are plenty of young people who will trot out to Iowa to knock on doors for him.
But he can't win. At some point he will probably have to choose between a serious effort in Iowa or New Hampshire. Hillary will run big in both states. Bernie will make the debates interesting and the media will desperately want him to make this race competitive. If he loses New Hampshire by less than 10%, they will act like this race is a contested one. It is not.
Someone Else Will Have a Boomlet.
The rest of the field is remarkably weak. That's not surprising given that most of the serious contenders to be President one day are sitting this one out rather than spend a year sleeping in motels only to get crushed by Hillary. Here's the rest of the field:
1. Martin O'Malley. A mediocre governor of a medium-sized state. He also picked the wrong year to run for President on the strength of having been a mayor of Baltimore. His biggest claim to fame is being the basis for Mayor Carcetti on the Wire, a distinction that he loathes. He did a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" and about half of the questions were about the Wire. More damning than his fictional portrayal on that show is his horrific record as a stone cold war on drugs enthusiast. He can't outrun that in a democratic primary. He might have been a VP contender but I expect him to go all-in on the primaries and he might burn some bridges along the way.
2. Lincoln Chafee. My aforementioned candidate of choice. He is bright, moderate and competent. He is as exciting as a grilled cheese sandwich. He has no ties within the national party. He won't break double-digits in Iowa and might not get there in New Hampshire either. But like I said, a good man.
3. Jim Webb. Oh, this guy had promise. He holds the Navy cross and he was Ronald Reagan's secretary of the Navy. Pretty hard to swift-boat that, if he ever got the nomination. While in the senat he also took some principled stands on issues like prison reform. But he's a bit too "principled" when it comes to things like being unable to say the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism. I also doubt he will be able to connect with the left-wing of his party and I doubt he'll make a serious run anywhere. But I do think he would elevate the debates and be an interesting candidate to follow. But he can't win.
Hillary could run the table and win all 50 primaries, as Al Gore did over Bill Bradley in 2000. And as Hillary did in the imaginary world of Bill Kristol's prognostications in 2008. Bernie will carry Vermont and he might be able to pick off another state somewhere. Jim Webb might carry Virginia or some oddball state like Oklahoma or some other state that does not matter in the general election. And O'Malley could theoretically win Maryland, but I doubt it. If I was making book, I would put the over/under for states won by Hillary at 48.5.
I haven't exactly made a lot of news in the blog post so I'll take one long term flier on Hillary's running mate. I expect her running mate will come from Virginia, but it won't be Jim Webb. Mark Warner will be on the short list, but I think a better and more likely choice is Senator Tim Kaine. He's a former governor, he's very smart and perhaps most importantly, he is fluent in Spanish. (He lived in Hondurdas for on year and has given the Democratic Spanish-language response to the State of the Union.)
So here comes the Far-Fetched prediction.
I think the GOP nominee will be very wise to pick Governor Susanna Martinez of New Mexico as his running mate. The Republicans will need to do something to close the gap among Latin voters and women. If the nominee is anyone other than Marco Rubio (it won't be Ted Cruz), then Susanna Martinez will make the most sense.
So here's the long shot prediction. Next year, there will be a vice-presidential debate held in Spanish. And the next election will be decided by Latino voters. By the time the general election is underway, both parties will be vying for every last vote in Florida. And New Mexico might become a swing state if the Republicans put Gov. Martinez on the ticket. Yes, this will make head explode among the Fox News crowd, as so many things do lately. But this is the way of the future and once the election is on the line, it will make sense for both parties. The Republicans will probably need a long shot to come in and the Democrats would be crazy to decline the offer and risk alienating the fastest growing segment of their base.
Of course this won't happen if Donald Trump is the nominee. But more about that in my next post.