News / USA

From Obscurity to the White House

President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, their children Malia and Sasha, and Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, wave on stage on the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012.
President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, their children Malia and Sasha, and Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, wave on stage on the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012.
Barack Obama still has just under three years left in his presidency but you wouldn’t know that from the activities of Washington’s political elite.  Their focus has already turned to this November’s midterm congressional elections and, increasingly, to the 2016 race for president.  This may seem early to some but U.S. presidential campaigns have begun earlier than ever in recent years as prospective candidates assess their chances for winning and fundraising.  This is particularly true for Republicans considering a run for the White House in 2016.
 
Democrats are frozen in place waiting for word from former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.  If she runs, as many Democrats hope and expect, it would appear the party nomination is hers for the asking.  If she doesn’t, all hell could break loose.  Vice President Joe Biden would get a new lease on his political life and we would hear an awful lot about little known Democrats like Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and former Montana governor Brian Sweitzer.
 
As for the Republicans, for the first time in a long time there is no clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination two years from now.  Combine that with an ongoing power struggle within the party between mainstream leaders and insurgent Tea Party groups and you have the makings for an all-out struggle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party playing out during the 2016 presidential primaries.  At this point it seems anywhere from eight to 12 Republicans are seriously considering a presidential bid in 2016 and while many of them seem longshots now, we have seen candidates in the past who have emerged from relative obscurity to win the highest office in the land.

John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a longtime observer of Republican Party politics, sees the 2016 presidential field as the most unpredictable and wide open in decades.  “It depends a bit on how the conservative base is unified or divided and I think right now it is a relatively wide open race for seven or eight players to potentially rise to the top.”
 
Nominees from nowhere
 
In 1975, my college roommate was eager to work on a Democratic presidential campaign and took a call from an obscure former southern governor recruiting volunteers to work in some of the northeastern states.  I was able to listen in on an extension as a man with a thick Georgia drawl began his pitch, “Hi Steve.  This is Jimmy Carter.”  Steve was excited but I wondered how an unknown was going to compete with better known Democrats like Morris Udall, Birch Bayh, Henry Jackson, Lloyd Bentsen and Sargent Shriver.  Carter of course went on to win the 1976 election, defeating President Gerald Ford.  He also blazed a political trail followed by another little-known southern governor in 1992 by the name of Bill Clinton.
 
Historically, Democrats have been more likely to nominate a relative unknown than Republicans.  In addition to former presidents Carter and Clinton, Democrats also nominated George McGovern in 1972, Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Barack Obama in 2008.  Republicans have generally been more orderly if you trace the genealogy from Richard Nixon to Gerald Ford to Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush to Bob Dole to George W. Bush to John McCain and Mitt Romney.  As former President Clinton once said “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line,” when it comes to picking their presidential candidates.  But that may be turned on its head in 2016.
 
Republican dark horses
 
Many will consider former Florida governor Jeb Bush a frontrunner for the Republican nomination should he decide to run.  Other mainstream Republican favorites include New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2012.  Christie was seen by establishment Republicans as their best hope to reclaim the White House in 2016 before he got entangled in a political scandal in New Jersey brought about when some of his aides orchestrated several days of traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge, allegedly out of political revenge.  Ongoing investigations could cloud Christie’s political future for months.
 
With no clear frontrunner for 2016, many Republicans are thinking about joining the fray.  In the category loosely described as Tea Party favorites you can include Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  Several governors are in the mix including Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio and maybe Mike Pence of Indiana.  There’s another group of previous candidates who may make another try including former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.
 
No shortage of potential candidates but also very little clue as to how Republican primary voters will react in 2016.  Could an outsider like Rand Paul win over enough mainstream Republicans to become the nominee?  Can Jeb Bush win over Tea Party supporters given his moderate views on immigration?  Can Chris Christie win back some of the trust he’s lost because of the scandal in New Jersey?  Could an unknown like Bobby Jindal or Scott Walker really capture the Republican nomination and then the presidency?
 
At the moment it looks as though much of the 2016 debate is likely to focus on domestic issues.  In part that’s because a rough consensus has emerged in public opinion polls that Americans are tired after more than a decade of military commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Carroll Doherty with the Pew Research Center says this sentiment seems to cut across party lines.  “What is surprising to me in the polling is the non-partisanship of the public’s attitudes on foreign policy.  Republicans and Democrats both want the United States to be less engaged in the world geopolitically.  In terms of military approaches to problems, the decade of war has really taken a toll on the public’s psyche and there is just no interest for that kind of military intervention in most cases.” 
 
Who emerges as the Republican nominee in 2016 is important because given historical trends the party should be competitive for the White House two years from now.  Beginning with Dwight Eisenhower’s first election in 1952, it is rare for one party to hold the White House more than two consecutive terms.  It’s happened only once since then—in 1988 when Vice President George H. W. Bush succeeded Ronald Reagan to keep the White House in Republican hands for three straight terms.
 
Democrats may like the odds for Hillary Clinton in 2016 but she could face plenty of headwinds if she runs including President Obama’s low approval ratings, the split in the country over the Obamacare health care law, and what could be a strong desire for change among Republican and independent voters.  So it may be worth paying close attention to the emerging Republican field for 2016.  They include several little-known figures that may or may not ready for the political big time.  But if history is any guide, it’s at least possible that someone we currently know relatively little about could wind up taking the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States on January 20th, 2017.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: LaVerne Wheeler from: Amesbury MA
April 21, 2014 3:36 PM
So very disappointed the author found it necessary to discuss the Affordable Care Act as "obamacare". It is devoutly to be wished that "non-partisan" sites would use the more appropriate appellation rather than fall prey to media hype terminology.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid