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

Arab League Delays Forming Joint Force

Delay grows out of one of original obstacles facing pan-Arab force, analysts say: 'They may agree on the principle, but they continue to argue about how to implement the project' More

Pakistan Demands Afghanistan Protect Its Kabul Mission, Staff

Officials in Islamabad say Afghan agents are harassing Pakistani embassy personnel, particularly those living outside of mission’s compound More

US Survey: Trump Lead Grows in Republican Presidential Contest

Quinnipiac University poll shows brash billionaire real estate mogul with 28 percent support among Republican voters 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs