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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid