2016 Presidential Campaign – #1 – 02/04/15

Note from the author: from time to time during the upcoming presidential election, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on it here. For those hardcore political junkies among you, here’s a link to a very good non-partisan website, 2016 Election Central, which will keep you up to date over the next two years of campaigning http://www.uspresidentialelectionnews.com/. Charles

“Money talks and bullshit walks.” – Disgraced Pennsylvania Congressman Michael Myers as recorded on tape during the ABSCAM sting operation on August 22, 1979

“Money will talk even louder than ever before in the 2016 presidential election.” – Charles L. Freeman, Jr – February 4, 2015

Here we are only six months out from the first official GOP presidential primary debate and eleven months from the Iowa Caucuses on January 18, 2016 and already, we’ve witnessed a seismic event among the party’s potential candidates for the right to run against (and probably lose to) Hillary Rodham Clinton. Less than a month after telling a private meeting of some of his biggest donors in the 2012 campaign that, “I want to be president” and ramping up speculation that he might run for a third time, Mitt Romney announced last Friday that he won’t be running again. Despite his stated belief that he could “probably win the nomination and beat Hillary Clinton” and raise the estimated $1 billion plus needed for long, grueling primary and general campaigns, Romney most likely saw the writing on the wall that became even clearer when Jeb Bush jumped the line and announced that he was going to explore the possibility of running for president: “Please go away Mitt and stay away.”

Unlike the Democratic side where it appears that Hillary Clinton will be the only serious candidate unless Elizabeth Warren can somehow be convinced by the progressive wing of the party to run, the Republican pool of potential candidates runs from the must be taken seriously Jeb Bush who so far appears to be ignoring the far-right wing of the party to the ridiculous threats of Donald rhymes with Chump and Sarah “I’m Serious This Time” Palin. In between that spectrum, in no particular order, lie Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, the quixotic Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, Lindsay “Boots on the Ground Everywhere” Graham, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker. Paul Ryan, who was Romney’s 2012 running mate, says that with Romney out of the race, he’s going to remain neutral for now.

This list of potential candidates comes with several caveats and possible problems led of course by Jeb Bush’s last name which, because of his brother’s disastrous end to his second term, must be seen as a huge impediment particularly should he be the party’s nominee. But, because he’s far more moderate on Common Core and immigration reform among other crucial issues than most of the party’s hardcore conservatives can stomach today, and the fact that he’s been out of office since 2007 and hasn’t run a campaign since 2002 – a lifetime in today’s hyper-digital 24/7 news cycle atmosphere – there’s reason for many to wonder if Bush’s ability to tap into his family’s vast donor base will be enough to propel him to the nomination.

Then consider the following: Christie faces possible indictment from several current investigations; Perry is already under indictment and facing trial in Austin, Texas while Cruz, Graham, Paul, Rubio, Santorum and Walker all have questions about their ability to raise the money needed for a nationwide run. Plus, both Paul and Rubio face decisions about running for president or their Senate seats as Kentucky (Paul) and Florida (Rubio) have laws against appearing on the ballot twice – Paul is threatening to challenge the law while Rubio has said he’ll make a decision soon on which office he’ll seek (most observers think he’ll run for reelection to the Senate). Kasich and Walker are Republican governors in Midwestern states – Ohio and Wisconsin respectively – who’ve taken vastly different approaches to governing; Kasich is more pragmatic and seeks to solve problems via common sense and consensus while Walker seems intent on destroying labor unions in his state and across the country.

Looming over all of this: an improving economy, immigration reform, terrorism, Citizens United’s “dark money” being funneled into Super PACs, Karl Rove’s Crossroads, Sheldon Adelson’s desire to force any and all candidates to swear allegiance to Israel and the notoriously secretive Koch Brothers who say they will spend upwards of $800 million on the 2016 campaign.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who vowed to take control of the debates this cycle in order to end the circus that surrounded the 2012 primary campaign, has implemented a series of changes that not only limits the number of party sanctioned debates, but punishes those who participate in non-sanctioned events and created a baseline of support that candidates must meet in order to appear onstage. In other words, no Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain in 2016 (sorry Dr. Ben Carson and fired Hewlett-Packard former CEO Carly Fiorina) to provide reams of material for Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and SNL.

Mitt Romney is the first victim of 2016 and only time will tell if he can continue to influence the race via his vast and deep-pocketed donor list. Whoever taps into it the best and right now, Bush seems to be the most successful at doing so, will have a decided advantage.

In 2011, I told anyone who’d listen: when it’s all said and done, Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee because the powers that be in the party aren’t going to risk what they think is a very good chance to defeat a seemingly weakened incumbent Barack Obama by nominating some far-right wing candidate. And that holds even truer today in 2015: when it’s all said and done, after billions of dollars in official and unofficial campaign spending, after a campaign that’s going to give Game Change authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann their third joint best-seller, it’s going to be Jeb Bush against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the right to be the 45th President of the United States.

That’s what I think today.

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