While the Democrats’ fantasies fill up with images of “Hilary for President, Elizabeth Warren for VP! Election 2016!” many are exasperated with these premature sugarplums dancing in our political heads. Election 2016? Did you forget it’s only 2013? Who cares about who’s running or thinking of running? This is worse than a November 1st Christmas tree sale at Walmart (step off, Christmas, before I make you step off. Seriously).
But the truth is, news media is just setting up the board for the next game. Each potential candidate has the ability to change the entire scope or emphasis of the election we’ll have. Recall how evenly matched Obama and Hillary were in the 2008 Democratic primaries until race became an issue. In addition to the variable politics of the voting populace (which seem to be continuing their leftward shift in recent elections), candidates’ tectonics will shape each others’ responses to the hot button issues in 2016. Just the presence of certain players on the field has the potential to push candidates left or right in response.
Take, for example, the Republican shifts in our last two Presidential elections. In the 2008 primaries, McCain shifted noticeably to the Right in order to seduce Conservative voters split between Romney and Huckabee. This isn’t an isolated phenomenon (we saw Romney pushed the same way in 2012), nor is it unique to either party. Hillary Clinton has garnered some critique for her changing stance on gay marriage (she supported the Defense of Marriage Act and in her 2008 President run, promoted civil unions over equal marriage. Only in 2013 did she come out in favor of gay marriage). It’s no act of genius to make yourself more appealing when you’re after votes, but 2016 promises some interesting dynamics.
As media speculation begins and Presidential hopefuls make themselves known, we can already forecast some potential shifts we’ll see. Should both Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren run, Hillary will have to move left to contend with Warren’s strong progressivism. Although Hillary has not announced her candidacy, she already has a very strong base rallying under her pennant.
Chris Christie had shown promise getting votes from both sides during his reelection. However, the recent Bridgegate scandal and rumors that he withheld Hurricane Sandy relief funds may have shot this racehorse before he made it out of the gate. (Pardon the race-themed metaphors. I’m trying here.) Although he isn’t saying much about a potential candidacy, Paul Ryan (who ran as VP on the Romney ticket in 2012) is also at the front of the GOP polls after successfully negotiating the bipartisan budget deal in November (read our coverage here). If the GOP can pull together its image and infighting, it will still need to divorce itself further from the Tea Party and seek the Independent vote, as both Christie and Ryan are potentially capable of doing.
Is it fair? To the cynical constituent, flip-flopping and political shifting for voter appeal is the sign of an unprincipled politician, likely to create more contradictory problems than they can solve. On the other hand, it may be the sign of a strong individual who can admit when they’re mistaken, and who holds in high regard the will of the people. Be your own judge with this excerpt from Gov. Christies’ now-ironic 2013 victory speech (emphasis mine):
We just don’t show up in the places that vote for us a lot, we show up in the places that vote for us a little. We don’t just show up in the places where we’re comfortable, we show up in the places where we’re uncomfortable.
Because when you lead, you need to be there. You need to show up, you need to listen and then you need to act. And you don’t just show up six months before an election, you show up four years before one.
Oh, how they have already.
Dear Reader, there’s no denying: The 2016 game is afoot! And what a fascinating election it will be.