Although I’m a European I enjoy following American politics, partially because it’s interesting and partially because it’s entertaining. In particular I tend to approach the GOP primaries like other people do sports, and now that the 2016 season is soon upon us I thought it would be fun to compare the starting field to that of 2012.
Let us therefore without further ado look back at who tried to make it in the previous primaries. I distinctly remember the following:
- Newt Gingrich
- Mitt Romney
- Rick Santorum
- Ron Paul
- Michelle Bachman
- Herman Cain
- Rick Perry
There were others, but these one appeared in several debates together on national television and the top four stuck it out almost towards the end. I could have listed people like Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman but as it turned out they were irrelevant. This year, as far as I can tell, we will be dealing with these ones:
- Jeb Bush
- Rand Paul
- Ted Cruze
- Mike Huckabee
- Scott Walker
- Carly Fiorina
- Marco Rubio
- Ben Carson
There are certain obvious analogies between the first list and the second, that should be pointed out. Carly Fiorina is the 2016 Herman Cain-equivalent. This might sound preposterous but consider the following. They both have a background primarily within the private sector, neither has held any major public office that I know of. Thus Cain tried to play the “I’m not a politician like the others, I know how to make money”-card, and so will Fiorina. Her former career as the CEO of Hewlet-Packard is obviously her major credential.
This strategy of not just being a politician worked for Romney to some extent, he won the primary after all. It is also what we can except to see if Donald Trump should attempt some shenanigans a couple of months from now. But it sure didn’t work for Cain, and it certainly won’t work for Fiorina. She doesn’t have the approval of other major players, and I suspect that her candidacy will mostly turn out to be an attention gimmick, just like Cain’s. Let us therefore proceed and say no more about her, unless something dramatic happens come January.
Next on the line we have the evangelical of the season, Mike Huckabee. His predecessor Santorum was of course technically a catholic, but these two are as everyone can tell aiming at the same demographics. This isn’t news to anyone, but there is a point here that is rarely mentioned, that I thought I’d remind everyone of.
Election turnout in the United States is by western standards quite low, less than 60% in 2012. This means that for many demographics there is a reserve of people that, if mobilized without the others mobilizing theirs can swing an election. It is possible to imagine that there are millions of people in the midwest or the south who are less politically active than the east coast liberals but who could be convinced that the time has come to change that.
This is more of a theoretical scenario than a probable one, but it shouldn’t be ignored. It didn’t work out for Santorum, but there are still tens of millions of people in the United States who could vote but chose not to, and some sort of revival could bring many of them forth to vote for a candidate like Huckabee. I doubt it, but to the extent that Huckabee has a chance that would be it. Incidentally that kind of change in the voter turnout is the GOP’s best chance to win the general election, but like I said, I doubt it will happen this election season.
There are some other candidates on the list that I have nothing in particular to say about because I consider them to be irrelevant, and then we have the three important ones and the joker. The important ones are Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and perhaps Scott Walker. Ted Cruze is the joker. The reason I say that is because I haven’t quite figured him out yet, whatever his deal is it hasn’t quite carried over across the atlantic. I have a feeling that there is something fake about him, but he is getting so much attention that one could claim that there is no smoke without fire.
Jebb is the candidate that can win by default, if the GOP fails to excite their voters. He is sort of a mix between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. he is not actually as burdened with political baggage as Gingrich was in 2012, but the name Bush will give that impression anyway. Jebb Bush stands little chance against Clinton, but he is well connected enough to make certain advances without voter enthusiasm. The more boring the primaries turn out to be the bigger the chance of us seeing a another Bush face of against another Clinton.
Rand Paul is, barring a revival among the evangelicals, perhaps the best chance the GOP has of winning the general election. He can focus on civil liberties, a less interventionist foreign policy and cannabis legalization, but that isn’t news to anyone either. What is perhaps new is that with Bernie Sanders now officially running and the specter of Elizabeth Warren hanging over the east coast, certain kinds of liberals may see Clinton prevail against their wishes, face of against Paul, and decide that they might as well stay home and let things go the way they go.
Overall though i would say that the difference between this coming primary and the last one is that this one stands a chance of being more of a close call, with Jeb, Paul and possibly Walker throwing down without anyone dominating as much as Romney did. I will be covering this issue more closely as we get closer to the elections, to give anyone that may care the European perspective, but if I had to call it now I would say Paul, Bush or Walker.