Outside the Bubble 1/29/15

GOP presidential possibles rev up for 2016

Throughout December and January, over a dozen Republican politicians and businessmen have garnered the attention of the media for their subtle preparations for a presidential bid in 2016. Among the most prominent names circulating are New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former governor of Florida and son and brother to the 41st and 43rd presidents Jeb Bush, Senator Ted Cruz, and the 2012 Republican candidate, Mitt Romney.

Meanwhile, no similar pattern has emerged among Democratic hopefuls, as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remains the focus of media speculation for the Democratic nomination. While no serious Republican or Democrat contender has officially announced their candidacy for the next presidency, the creation of Super PACs, the sudden appearances in key electoral swing states, and the hiring of political advisors have given Americans an unofficial look at what the 2016 presidential ticket will look like.

Among the most talked-about actions have been those of Jeb Bush. In December, Bush announced his intention to explore a presidential run in 2016 and has since made several moves to put any official campaign in a better position. Since his statement of interest, Bush has resigned from his role in several corporate boards.

Unlike other Republican hopefuls, with the notable exception of Mitt Romney, Bush failed to attend the Iowa Freedom Summit to discuss his positions on major federal issues. In the meantime, the former governor has been soliciting donations to Right to Rise PAC, his political action committee, and a related super PAC; this allows donors to help fund such potential campaign efforts as hiring strategists and staffers and travelling across the country to both gauge public opinion and woo additional donors. The potential candidate will address the Detroit Economic Club, a common action for GOP hopefuls, on Feb. 4.

After his small-margin defeat in 2012 by President Obama, speculation has yet again turned to Governor Romney of Massachusetts. While Romney attended neither the Iowa Freedom Summit nor a Koch brother-forum, some believe that popular cries for a second presidential run have inspired Romney to begin travelling around the country seeking out potential donors.

Some also interpret the strong criticism toward the idea of a new Romney campaign by other GOP hopefuls, such as Rand Paul and Donald Trump, highlights a growing impression that a campaign reboot is in America’s future. (The New York Times, “Prepping for 2016, a Gathering of Republicans in Iowa Leans Hard to the Right,” 01.24.15) Insiders have told the media that Romney will decide, although not necessarily announce the decision, about mounting a second bid within the next two weeks. (CNN, “Jeb’s invisible man strategy,” 01.26.15)

Christie, who many thought would serve as Romney’s running mate in 2012, has also made a serious stride in a bid for the White House since the New Year. The political action committee started by Christie supporters is called Leadership Matters for America, and has steadily tapped into funding streams around the country. Like many other presidential hopefuls, the New Jersey governor spoke at the Iowa Freedom Summit, talking about such issues as recommended changes in both Republican rhetoric around major policies as well as politics itself. According to FOX News, Christie will begin using his funding to travel the country, before making any presidential announcements, in February. (“Christie launches PAC in significant step toward White House run,” 01.26.15)

Several others have, despite less media coverage, been attempting to gain some presidential spotlight in recent days. Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio participated in a debate-style panel hosted by the Freedom Partners. The group, which espouses conservative and free-market economic principles, is closely linked with the wealthy, politically-minded Koch brothers. In the forum, the potential candidates discussed issues related to fiscal spending, in which all three largely agreed with Freedom Partners’ conservative economic stances, and foreign policy actions made by the current president, which inspired several heated debates. While Cruz and Rubio disavowed the president’s recent move to normalize relations with Cuba, Paul reiterated both his support for the decision due to its potential to increase trade opportunities and his criticism of US sanctions against Iran. (The Hill, “Foreign policy divides 2016 hopefuls at Koch forum,” 01.26.15)

Another individual contemplating a presidential bid is former vice presidential candidate and former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. The conservative, who officially retired from politics a number of years ago, when asked about running for president, said “You can absolutely say that I am seriously interested.” (The Washington Post, “Palin says she’s ‘seriously interested’ in 2016,” 01.24.15) However, her prospects have fallen subsequently due to what political observers have characterized as a poor, clumsy speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit; the National Review called it “meandering and often bizarre.” (the National Review, “2016: It Begins, 01.25.15) As reports have emerged speculating that Palin’s teleprompter froze, forcing her to adlib her speech, Republican and Democratic observes alike have classified the awkward speech as an unwitting victory for Democrats by effectively eliminating Palin from serious presidential contention.

This recent trend in pre-campaigning has also prompted several popular Republicans to officially deny their intention for a bid to the White House, among them Romney’s former running mate, Paul Ryan. “After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided not to run for president,” the Wisconsin Congressman, most notable for his annual federal budget proposals, announced. “[My chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee] over the next few years will be crucial to moving America forward, and my job as chairman deserves undivided attention.” (The Wall Street Journal, “Rep. Paul Ryan Rules Out 2016 Presidential Candidacy,” 01.12.15)

Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has become increasingly popular among liberal voters, has also taken the opportunity to publicly announce that she had no intention of running for president in 2016. In December, Warren told National Public Radio three times, “I’m not running for President.” (New York Daily News, “Elizabeth Warren says ‘no’ to Presidential campaign,” 01.23.15)

Amidst all of these GOP presidential preparations, little has been said regarding exactly who would be on the Democratic ticket. The media has long assumed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would make another attempt at the White House in 2016, despite her reticence on the subject. Instead of spending the entire winter on unofficial campaign stops like many Republican hopefuls, Clinton has been working on assembling her campaign team and receiving approval for a preliminary budget for a campaign; according to reports, only the communications director position remains vacant. (Politico, “Inside Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Plan,” 01.26.15) With planning in its final stages, political observers speculate that Clinton will officially announce her bid in early April.

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