Thursday, May 9, 2013

Five statements about the 2016 race

Let's play a parlor favorite, stretching back to the Victorian era, "2016 >", wherein we make simple, declarative statements about the 2016 race.

1. Hillary Clinton's tenacity > Hillary Clinton's likability.

If you're going to put money on Hillary for 2016, do it based on her tenacity; not her likability. 2008 taught us that.

If Hillary really were a likable political candidate, she'd be president right now. She had everything but likability in 2008, and because she didn't have that one thing, she lost out on everything.

She was so glaringly unlikable to large swaths of Democrats that she even had to roll out a website called "The Hillary I Know", because her likability deficit was threatening her candidacy. In September 2007, Pew found that voters thought both Obama and Edwards were more likable, and when Democratic voters played word association in that Pew poll, 67% called Hillary "tough", while only 22% called her "friendly".

Again, only 22% called her "friendly"!

Of nine word associations, "friendly" popped up dead last.

Watch the famous commercial below to remember just how pained she was at projecting warmth.

The mere fact that Obama snarked "you're likable enough, Hillary" in that New Hampshire debate shows just how much she was struggling on that front, and she never truly figured it out. Remember all the times she had reportedly found herself on the campaign trail, and was going to start seeming more genuine and relatable?

Hillary was, and has never been, likable as a front-runner, and candidates don't fundamentally change when they approach 70 years-old (she'll be 69 in 2016).

Then there's this -- independents, who love her now -- were unimpressed during the entire 2008 primary. And remember, these are the same indies who supported Obama by 8% over McCain, so you can't invoke the But indies are actually disgruntled Republicans argument.

According to Gallup, from May 2007 to June 2008, Hillary only hit a 50% favorable rating with indies twice, and one of those came after the primary was effectively over.

Source: Gallup 2008

It turns out that Hillary really only became likable when she was the underdog, and why? Because people admired and liked her tenacity.

Thus, Hillary's tenacity is what led to her likability; not her likability sui generis.

I wrote about this in January and, again, last month, and you'll probably be reading about it in perpetuity, because there's this pervasive notion that Hillary is the candidate of the century. Candidates of the century don't botch it when they're the frontrunner. They take out the frontrunner when they're 40% behind. Like Obama did to Hillary.

Does Jeb want to risk losing?

2. Jeb Bush's ego > Jeb Bush's ambition

Ego and ambition are often linked.

Sometimes they lead to wars and bloody coups, sometimes they lead to cheating on Sorry (a very hard game to cheat on, btw. If you ever figure out how, it's It's for a friend).

But other times ego trumps ambition, and leads to inertia or, possibly, retreat.


Because sometimes the thought of losing hurts more than the drive to play and win. That's why I won't play chess with anyone. It's normally considered a proxy for intelligence, and I'm bad at it, and am embarrassed to be bad at it (Towers, I understand. Horses/Knights, I still can't really get).

Well, as a Bush, Jeb has a considerable ego (His dad and brother were both presidents. He kind of deserves an ego), and for the past four years, he's been pampered by a media that thrills over his excoriations of the GOP and strains to note just how different Jeb is from George (true, indeed).

From an ego point of view, that's a nice play to be. The narrative on Jeb > The narrative on George. He's considered the more thoughtful, less partisan, more intelligent one. He didn't get to 270, but in a way, he's already at 271, and everyone agrees that he won Florida twice.

Well, if he ran for president, he'd turn into just-another-Bush, and his post-partisan aura would disappear overnight.

The other danger is that he'd probably lose anyway -- he doesn't have much cachet with the base anymore, and even moderate powerbrokers are ready to move on from the Bushes.

So here's what Jeb would face with a 2016 run.

Loss of post-partisan image + loss of nomination = that sucks.

If he passes on a run, he keeps both things, and can continue to nurture his post-partisan image and statesmanlike hue.

Jeb knows all this, and that's why I ultimately think his ego with trump his ambition, and he won't run.

3. Marco Rubio's physical liabilities > Marco Rubio's ethical questions.

If Rubio truly had a disqualifying skeleton in his past, it would have come up by now.

The Florida press has been gophering it up for years, a critical biographer did the same, and the Democratic Super PAC, American Bridge, spat out a 555 page dossier on him last year in anticipation of a possible Romney-Rubio ticket.

Nothing disqualifying has has been found (In fact, Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins recently wrote about the "endless vetting" of Rubio, which I'm thinking will probably only end in 2017).

Further, his close relationship with embattled Rep. David Rivera is always propped up as a potential source of ethical skeletons, but once again, nothing's turned up linking joint wrongdoing.

So, yes, sometimes the there is just not there.

But here's where Rubio falls short -- he's, quite literally, short.

I say this as someone who's also 5'9", so I'm ripping on myself when I rip on short presidential candidates.

We haven't had a 5'9" president since Harry Truman, and our last five presidents have all cracked the 6' mark or come within half an inch of 6'.

Never underestimate the importance of height or looks in the age of social media and celebrity politics. It matters more than just about everything else.

Now, it'd be one thing if Rubio came up short on height alone, but it's amplified by the fact he looks so young.

Take a look at some of these pics, and remember, height + youth = lack of gravitas.

Mitt = full partner at law firm who comes into office once a month; Rubio = there everyday for three months until fall semester kicks off  (Source: The Competent Conservative)

"I've got this idea on inventory." (Source: Mitt Romney Central).
Is this a photobomb? Because it sort of looks like one (Source: Policy Mic)

Rubio's a handsome dude, no doubt about it. He's got a killer smile, and a charming mien. But you'd be more likely to say "boyish good looks" than "suave sophisticate" like Obama or "classically handsome" like Romney.

So can "boyish good looks" really turn into the most powerful man in the world?

4. Rick Santorum > Rick Perry

When 2012 wrapped up, I knew I wouldn't be done writing about Rick Santorum. The only thing stopping him from running again in 2016 was nothing.

But little did I know that the other Rick might also come back for a second helping of disaster.

The scuttlebutt is that Perry wants to redeem himself after his awful 2012. Well, Vanilla Ice had a comeback try, too, and J.C.Penney did the JcP thing.

But there's no space whatsoever for Perry in the 2016 field. Let's play a game of "which".

Which tea partier would back Perry over Ted Cruz? Which big dollar donor would back Perry over Chris Christie? Which social conservative would back Perry over Rick Santorum? Which moderate would back Perry over Jeb Bush? Which champion for immigration reform would back Perry over Rubio?

There's a stronger version of Perry at every turn in 2016.

Last week, Perry reminded everyone he can shoot a gun, which is exactly what the GOP needs to win suburban women in Colorado.

Other than that, I'm not sure there's too much there. Obviously, you can edit things to make things look worse than they are, but you can't explain away all of this.


Santorum, on the other hand, still has some nice space for himself in 2016.

He has closer ties to evangelicals in Iowa than anyone else in the field, has worked Iowa up and down, and will muscle his way into the conversation be sheer will.

In short, Pennsylvania Rick is more viable than Texas Rick.

5. Amy Klobuchar's agreeableness > Amy Klobuchar's ambition

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) has refused to rule out a 2016 run, so we know she harbors at least some presidential ambition.

But if she's going to truly do it, she has to raise her national profile.

That means picking up a personal cause that's personal for millions of Democratic voters. Kirsten Gillibrand did that with DADT, and is now pressing the military on sexual assault and championing women politicians across the country.

Elizabeth Warren is perpetually crusading for more Wall Street oversight -- another near-and-dear cause to the liberal base.

Andrew Cuomo engineered gay marriage through the New York legislature, pushed for gun control, and is now working to relax abortion regulations. All of those are visible, visceral issues for Democratic voters.

Amy Klobuchar?

Right now she's working to strip ObamaCare of its tax on medical devices, which disproportionately affects Minnesota. She's also strained to maintain good relations with the business community, and talks a lot about the deficit.

None of those issues rouse the base.

In fact, she's provoked some grumbling from the Left for a number of her more moderate votes, including appearing receptive toward a "grand bargain".

Amy Klobuchar looks to pick up where Tim Pawlenty left off

Now here's the problem for Klobuchar. She's from a less visible state than Cuomo, Gillibrand, and Warren, AND she does less visible things with a much less "pick me, pick me!" attitude than normal presidential candidates (she's very understated).

Small state + quiet causes + Minnesota nice = no shot to win the nomination.

She can't really change two of those things (small state and Minnesota nice), so that means she needs to come up with a killer cause to get attention

Does Amy Klobuchar have a killer cause up her sleeve? .

Look into your heart, honestly, and answer. Therein lies the truth.