The year 2016 has already become synonymous with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the potential for our country to have its first female president, a possibility that looks more and more in jeopardy given the current malaise of President Barack Obama’s second term. A pattern that we cannot ignore, though, is that Americans like to change the party controlling the executive branch every two terms. Although analysts such as Nate Silver have projected that it will be quite difficult for a Republican to take the White House given the current demographics of the United States, it is important to examine possible opponents of Clinton, if she runs.
Many pundits have speculated that Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Joe Biden could be possible contenders in the Democratic primary. I would argue that this is extremely unlikely given the deference to Clinton that exists within the party. If Clinton were not to run, however, a possible primary could heat up between these two. Warren is particularly appealing given her populous anti-Wall-Street ethos.
Another candidate that might appear if linton were not to run would be New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo. A bold, pragmatic leader in public, Cuomo boasts a reputation as a ruthless and intense manager behind the scenes. This side of him recently saw intense media spotlight during the scandal of the Moreland Commission, a regulatory body that Cuomo put together to investigate corruption in New York State that turned out to be manipulated by Cuomo aides for the sake of protecting political allies. This scandal might prove costly for Cuomo’s political ambitions for 2016 and beyond.
Let’s say that popular belief turns out to be true and Clinton does run, potentially unopposed within her own party, saving her money and political capital. She would then prepare for myriad Republican challengers, all of whom bring their own baggage to the race.
Recently, it has been speculated that former governor and Republican nominee Mitt Romney will launch yet another presidential campaign. With a Nixonian “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” mantra, Romney might actually have a shot at the nomination given the Republican Party’s need for a more centrist candidate. He would, however, need a completely new campaign staff and to somehow find a way to distance himself from his public image as an elitist who infamously coined the notion of the forty-seven percent, the percentage of voters that receives government assistance in one way or another. Romney accused the forty-seven percent of creating a “culture of dependency” that Romney and other Republicans believe is taking our nation down the wrong path.
Another candidate to examine would be the rising star: Texas Senator Ted Cruz. A skilled orator and tactician, Cruz is not as stupid as some on the left might think. His Machiavellian ways have earned him an unusually large amount of influence as a freshman senator, and he will be a force to be reckoned with come 2016. The question is whether or not he can convince the center of the American political spectrum that he is the kind of radical change this country needs. Furthermore, can he beat Clinton? That remains to be seen.
Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, has been quiet as of late. He has changed his approach to poverty, albeit in a small way that still seems to punish those already on government assistance. Yet his Randian philosophy has not changed. For Ryan, it is rugged individualism, even rational objectivism, that is the philosophy that ought to be brought to the White House: Ryan’s hero, appropriately, is Ayn Rand.
Another Rand worth mentioning is Senator Rand Paul, son of the libertarian Ron Paul, who challenged Romney in the last Republican primary. Rand Paul has appeal for those on both the left and the right with his isolationist foreign policy and his stance against the war on drugs.
Paul could very well be Clinton’s most threatening challenger. On “Meet the Press” a few weeks ago, he painted Clinton as a “war hawk” during a segment in which he was administering eye surgery to Guatemalans. Given our current war against ISIS, Americans are weary of war. Paul will not be afraid to point out that during her tenure as Secretary of State, Clinton wanted to arm the rebels in Syria. (Obama was against this decision, and although some may say we are paying for it now, it would be interesting to see what Clinton and Paul see as the ramifications of not arming the so-called “vetted moderate rebels.”)
With any of these candidates running against Clinton, we could see an entirely different version of her depending on the candidate. Seen as a near lock in the 2008 primary only to lose to Obama, Clinton knows that she will have to run a much different campaign this time around. What will be difficult for her is preparing for such drastically different candidates all while trying to come across as authentic. Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: Once Clinton decides to run, opponents will come out of the woodwork ready to prevent what could be another monumental change in our country’s leadership.
Lahut is a member of the class of 2016.