Square Zero

Presidential Hopefuls Have Already Crossed the Unofficial Starting Line

Easy enough, indeed, to criticize the HuffPo headline for the article from Steve Peoples and Ken Thomas, but we must also recall that such articles are written for the people who do not really pay attention, who might complain that Christmas marketing creeps earlier each year but apparently have no idea that several major political players have spent more of their recent time in office running for president than, well, anything else.

One set of elections ends in early November as another begins when presidential hopefuls cross the unofficial starting line in the 2016 race for the White House.

With control of the Senate at stake, the months leading up to the mid-term elections offer a clearer window on a crowd of potential presidential candidates already jockeying for position from Nevada to New Hampshire. Their cross-country touring will intensify this fall under the gaze of voters who will pick their parties’ nominees. Look for the would-be contenders to road-test rhetoric, expand coalitions, and consider their own political flaws_while keeping close watch on each other ….

…. Whichever party controls the Senate after the November 4 balloting_Republicans need a six-seat gain to win the majority_will say much about what President Barack Obama can accomplish in the final two years of his presidency and the tone of the race to succeed him.

“The end of the 2014 general election does, in a sense, commence a beginning of the presidential primary phase,” says New Hampshire Republican operative Rich Killion. “But an informal, unofficial opening to the process already is underway.”

And it’s been underway for a while, folks. No, really.

To the other, it is also true that not all of this can be reasonably regarded as preaseason campaigning proper; the Rubio question probably continues to linger, somewhere in the marketplace, despite the troubled waters his political poise and prowess have floundered in at least since his disastrous response to the 2013 State of the Union address.

But in late 2013, the entire “unofficially running for president” field kind of exploded. Imploded. Maybe, spontaneously and catastrophically deconstructed itself? Coming out of the 2012 election, there was the expected round of speculation about the next grand cycle, but the landscape has been so unsettled ever since. Rubio the wunderkind started flaming out shortly after the new session began; by autumn, Rand Paul was struggling to convert the Pauline Evangelism to new definitions of plagiarism in order to justify himself. Meanwhile we’ve heard whispers of the New Mitt and the potential rise of Jeb.

And after all of this time, the field does not look too much different than it did the day after the 2012 election. Rand Paul is traveling abroad in order to use his Senate credentials to deliberately undermine foreign policy, apparently because he thinks that sort of excremental behavior is good presidential politicking. And, surprise, surprise, the leading GOP field, according to Peoples and Thomas? Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and Rick Perry.

Let us take a moment, apologize in advance, and then get on with asking the obvious question: The hell you think you’re thinking?

The honorable mentions? That list opens with Rubio and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker? No, really, hell you think you’re kidding, guys?

But the AP’s dynamic duo also raises the spectre of a run by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and this is one of those quiet whispers we hear from time to time. Pence did himself a favor by staying out of the excremental 2011-12 GOP presidential contest. The Anybody But Mitt movement might have given him his day in the sun, but the fact is that Pence is vulnerable because of his conservatism, and had the nation watched him pander to the hardliners alongside Mitt and the Clown Car, it is unclear whether he could have recovered for the general. Certes, he might have avoided the damning “forty-seven” irony, but it also turns out that at the same time Republicans were pitching a fit about electoral integrity in an effort to throw the election, Pence was himself caught up in an electoral scandal that saw his Secretary of State, Charlie White, convicted of vote fraud felonies, and the governor waited to fire him on the hopes that the courts might choose to reduce the conviction to misdemeanor charges.

Even still, Pence is certainly the sort of challenger who might emerge to take on a Joe Biden candidacy, or perhaps Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s possible run, which is being whispered as a possible alternative to the vice president or former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. But as a dark horse, it will be hard for Pence to run hard against the right wing in the primary and duck the longstanding hostility toward the human rights of women.

Which is, in its own context, a fascinating question. While there are a million and one ways for Democrats to drop the ball, we might indeed wonder which Republican will be positioned to field the punted presidency, and just how badly he will muff it. And that’s the thing; the Democrats can certainly screw up their 2016 run, but will there be enough of the Republican Party left on its feet to capitalize?

Still, though, a brief note to Peoples and Thompson: Look, bad headlines can be blamed on editors, but even Jennifer Rubin—yes, that Jennifer Rubin—already beat you to the punch, in August … of last year. It might be that the GOP presidential field just hasn’t changed that much despite the breathtaking dynamism of its decomposition over the period; but at the same time, well, that is the question, isn’t it? What’s up with the halfwit smorgasbord? That is, sure, there is plenty to say about the condition of the audience, but, really, there is also something about circles and cycles and who the hell has been feeding the audience all that cotton candy for so many years and why the hell anyone ever thought that was a good idea.

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