Political Animal


March 26, 2012 5:53 PM Invisible Primary ‘16. Ugh.

By Ed Kilgore

At Salon today, Alex Pareene alternates between ridiculing and reporting early, early speculation on the 2016 presidential field.

Here’s the best of his ridicule:

The most important lesson of terrible premature presidential-campaign speculation is that nearly everyone who engages in it will be terribly, hilariously wrong. It doesn’t matter if you’re a complete buffoon, like Dick Morris, author of the 2007 classic “Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race,” or someone fairly serious and “savvy,” like New York Times politics reporter Matt Bai, who posited current nobody Mark Warner as the future of the party in a 2006 Times magazine cover story now best (if barely) remembered for its altered and unflattering photo of the subject.
There will be events no one could’ve predicted — like “obvious” future Republican presidential contender George Allen using an obscure racial slur on camera, or John Edwards being generally John Edwards — that destroy promising careers in an instant.
And there is also the plain fact that the sort of politicians that Washington-based reporters and pundits and political operatives like, and the sort of politicians they think “voters” would like, are often people who have no appeal for anyone outside of their districts or the Beltway. (Like Evan Bayh. Jon Huntsman. And Mitch Daniels, probably.)

All true. But Pareene trudges on to review the early odds for 2016, dyspeptically evaluating in turn Andrew Cuomo, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Kristen Gillebrand and (somewhat eccentrically) Christine Gregoire among the Democrats. As for the Republicans, assuming Romney’s not in the White House running for re-election, Pareene makes this very good point that is sure to annoy the same people who have been telling us Romney was a shoe-in from the get-go this year because he was “next in line:”

If [Romney] loses, the party likely learns the lesson it always learns and lurches to the right for a while, and your front-runner in that case (assuming he doesn’t blow up the party at the convention, I guess?) is Rick Santorum. I made this point already and Dave Weigel concurred. He’s a “true conservative” and he looks like he’ll “come in second” this year, which are both substantial advantages in the Republican race.

So don’t discard those links to the Ave Maria speech, or any other golden oldies from the current Santorum campaign. According to some definitions, the “invisible primary” for 2016 is underway even before the visible primary of 2012 concludes. And all that Pizza Ranch food the Santorum family consumed in Iowa last year was a digestive-track investment in a glorious future.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Citizen Alan on March 26, 2012 7:16 PM:

    I'm going to go WAAAAY out on a limb and predict that a major Democratic player will be none other than Jon Huntsman. Yes, I know he's a Republican, but he's from the nearly extinct liberal wing of the party and he actually worked for Obama. I think his 2012 campaign was to set up him making a big show after the election about how radical extremism in the GOP has made it impossible for him to continue with the party and he will make a high profile switch to the Democrats.

    Or maybe that's my cold remedy talking.:)

  • mister pedantic on March 26, 2012 8:08 PM:

    shoe-in = shoo-in
    digestive-track = digestive tract

    And happy blogoversary to Blue Girl, the one person who knows my secret identity.

  • Rabbler on March 26, 2012 8:17 PM:

    I bet those Romney nomination predictors NEVER used the term 'shoe-in'. I only predicted it once, last October, took heat from followers of alternatives, and left it at that.

  • CTVoter on March 26, 2012 8:48 PM:

    "The most important lesson of terrible premature presidential-campaign speculation is that nearly everyone who engages in it will be terribly, hilariously wrong."

    Including people making a living writing about others making a prediction about something four years in the future.

    The most important lesson from this drivel is that politics is nothing more than a horse race to prominent bloggers writing about politics. I guess getting the snark in early (4 years) is more important than anything.

  • superdestroyer on March 26, 2012 9:56 PM:

    IF anyone wants to know who will be the next president, just make a list of all of the Senators and governors who are in office in Jan 2013. Then eliminate all of the the people on the list who did not attend Harvard or Yale at either the undergraduate or graduate level.

    The list will have about 15 names on it and one of those people will be the president.

    The Democrats have nominated either a Harvard or Yale alumni in every election since 1988. And many of the runners-up in the primary also attend either Yale or Harvard.

    For a party that talks about being for the 99%, it is a lock that the nominee will be from the Ivy league educated 1%.

  • Zorro for the Common Good on March 26, 2012 11:51 PM:

    I have no idea who either party will nominate in 2016, but I will go out on a limb and say that not only is Rick Santorum not the "next in line", but that even if he decides to run he will have no impact at all on the race.

    Even if it hasn't held universally, there is a certain sort of logic to the NIL hypothesis. But that's really only held true when the 2nd place guys were plausible presidents. If Obama were to be re-elected, the scenario facing the GOP would be directly analogous to the one they faced after the '96 election -- tired, uninspiring, inevitable front-runner who beat a very weak field and then lost in the general. According to the NIL hypothesis, the front-runners for 2000 should have been, depending on how you regard it, Lamar Alexander or Pat Buchanan. And indeed, both ran in '00 ... and went absolutely nowhere. The same will happen with Santorum.

  • jhm on March 27, 2012 8:01 AM:

    This topic depresses me not only because I have to contemplate a GOP slate even less impressive than the current one, but the idea tha Hillary will again be running. I'm sure Dems could do a lot worse, but I really want the Clintons to be on the sidelines.

  • boatboy_srq on March 27, 2012 8:50 AM:

    Outside the fact that the '16 elections are too far out to talk about intelligently, and that anyone writing about it now is doing nothing other than celebrating his/her name in print, the GOP has from this point two choices:

    1) find some sanity
    2) expect the '20 ticket to look like Larouche/Duke