2016 -- Elizabeth Warren

I tend toward the pragmatic side when choosing presidential candidates.  I don't consider supporting any candidate I doubt has a good chance of winning a general election.  Here's my past list of candidates:

 2008 – Obama, but was an evangelist for Mark Warner before he dropped out and Obama got in

2004 – John Edwards

2000 – Al Gore

1992 – Bill Clinton

1988 – Paul Simon, but only after Joe Biden dropped out

So in looking toward 2016 (as we Iowa Democratic activists should do, since we do control the choice of who will be the most powerful person in the world), I'm writing off candidates who seem to be difficult to elect in a general.

Now, such calculations can be wrong, of course.  For example, for the 2008 caucuses, I was strongly anti-Hillary on the grounds that she'd be another John Kerry — too easy to caricature as a cold disconnected elitist.  However, by the Pennsylvania primary in late spring, she'd turned her public image into that of a shot swigging good ole girl and it was Obama who'd let himself be framed as an aloof elitist.  I loved both of them and thought either would make a fine president, but you only get to be a fine president if you can get ELECTED president.  And the aloof, elitist card has been one of the most effective that the Republicans use against our candidates (Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, and, less effectively, Obama).

Thinking back over successful Democratic candidates here are some other things that stand out: they tend to be fresh faces in politics, and they tend not to come across as professional politicians (even if they are).  For example, Bill Clinton was great at portraying himself as a crusader for the “forgotten middle class.” They also tend to have not grown up well off — which I imagine comes across both in biography and in ability to connect with regular people. I think it's worth noting that the two recent Democratic winners (Clinton and Obama) both grew up the children of single mothers in sometimes difficult family situations.  Neither had to fake empathy with people struggling with hard stuff.

For 2016, the candidates I'm inclined to rule out are Martin O'Malley and Andrew Cuomo.  They're probably both awesome people, but they come across to me as professional political hacks.  I can't see either winning a tough general election.

Much as I like Mark Warner, he's had to be so middle-of-the-road for Virginia political reasons, that I doubt he could get much support in the primaries.  Sort of like Joe Biden in 2008 — would be a fine nominee but why support a guy who isn't a viable option.

Among possible candidates for 2016, that leaves the following: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Sherrod Brown.  Maybe there are others considering running that I'm not listing, but no one comes to mind who would get into contention.

I think any of them would be strong general election candidates, so if the race comes down to one of them against one of the others, I'll support which of them is most viable, I suppose.

However, the one I can most imagine doing great electorally is Elizabeth Warren.  She seems the one most able to fully hold and then build on the Obama coalition — bringing her own energy and enthusiasm to the race without losing anyone.  Brown's trade populism (with much I FULLY agree) risks losing some of Obama's educated elite support.  Clinton and Biden wouldn't have the fresh-face, appeal-to-youth enthusiasm that winning Democrats (Obama, Clinton, Carter, JFK) tend to have to put them over the top.  That leaves Klobuchar and Warren. 

I'm inclined to Warren because of the crusading energy (like Obama's in 2008) her candidacy would bring to the race. I'm also optimistic that her populist economic message could bringing back some of the working class voters whose economic interests lie with a Democratic agenda but who didn't support Obama because of cultural issues.  And unlike Sherrod Brown, I can easily see her bringing these folks in without losing support from educated elites — since she's the freaking DARLING of the liberal elites, despite her own low-income background.

Klobuchar is probably my second choice — mostly because of concern that her more consensus-y soft-spoken style risks a sleepy general election campaign for Democrats against Republicans hungry for a return.  (I'm assuming a hard-to-beat Republican candidate like Jeb Bush or Chris Christie.)

I have no idea if she'll run, but Warren's my 2016 choice three years before the caucuses.



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  • Hillary

    would be the strongest candidate in 2016, in my opinion. 100 percent name recognition, good favorability numbers, strong network of support in many states. I like Klobuchar, Warren, and Brown, but I don’t see any of them as likely to win more states than Hillary could win.

    Andrew Cuomo is awful and unprincipled . If he ever ran for president, I would volunteer for almost any candidate in a position to stop him from getting the nomination.

    O’Malley comes across as a generic Democrat to me. I think he’s better than many Democratic governors on the issues. Whether he could win a presidential election would depend on the kind of candidate Republicans nominated. A generic Democrat could beat Rick Santorum, for instance.

  • Warren v. Clinton

    Agreed on Cuomo and O’Malley.

    Like I said, I’m no enemy of Hillary Clinton being the nominee this time around.  But name recognition isn’t really relevant for a presidential race.  Presidential nominees become universally known by virtue of being nominees.  And the nomination process — Iowa, NH, SC, etc — is set up to prevent famous candidates from running the table just by virtue of being famous.  Allowing other-than-natural-frontrunner candidates to become equally known is what the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primaries are for.

    On money, here’s a Politico article today on Warren: http://www.politico.com/blogs/…  If Clinton does run, Warren is the one candidate who could easily match her for money the way Obama did in 2008 — probably with a lot of the same donors.

    But it is true that Clinton, in the Iowa caucuses, could add the 2008 Edwards voters (to whom she appealed by the later primaries) to her own 2008 voters and dominate the thing.  

    • if Clinton runs

      there will not be a real nomination contest here or anywhere else. No way would Warren challenge her.

      • Sounds like 2008

        I remember when Clinton had a double digit lead in a race with half a dozen challengers. While I do not see Warren or Gillibrand in it if Hillary runs. It’ll be contested.

        That being said, I hope she runs and I hope she wins.  

        • disagree

          In 2007/2008 many, many Democrats were afraid Hillary would win the nomination and lose the general election. Her national favorability ratings were mediocre, and she was a very polarizing figure. None of that is true anymore. If she runs for president, there will be only token opposition in a primary campaign.

          • challenges to Clinton

            I agree that most of the concerns about Clinton as a general election candidate — aloofness, elitist public image — are gone.  That’s a big deal for those of us who opposed her last time mostly for electability reasons.  

            However, when was the last time a non-incumbent Democrat was elected president without being a youngish fresh face?  Waiting.  I’m thinking Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.

            Historically, victorious Democratic presidential candidates PERSONIFY change, freshness, and forward movement.  Would Clinton’s gender be enough to get that energy we Democrats tend to need to win?  Unsure.

            Also, I don’t think there has EVER been an open-seat presidential election in which a strong frontrunner candidate went relatively unchallenged to the nomination.    

            Gore in 2000 had Bradley.  Daddy Bush in 1988 had Dole.  Gary Hart in 1988 was a super strong frontrunner but had other candidates in ever before his candidacy fell apart.  Reagan in 1980 had Bush. McCain had various people in 2008.  And of course, inevitability was the word people used about Clinton in 2008.  She finished third in Iowa and lost the nomination to Obama.

            Plus, left Democrats who think of the Clintons as corporate DLC Democrats will not be enthusiastic about her as the nominee.  A lot of these folks supported Obama against her in 2008 and have now soured on Obama himself.  A lot of people also consider her too much of a hawk — recall her strong support for the Iraq War — a concern that will still be there.

            A well-funded anti-corporate candidate on her left would have a great shot at the nomination, even if she runs.  Well-funded would be key, and I’m not sure who other than Warren would fit that description. I have no idea if Warren has the fire in her belly to run but she would very much have a chance to win the nomination if she did — including by splitting Clinton’s feminist base.  Plus, Warren is in her 60’s, so this is realistically her chance to become president.  She doesn’t have the option of waiting for a later opportunity.

            I’d be fine with Clinton as the nominee, but I’d prefer Warren.  And if Warren and Clinton would both run, my bet is that Warren wins.  

  • There is a slim chance I would vote for the Democrat over the Green in 2016

    It all hinges on Warren not becoming a new dem pod person and running in 2016.

    The rest of the candidates are new democrats, which means they are unprincipled and corrupt and not worth my time, nor are they lesser evils.

    Obama lost much of the working class he won in 2008, so it is not just cultural issues.  He sold the middle class out to the big banks, and we have every reason to resent him for it.  He has revealed himself a new democrat so it is par for the coarse.  

    I didn’t support Hillary in 2008 because of her centrist prowar, pro-corporate politics and that has not changed one bit.  I won’t support her in 2016.

    We greens are focused on kicking the charter school movement to the curb at the school board level.  We are also focused on stopping keystone, which the democrats in this state support.