When political pundits or politics geeks speculate about 2016, there is only one “given.” Barack Obama will not be the Democratic presidential nominee. During the 2016 campaign, Obama will either be completing his second term or he will be a discredited president who was rejected by the voters in 2012.
Election of a Republican president in 2012 will probably freeze out any GOP contenders in 2016 other than the incumbent. If Obama is re-elected, the race for the nomination will be wide open in both parties.
For Republican candidates such as Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, the 2012 campaign will be their last window of opportunity. Although she is much younger and could theoretically be on the presidential “mention list” for two more decades, 2012 is almost certainly Sarah Palin’s ”do or die” year. Lacking elective office, she would find it difficult to sustain public interest in the long term
In 2016, unless they have an incumbent president, the Republicans will be looking for new faces. Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, tops the list. Jindal, son of Indian immigrant parents and a convert to Christianity, impressed many with his leadership during the Hurricane Gustav evacuations. He was also selected to deliver the Republican response to Obama’s State of the Union address in 2009. Married with three children, he studied at New College in Oxford.
Jeb Bush, brother and son of two former presidents, was widely admired for his performance as governor of Florida. Because voters are still suffering from “Bush fatigue,” Jeb had no choice but to pass up a run in 2008 and deny interest in a 2012 campaign. Widely popular within the party, 2016 could be his year. A graduate of the University of Texas, Bush is married and has three children.
Chris Christie, Republican governor of New Jersey, famously told television host David Gregory that “he may need a job after 2013.” Early in the Obama administration, he set Republican hearts aflutter with his victory over Democrat Jon Corzine. Christie, already a media favorite after only a year in office, is married with four children. He attended Seton Hall University.
Tim Pawlenty, outgoing governor of Minnesota, has been testing the presidential waters ever since he was said to be on McCain’s short list as a vice presidential pick in 2008. Pawlenty, married with two daughters, may use a race for the Senate in 2012 as a springboard to higher office. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School.
Paul Ryan, the young, telegenic and issue-driven congressman from Wisconsin, will be a highly visible Obama foil from his position as House Budget Committee chairman. From there, he can tout his proposals for entitlement and tax reform as alternatives to Democratic policies. Married with three children, he is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune defeated Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004 and was re-elected in 2010 without opposition. Although he is interested in 2012, he may decide, because of the crowded field, to defer a run until 2016. He holds an MBA from the University of South Dakota.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden will automatically figure in speculation about the 2016 Democratic nomination.
Clinton, former First Lady and senator from New York, will be 69 years old in 2016, the same age as Ronald Reagan when he was elected to his first term. She has insisted in recent television interviews, however, that she has no intention of ever again seeking elective office.
Biden, who was a highly regarded senator from Delaware, never got over the “presidential bug.”He would be a natural heir to Obama, but at the age 74 in 2016, he would be considered “too old.’
Andrew Cuomo, elected as governor of New York in 2010, will be widely touted for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Cuomo, a graduate of Fordham University and Albany Law School, served as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration and as state attorney general. He is the son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and was formerly married to Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy. They have three children.
If Rahm Emanuel is elected mayor of Chicago in 2011, he could logically use that office as a springboard. Emanuel, who recently resigned as Obama’s chief of staff, was an architect, as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, of the Democratic takeover in 2006. Emanuel, who received a master’s at Northwestern University, is married and has three children. His biggest obstacles to future political advancements are the cut-throat world of Chicago politics and his reputation as an aggressive “take no prisoners” mentality.
Tim Kaine, former governor of Virginia, was considered a potential Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2008. His prospects for a White House were hurt by the fact that, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, his name will be forever associated with the party’s drubbing in 2010. Kaine is a graduate of Harvard Law School.
Kathleen Sebelius, former governor of Kansas and current Secretary of Health and Human Services, has the resume and record to make a serious run for the presidency. Her father, John Gilligan, was governor of Ohio. Married with two sons, she holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas. She was so well-respected in the Democratic Party that she was chosen to give the party’s response to President Bush’s 2008 State of the Union.
Additional aspirants for the presidency are bound to surface after the 2012 and 2014 elections. In fact, the eventual 2016 presidential nominees may now be virtually unknowns. Keep in mind that in 1970, few people outside of Georgia heard of Jimmy Carter, and in 2002, practically no one knew who Barack Obama was.