Over the holiday weekend, political reporters were shocked to learn that the nonpartisan political handicapper Charlie Cook believed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only had a 25 or perhaps 30 percent chance of even running for president in 2016. Cook reportedly told a group of conference attendees in Kansas City that, following Clinton’s “disastrous book tour,” it was unclear if she would continue to pursue high office.
Well, it turned out that this was a bit of misreporting via The Kansas City Star. Cook had actually said that Clinton only has a 25 or 30 percent chance of not running for the White House in 2016, an error which The Star eventually corrected. That error sucked all the oxygen out of a more interesting prediction that Cook made at the same conference relating to the Republican Party’s presidential nomination process. The political forecaster assured his audience that he was positive that the eventual GOP nominee would be either a Republican tea party senator or a Midwestern governor. The only person he was sure would not win the party’s nomination is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
“Bush has two issues working against him to win the Republican primary for the 2016 presidential election,” Cook said. “One is immigration reform, which he favors; and two, is his advocacy of education reform.”
Neither of those causes would sit well with Republican primary voters, Cook said.
He expects the next Republican nominee to be either a tea party Senator or a governor from the Midwest. He wouldn’t predict beyond that.
While the race for the GOP nomination in 2016 is still young enough so that polls are primarily measuring name recognition, the campaign will begin in earnest in the summer when Republican aspirants descend on Iowa to compete in the state’s coveted Ames Straw Poll. Given the relative lateness of the hour, it is worth taking a critical look at the polls.
According to the Real Clear Politics average of the 11 most regularly cited Republicans who might be running for the nomination (and there are many more than that), only five have an average support measured in the low double digits: Former GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Bush.
If Cook’s wisdom is to be proven accurate, Paul is the only one of these contenders with a shot at the nomination. Given the relative disinterest the GOP base has had in supporting Paul’s brand of disengaged foreign policy, as the threats posed by the Islamic State and other threats to American national security abroad proliferate, it is unclear that Paul will be able to convince the party’s base to abandon hawkishness before the first primary votes are cast in a little over one year.
The only other potential Republican presidential hopefuls who even manage to net more than 5 percent support in the RCP average that also meets Cook’s criteria are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), both of whom secure the support of widely divergent elements of the Republican coalition.
The Republican Party will have a lively primary season and does not lack for talent. That is virtually assured. The Democratic Party’s nomination, by contrast, is already fait accompli.