The problem with assuming that 2016 will therefore see a Republican loss is that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are very different candidates — and it’s possible (though not certain) that the GOP will pick someone with a bit more panache than McCain or Romney this time around. That’s really the question mark. Can, say, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) survive the gauntlet (and his last name) to compel independents in a general? Can former Florida governor Jeb Bush overcome his name problems and engage voters? Or Cruz or Rubio or Walker or [list continues for 1,600 names]? Republican voters tend to be, well, conservative in their choices, but it’s certainly possible that someone electrifying could emerge — or be sculpted — over the next 12 months.
Which brings us back to a core Clinton problem: Energy. No, commenters and people on Twitter, the best president is not the one who has the best ability to invigorate voters. But this is, you may have noticed, a key component of how we pick presidents in an age so thoroughly saturated with marketing. And Clinton, though not without vocal supporters, seems continuously unlikely to be the most energizing candidate. “Ready for Hillary” often seemed less like a grass-roots push born of uncontainable excitement than a sharp strategy from some political consultants looking to align with a winning candidate early in the process. At her book-signing in New York last June, the refrain from those who bought Hard Choices was commonly, well, she might be president. And those who bought the book were in the stark minority.
How will the candidate overcome this?