Hillary Clinton is a formidable politician, but she will be nearly 70 years old in 2016. No one else except Biden (who is older than she) has anything like the national name recognition that multiple people on the GOP bench enjoy. But if one or both of those two decide to run (and I think it’s nearly certain that they will), they’ll probably get the nomination just because they will suck all the oxygen away from the other candidates–both the money and the publicity will follow them. And though they’re both formidable challengers, I think their age is going to hurt them. I think it would have hurt Reagan if he’d been running against more formidable opponents, but Carter was badly damaged, and Walter Mondale was a nice man who made a very good Senate candidate in Minnesota.
Democrats who think they’re a shoo-in seem to be unaccountably banking on the GOP nominating some tongue-tied wingnut who will spend the campaign discussing the scientific evidence that women can’t get pregnant from rape. But as Joe Scarborough argued in 2012, this is wishful thinking . . . in his words, “The GOP doesn’t nominate crazy”. In 2012, out of an incredibly weak field filled with tongue-tied wingnuts, they nominated the moderate with the best public policy chops and solid debating skills. In 2016, they will have a much more attractive bevy of candidates from which to choose someone electable.
So I think that the chances that the GOP takes the White House are probably pretty high–maybe around 75%. This is not a Nate-Silver-style I-ran-9,000-regressions-and-here’s-what-I-got. It’s just my gut estimate of the odds. When Nate starts running his projections, I will revise accordingly.