Who will be the next president of the United States? Four local pundits -- two from each side of the political spectrum -- examine potential matchups in the forthcoming contest for the highest office in the land.
VIEW FROM THE LEFT
Chris Christie vs. Hillary Clinton
By Mark Martinez
Yeah, it's time to consider the 2016 presidential election cycle. These things don't always go well for professional pundits. Neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama were on anyone's radar screen four years before being elected president. Picking Mitt Romney and Bob Dole as front-runners early on did little for their prospects. Even early GOP favorite George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000.
So what we're really looking for is not the candidates who we believe will be front-runners but, rather, what the American electorate will look like in 2016. Here's what the 2012 elections tells us about 2016.
While Mitt Romney claimed that President Obama was to blame for the continuing economic mess, most Americans saw things differently. In fact, in spite of what Romney said, America understood that things are getting better. This points to an increasingly sophisticated electorate, which helps explain why President Obama is the first president since 1936 to win re-election with unemployment over 7.4 percent.
What this means is that unless we have a complete economic collapse over the next four years -- a possibility since we didn't clean up the conditions that led to 2008 -- scapegoating, vague ideologically driven prescriptions, and dog-whistle claims about certain segments of America not being responsible, or hardworking enough, won't work.
Perhaps more importantly, a competitive candidate will also have to understand what Romney did not. America is less white, more socially open, and quite aware of widely accepted scientific and medical facts. The presidential candidate, from either party, who embraces these realities should do well.
Oh, in case you're wondering, early Republican front-runners include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. On the Democratic side, we have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and even Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
In the end, I predict it will be Democrat Clinton vs. Republican Christie. (If the Republicans really wanted to win, though, they'd pick Huntsman. That'll never happen.) If the economy keeps improving and the U.S. gets out of these wars, I believe we'll see another Clinton in the White House.
Mark A. Martinez, Ph.D., is the author of "The Myth of the Free Market" and professor of political science at Cal State Bakersfield.
Marco Rubio vs. Hillary Clinton
By Gene Tackett
The next president of the United States after Barack Obama serves his second term will be Hillary Clinton. If she wants to be president. With the free fall of the Republican Party in national elections and the big tent platform of the Democratic Party, Secretary of State Clinton can waltz into the office. If she wants to be president.
Predicting the future, especially our national political future, is a fool's sport but maybe I can at least shed some light on the possibilities of Republican candidates and some other Democrats who will run and might win if Clinton decides not to run. Any of them might also become the vice presidential nominee.
On the right, there are many Republicans who will run. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, this year's vice presidential nominee, is an early pick because he carried the flag for the party and Mitt Romney. Other members of Congress who I am sure have an interest are Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the highest ranking Republican woman in the House. Republican senators interested are Marco Rubio of Florida, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Being a governor is a good platform to run for president. I am sure New Jersey's Chris Christie, South Carolina's Nikki Haley, Virginia's Bob McDonnell, Oklahoma's Mary Fallin, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, New Mexico's Susana Martinez, Ohio's John Kasich and the former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, are thinking about putting a campaign together. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has the skills and experience to run for president. A week after this year's election, Politico reported that Kasich, Jindal and McDonnell met with Republican moneybag Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas. Sen. Rubio, I believe, matches up well with Clinton and could enlarge the Republican tent.
Democrats have an excellent bench from which to nominate a candidate if Clinton passes on her opportunity. Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and first lady Michelle Obama are a few names to ponder.
Two extra factors to consider. There are now a historically high number of females in the U.S. Senate. I think voters are willing to elect a female president. The 2012 election introduced the new media to politics: YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. They gave campaigns new ways to influence voter behavior. And money is bigger and more important than ever. Obama and Romney spent more than $2 billion on their campaigns. It will be a wild ride and I am ready to watch Clinton and Rubio face off in the 2016 election.
Gene Tackett, a former Kern County supervisor, runs a political and governmental consulting service.
VIEW FROM THE RIGHT
Hillary Clinton vs. Paul Ryan
By Cathy Abernathy
For those of us who serve selflessly as presidential campaign watchdogs, our work is never done. In less than 24 months, candidates will pop up like groundhogs in Punxsutawney taking the family vacation on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, or glomming pancakes with farmers at the Hamburg in Iowa City.
That's the way it should be -- the more tested and challenged a candidate becomes, the more time spent face to face with folks wearing baseball caps and shaking calloused hands across this nation, the better they will be in the election competition and in office, if they get there.
Starting with the Democrats, just like four years ago, Hillary Clinton is the one to beat. Hillary says she's not running. (And I'm not eating chocolate this week.) Take her at her word until she's spotted at one of the locales mentioned above.
Beyond Hillary, you can bypass Joe Biden and, by default, bet on Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. Searching deeper into the weeds, Democrats have few governors to pick from -- and their Senate lineup is a sea of gray.
The Republicans have a good farm team. Start with the former vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, a super-intellect, true conservative, one who opponents fear to debate. Biden tried to outgrin him during their debate -- that didn't work.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida emerges as the one who may convince the conservative majority of Hispanic voters to break their habit of putting an "X" by the names of liberal Democrats with whom they disagree on most issues. Rubio already landed in Iowa, so he's not wasting much time.
Scott Walker campaigned for Wisconsin governor promising to control state spending, passed reform, and successfully fought off the greedy public employee union bosses. Government unions mounted a recall rather than live under a balanced budget and growing state economy, but Walker won again with an even bigger margin.
After four more years of bankrupt states, counties and cities, and a national debt exceeding $20 trillion, many may be clamoring for a Scott Walker in the White House.
Other GOP governors have credentials and could be prominent in the primaries. Bobby Jindal in Louisiana is making things work. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana leaves a strong legacy of balanced budgets, jobs and better schools. And keep an eye on New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a tough former prosecutor and popular pro-business governor in a heavily Latino state.
Finally, who wins or loses in 2016 may hinge on whether Hillary Clinton can blame George W. Bush for an economy still in the tank.
In any case, I believe we'll see Democrat Clinton vs. Republican Ryan in 2016. Who wins? I'm picking Ryan.
Cathy Abernathy is a GOP political analyst and commentator.
Hillary Clinton vs. a candidate to be named later
By Stan Harper
Three years and 11 months is a lifetime in politics. So much can happen to change the landscape. But let's assume that the 2016 presidential election is being held next week and speculate a little.
There is no question that the Democratic front-runner would be Hillary Clinton. A recent poll showed that she has a positive rating of 60 percent, compared with Vice President Joe Biden's positive rating of 39 percent. Other potential prospects include New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former congressman and chief of staff for President Obama.
We need to remember two things: One, Clinton's positive rating four years ago was about the same as it is today; and, two, where will Obama put his support? His political ground game is unparalleled. After winning an election, most would close down their campaign operation and gear up several months before their next election. Obama never closed his campaign and in fact more than 50 percent of his ground operation is still up and running, gearing up for the upcoming Senate and congressional elections in 2014. If Obama has interest in helping to pick his successor, he could throw that team behind a candidate.
Who would that candidate be? His loyal vice president? Not likely. Emanuel? No one has been more loyal to the president. Clinton? She is a more moderate Democrat, and by far the most qualified and experienced. I would think most of the Democratic National Committee members would in 2016 want to nominate the first major-party woman candidate for president.
Now for the GOP side. The front-runners are Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, but don't count out Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida or former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Any GOP candidate would have an uphill battle if the election were held today. But we have to remember that each of the above brings a great deal to the elections table: Rice has by far the greatest foreign policy experience, perhaps even more than Clinton. And while she has never held public office, she is politically disciplined.
Bush probably has one of the best records of economic growth for his state, is fiscally conservative and more socially moderate. While I think he is totally qualified to be president, I don't think the country is ready for another Bush in the White House.
Christie seriously considered running in 2012 and was on the top of Mitt Romney's veep list. To his credit, he worked with a Democratic state legislature in a bipartisan manner. His outspoken, and some call "bombastic," approach to handling the issues endears him to many. Ryan brought energy and creditability to the Romney campaign, and there's no question he has more knowledge of the country's fiscal needs than most.
Rubio brings so much to the table as the son of immigrant parents from Cuba. The Latino community can relate to his position on that issue.
If the election were held tomorrow, I could see Democrat Hillary Clinton running against Republican Chris Christie, with Clinton winning. But, again, the election isn't tomorrow. Many things can and will happen between now and November 2016. If Republicans keep the House and take the Senate in 2014, what will their legislative agenda be? Will there be an instant national hero? Will the taxpayers realize that we have more entitlements than the nation can afford?
I personally see a contest between Clinton and a fiscally and social conservative Republican not yet mentioned. If America wakes up and realizes that we have gone too far to the left, that yet-to-be named candidate will win.
Stan Harper is a conservative political consultant and the owner of a temp agency.