My track record at picking Presidential winners is mixed: Obama 2008 was correct, Romney 2012 was not right. I do better at GOP party nominees. After two Democratic terms, 2016 is a mildly Republican year (as I thought 2012 was), but as 2012 proves candidates and strategy matter. Romney proved for my lifetime that the GOP must nominate a candidate who relates to working class people to win.
The Democrats are in disarray, led by a mildly unpopular President, with a shallow bench, but they have one great hope, one perfect candidate. If people are tired of Obama, no voter thinks Clinton is Obama. In fact, they think Mrs. Clinton is Mr. Clinton and as the years pass Mr. Clinton’s years are recalled fondly by a certain generation of swing voters. These voters were not thrilled with Obama, but they are younger than the “Joanies” (voters who remember Joanie Loves ChaChi), a demographic formed by growing up under Reagan.
Clinton would be the favorite if she runs and gets the nomination, because she has proven appeal to voters that do not like Obama. She can keep the base with the narrative of “first woman in the White House.” The Clintons, true or false, are perceived as moderate Democrats as compared to President Obama.
The problem for Clinton will be the primaries. She can be flanked to the left, but it does not appear any plausible “Obama type” is getting ready to run. Warren of Massachusetts could beat her in the primaries, but would get swamped in the general. There is a severe danger for the Democratic Party if Clinton does not run: their failure at the gubernatorial level means the fall backs plans center in blue state governors (eg Cuomo) with limited national appeal.
If Clinton does not run, the Democratic Party will lose. If she runs, they are narrow favorites.
The Republican bench is much better than the 2012 disaster. I have chosen to limit the field to the “top eight” as I do not think there is money or time to support more candidates. The field is strong enough that fringe candidates will be squeezed out.
Religious Right: Mike Huckabee.
If he runs, then Huckabee should win Iowa, South Carolina, and the test will be Florida. He was a two term governor, charming communicator, but has a weight problem. He also turns off the “big business” and libertarian wings of the party.
Tea Party/Libertarians: Rand Paul.
Rand Paul is an intriguing candidate. He is a mildly new direction in foreign policy. He is a bad communicator beyond the base.
Establishment: Jeb Bush.
Christie is too damaged and too heavy (take note Huckabee) to run. He lacks the temper. Bush is a full spectrum conservative who would be the best candidate if not named Bush. Is his name fatal? The establishment choice almost always wins, but Huckabee is no Pat Robertson. A Huckabee/Bush race down the stretch would have Huckabee winning states that the GOP will win in the fall and Bush states that the GOP will not win.
GOP Second Tier:
Religious Right: Senator Santorum or Governor Jindal.
Santorum will never raise the money to be the nominee.
Governor Jindal is a great candidate with some communication issues. Can he give a good stump speech? Can he fire up the base? If Huckabee bows out, then Jindal is the best hope of the religious right to capture the nomination and the White House. Jindal turns off no wing of the party and has a great story.He is a better general election candidate than anyone but Walker.
Tea Party/Libertarian: Ted Cruz
Cruz is a better candidate than Paul for unifying the Party after the nomination. He has a little experience and a prickly temperament. He is the smartest person running on the GOP side. If he knows it and shows it, he will fail in the nomination. He feels like a Goldwater candidate, in my heart I will know he is right, but he will lose the general to Clinton. If there is any other Democratic nominee, then Cruz as the nominee might be transformational. He could beat any other Democratic candidate, though the race would be closer than it needs to be, and Cruz would do things.
Establishment: Scott Walker or Susan Martinez
Walker is my personal favorite for the nomination. If nominated, he would give HRC the best race with his authentic blue collar story. He would, however, solidify her base for HRC better than any other candidate.
Martinez is having troubles as governor, but I think she is also an attractive candidate who could win.
Outsiders: Rubio, Ryan, or Romney
Rubio has time and he will take a pass on the race to stay in the Senate.
Ryan’s time has passed, but he will be Speaker of the House soon and will never be President.
Romney is a good man. I worked for his nomination for six years, but he proved he cannot carry blue collar workers. He will not be the nominee.
If the race were today, it would be Bush versus Clinton or Huckabee versus Clinton. Both would lose badly in the electoral college with 48% of the vote. Huckabee has greater upside if he could get the money to run a good campaign. Scott Walker has the best chance of winning a race with his blue collar credentials. Walker has shown he knows how to fight. HRC has little experience running against an inspirational, well funded, fighter.
This is HRC race to lose, but she is good at losing races.