The horserace, of course, is for the presidency. We are still 18 months away from the election, but the many aspirants and pretend-aspirants to the top job in the US are already busy raising money and running around the country, and the political blogs and pundits are abuzz talking about the multiplicity of Republican candidates , Hillary and Jeb’s baggage, and who’s doing what in Iowa and New Hampshire. The fascination is understandable: people enjoy watching competitions and speculating about strategies and tactics, and American presidential politics makes for a pretty good show. I tend to enjoy it myself, but I won’t be blogging about the horserace much for a while because at this point it’s really not all that interesting.
It’s not that interesting on the Democratic side because there is no doubt that Hillary Clinton will be her party’s nominee. We can hope that Bernie Sanders will liven things up in the primaries, even force some significant substantive discussion of the issues. Things could start to get interesting if Bernie makes a strong showing in some important states, but Hillary’s hold on the nomination is unbreakable.
The Republican race isn’t interesting because, with the exception of the quirky Rand Paul, the candidates are all ideologically interchangeable. The Republican debates will essentially be contests to see who’s best at delivering the same far-right messages. (OK, there will be some minor differences. All the Republicans will fulminate about American weakness abroad but most won’t have anything specific to propose. Lindsey Graham, who has no chance for the nomination, may advocate invading a couple of countries.) My favorite for the nomination is Jeb Bush. By that, I mean not that I think he’ll win, but that I hope he will win, because I would expect him to lose badly in the general election to Hillary. Jeb is such an underwhelming personality that it’s clear that he would never have gotten anywhere in politics without his famous name. (Neither would his brother, but George’s down-home folksiness made him an ideal political personality; Jeb has the personal magnetism of a dead battery.) But I think that Jeb’s candidacy will fall flat: I expect that the support that Jeb has attracted from the so-called Republican “establishment” will wane as his unelectability becomes increasingly clear.
The Republican race therefore will end up a contest between two credible and attractive (to Republicans) candidates: Scott Walker and Marco Rubio. Either of them, especially Rubio, would make a very strong opponent for Hillary, but either of them would very probably lose (thank goodness). How can I be so sure? Well, I’m not sure—I said “very probably,” not “certainly.” But the fundamentals favor Hillary. Democrats still have an edge over Republicans in party identification in the electorate. That edge, which evaporates in midterm elections with their low turnout, will emerge again in the presidential election. Besides, the economy seems likely to be in pretty good shape, which always favors the incumbent party. And I think that Hillary’s big advantage in experience will wipe out her obvious liabilities, especially if foreign policy is a significant issue in 2016, which seems likely.
So, I’ve made my qualified early predictions for 2016. It’ll probably be a while before I have more to say about this stuff.