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White House race on


Peter Simmons

White House race on

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One reason why close followers of international affairs find particular favour with United States politics is that the intriguing electoral process never seems to end.
After the 2012 election and second swearing-in of President Obama, the 2016 race for the White House has begun. The two-terms-only rule makes it impossible for a third run, so both the Democratic and Republican parties will have to find new candidates. Formerly, a loss in one election did not mean that your presidential future was your past in the Grand Old Party.
I recall that after Richard Nixon lost to John Kennedy in 1960, he came back in 1968 and beat Hubert Humphrey. In recent times, however, after one unsuccessful try the party puts its vanquished out to pasture. So neither Mitt Romney nor wannabe Sarah Palin will be back to fight the new Democratic candidate in 2016.
Palin, one of the most intellectually challenged candidates ever put forward by either party for vice-presidential election, has used the exposure of her unsuccessful campaign as John McCain’s running mate in 2008 to make lots of money as a media mogul, providing continuing evidence that her intellectual inferiority is buttressed by an infantile political world view.
Romney’s vice-presidential running mate Paul Ryan, though from a different intellectual class, will suffer from the electorate’s perennial dislike of losers. So, too, will those who fought in the primaries – Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Michele Battmann.
At this time the three most likely candidates are the avuncular governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who walked with Obama to view Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, incurring hard-line Republican wrath; the former successful governor of Florida, Jeb Bush; and first-time Florida Senator Mario Rubio, who was born in Cuba and has Hispanic appeal.
The Republicans are in dire need of a drastic change of philosophy, removing the belief of much of the electorate that they are not committed to anything specific and are merely blowing in the wind from the ultra-right Tea Party to the political centre as the spirit moves them. Romney’s rush to the centre disappointed not only the right, but also confirmed in the electorate’s mind rootlessness and lack of vision.
On the Democratic side, although Hillary Clinton was beaten for the presidential nomination in 2008, both she and Obama put that bruising affair aside and she has distinguished herself as Secretary of State. Watching her performance last week in the congressional Benghazi inquiry, it was easy to see why she is so widely popular, even among Republicans, winning global recognition and respect for her energy, courage and competence.  
During the presidential campaign the influence of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, was clear. He worked tirelessly to help Obama get to the White House, a favour that is expected to be reciprocated in 2016. As a former effective and much admired New York State senator topped by her most recent Washington achievements, she will be hard to beat for the nomination.
The most prominent name being mentioned as another possible candidate is Vice-President Joe Biden. Importantly, whereas she will be 69 in 2016, he will be 74. A long-standing political thoroughbred, his loyalty to Obama and tireless efforts to further the Democratic cause have attracted national admiration and affection.
Also in his favour was his superlative performance in the 2012 televised debate with Paul Ryan after Obama’s alarmingly poor performance against Romney. But bearing in mind the American dislike of losers, it should not be forgotten that he failed in the 1988 and 2008 primaries.
The only other name being mentioned among Democrats at this time is New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. He has won nationwide admiration for winning the co-operation of Republicans in the deeply divided state legislature on key issues.
The son of a former outstanding state governor, he was married to one of Bobby Kennedy’s daughters, twinning two outstanding Democratic families.
Whoever wins their party nomination, the Democratic candidate will benefit significantly from the lessons of the 2012 campaign. One such was the use of technology, new and old, the computer and Internet and the telephone. I saw some statistics which showed that whereas the Romney team made 50 million voter contacts, 125 million were made by the Obama machine.
The recurrent theme of the Obama campaign was People First. Romney characterized himself early on as a “severe conservative” and adopted some extreme positions which he jettisoned when the campaign tightened. The electorate, however, had ample evidence that in his hierarchy, material benefits ranked higher than human, when he singled out his Cadillacs for bragging rights.
In a country which has evolved into a centre-left, more egalitarian polity, the candidate elevating the primacy of people above material things will always have a significant edge.
• Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat. Email [email protected]

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