Looking at the 2016 Republican
With Ted Cruz and Rand Paul announcing that they are running for president, and others soon to follow, it’s time to looking at the 2016 presidential candidate field.
At this point, we will not closely look at the Democratic field as Hillary Clinton still leads the field by a wide margin. Former Maryland governor O’Malley is making sounds like he intends to run, but his viability still depends on Hillary losing more ground in the voter’s eyes due to the ongoing scandals surrounding her. If O’Malley or someone else announces, we will look separately at the Democratic race.
So, here are the Republican choices:
Jeb Bush. The son and brother of presidents, as well as a two term governor of Florida Bush was seen as the consensus favorite. He is solid, soft-spoken, serious, with executive experience and significant achievements as governor. What he lacks in passion, he makes up for in substance.
Unfortunately, he has taken controversial positions (at least as far as conservative Republican voters are concerned) on immigration and Common Core. His name is also a liability with a Republican Party that abhors dynasties, even though it does help him raise money. And, with voters looking for something new, a likely Bush/Clinton presidential race would not give the Republicans any advantage.
Jeb Bush is a strong supporter of his brother’s foreign policy, Bush has called for tougher U.S. action against ISIS, although he has said, “that doesn’t necessarily mean boots on the ground.” On Iran, Bush has blasted the framework deal as a “flawed agreement” and said it poses a grave threat to the security of Israel.
However, Bush has also been soft on his opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal. He said, “The president, to his credit, was successful in bringing other people along and making it tougher,” he said in response to a question from an audience member on how he would handle the Iranian nuclear issue. “I’m not a big Obama fan, but when he does something right we need to give him credit.”
Scott Walker. At this point in time, Walker is the one to beat. This governor of Wisconsin has racked up a fine record of conservative achievement. He has shown guts and leadership in taking on labor unions and winning three elections against highly energized Democrats.
Not being used to the national spotlight, he has stumbled by flubbing routine questions on evolution and patriotism, then appearing to compare the Islamic State to Wisconsin demonstrators. He also pandered on ethanol and fired a staffer who complained about Iowa’s unwarranted influence.
One weakness may be his changing position on immigration. He favored a legal path for illegal immigrants in the past, but has shifted right in order to win more conservative votes.
However, Walker is the one potential candidate that is promising to unite establishment Republicans and conservatives. He also appears to have a stronger fund raising infrastructure than many of the other candidates. He also is a governor, which means he has the executive experience that the US Senators don’t have. And, as a governor of Wisconsin, his candidacy could swing this normally Democratic state into the GOP fold.
Scott Walker, too, has taken a hawkish stance on foreign policy, going so far as to say, “Ultimately we have to be prepared to put boots on the ground if that’s what it takes” to defeat ISIS. Walker has had relatively little opportunity so far to speak about the deal with Iran, but what he has said has been critical. On civil liberties and surveillance, he has been reluctant to take a position, saying that he lacked the expertise to comment, and that “I honestly don’t know that you could paint me in either camp.”
Walker vowed last week to pull the U.S. out of a nuclear deal with Iran on the first day of his presidency.
Chris Christie. Once considered the front runner, NJ governor Christie has fallen considerably. In fact, Christie might have missed his best opportunity in 2012 when his fearless in-your-face persona was refreshingly new. Over time, however, that personality began to wear badly.
Christie’s biggest problem is being boxed in ideologically and financially by Jeb Bush as the “relatively moderate governor with cross aisle appeal.” Without that advantage, he is left out in the cold by his anti-gun political positions, which are guaranteed to garner strong opposition from the majority of Republicans who are strong supporters of gun rights.
Marco Rubio. A couple of years ago, Senator Rubio (R. FL) seemed the strongest candidate. However, he stumbled when he advocated a path for citizenship for illegal immigrants – something that is guaranteed to hurt a candidate with the grassroots Republicans who vote in primaries.
Rubio trails badly in current polls, ranking at around 5 percent. However, he is strong in foreign policy, which promises to be a major factor in the 2016 election. Rubio is the most knowledgeable and fluent current contender on everything from Russia to Cuba to the Middle East.
Rubio’s background makes him attractive to many Republicans who worry about their weakness in attracting Hispanic voters. He is the son of Cuban immigrants, he speaks flawless Spanish, and speaks passionately about the American story in a party that lost the Hispanic vote by 44 points in 2012. He is also a fresh, young, dynamic politician who would be a powerful counterpoint to Clinton fatigue.
His weakness is that he is a first term senator and after Obama, will voters want another first-term senator with no executive experience? (This issue will also handicap Senators Cruz and Paul).
Senator Marco Rubio, who plans to announce his candidacy next week, has been perhaps the biggest hawk among GOP candidates. Rubio has supported intervention in a variety of hotspots around the world. For example, he supported the Libya intervention, although he was sharply critical of the way the Obama administration conducted it; he would have backed a much bigger and stronger U.S. effort. “Had the U.S. engaged fully and decisively, the conflict would have ended sooner. We would have less independent militias — and it would have been easier for a central government to take root and become in control of the country.” Similarly, on Syria he has called for the U.S. to be “fully engaged in arming, training, and equipping non-jihadist Syrian rebels,” both to resist ISIS and to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. He is a co-sponsor of John McCain’s Free Syria Act, which would arm and train Syrian rebels.
Marco Rubio dismissed President Obama’s agreement to limit Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb as failed diplomacy.
Ted Cruz. Cruz is the first Republican to announce, and his fundraising in the first few weeks was impressive for someone not considered a first tier candidate ($31 million in the first 2 weeks). The first term senator from Texas was not the GOP establishment’s choice for senator (they preferred sitting Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst), but he ran a strong anti-establishment campaign that attracted strong conservatives like Sarah Palin, and Ron and Rand Paul. He will run a straightforward campaign that will appeal to conservative Republicans.
Cruz served as an associate deputy attorney general in the U.S. Justice Department and as the director of policy planning at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission under George W. Bush.
Although he is a dark horse candidate, Cruz has some advantages, including a Cuban background that could also attract Hispanic voters (he actually did much better amongst Texas Hispanics than most Republicans).
Cruz is a brilliant man who could provide a memorable moment in a debate that could boost him to the nomination and the White House. Cruz attended Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1995. While at Harvard Law, he was a primary editor of the Harvard Law Review, and executive editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. Referring to Cruz’s time as a student at Harvard Law, Professor Alan Dershowitz (who is a Democrat) said, “Cruz was off-the-charts brilliant.” He also served a clerk for then Chief Justice of the United States, William Rehnquist.
While supporting a muscular military and showing a willingness to intervene abroad, Cruz has opposed “nation building,” as well as interventions that he believed were not in America’s national interest. He says that the United States should not be trying to “build democratic utopias across the world” and that the job of the military is to “hunt down and kill our enemies.” He has favored more vigorous action against ISIS, but has been skeptical about putting American boots on the ground. Instead he would more aggressively arm and train the Kurds, among others. He opposed military action against al-Assad in Syria, and was skeptical about U.S. intervention in Libya. On the other hand, he has been one of the most vocal supporters of Israel in Congress. On Iran, he has sponsored legislation to strengthen sanctions and has called for the next president to repudiate any agreement that does not end Iran’s nuclear program. Although he wouldn’t go as far as Paul in reining in NSA abuses, he has been critical of the agency’s domestic-surveillance programs, and he voted for the USA Freedom Act, which would have ended the bulk collection of metadata and increased oversight and transparency. (Paul voted against that bill, saying it did not go far enough toward reforming the NSA. Rubio also voted against it, but warning that it went too far.)
Cruz has come out against the Iranian nuclear deal. Cruz said, “Enough is enough. The Obama administration’s bad deal is only getting worse with time. Iran’s nuclear build-up profoundly endangers the security of America and our allies.”
Mike Huckabee. Huckabeee is the former governor of Arkansas, who also ran for president in 2008, only to lose out to McCain. He has name recognition thanks to his previous run and a stint as a commentator on a national network. He is affable and popular, but is highly identified with social/cultural issues that would hurt in a general election. His best hope is if conservative Republicans need a standard bearer.
Huckabee criticized Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama Administration over how the negotiation with Iran was handled. He issued this statement: “Each and every day, Iran undermines our allies, threatens our vital interests and murders innocent civilians across the globe. John Kerry lacks the judgment, common sense and moral clarity to negotiate any deal, much less Iran, and I am very concerned with the framework of this deal.” Huckabee added, “We should be tightening our grip with the current sanctions not abdicating to the Ayatollah’s interests.”
Rand Paul. Senator Paul (R. KY), who announced his candidacy this week, has inherited his father’s mantel as the leader of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. As such, he already has a small, but faithful following.
As a libertarian, Paul opposes foreign intervention and of the GOP candidates is definitely the least friendly towards Israel. However, he has tacked back to the middle a bit by signing the Senate anti-Iran-deal letter and making more pro-Israel sounds.
Another difference between Paul and the other GOP candidates is his attitude towards Middle Eastern affairs, including the Iranian nuclear agreement. Paul said on Wednesday he was skeptical of the framework agreement to contain Iran’s nuclear program but accused his fellow Republicans of “beating the drums for war.”
Rand Paul’s foreign policy can best be summed up by his statement: “America shouldn’t fight wars where the best outcome is stalemate. America shouldn’t fight wars when there is no plan for victory. America shouldn’t fight wars that aren’t authorized by the American people. . . . America should and will fight wars when the consequences — intended and unintended — are worth the sacrifice.” And Paul also declares: “The war on terror is not over, and America cannot disengage from the world.” He recently proposed a $160 billion increase in defense spending over ten years, paid for by cuts in foreign aid and domestic spending.
He does have some strength that none of the other candidates have. He has reached out to youth, who although more liberal are attracted to his message of privacy from government spying. He has also reached out to minorities by attacking current sentencing laws that have sent many black men to prison. Unfortunately, none of these groups make up much of the GOP voter base, so they won’t help in the primaries. However, they may make him a more attractive VP choice because youth and minorities may help garner a GOP win in the general election.
Given the likely importance of foreign policy in 2016 and Paul’s weakness in this field, he is probably a long shot for the GOP nomination. However, if he should win the nomination, his popularity with youth and his determination to bring minorities into the Republican Party, a would mean a Paul/Clinton general election could be an interesting event as the Republican Party becomes the face of the future, while the Democratic Party would be the face of the past.
Carly Fiorina. Fiorina is the former CEO of Hewlett Packard. She is talented, disciplined, and has her own money. Very unlikely to win the nomination, but is a strong candidate for the vice presidential nomination as she is best placed to attack Hillary and has done so effectively already.
In an op-ed for Fox News, Fiorina said the deal the U.S. negotiated with Iran threatens American security. “U.S. officials know that Iran has had a long-term plan to gain a nuclear weapon and destabilize the region through its support of terrorist organizations. And it is known that President Rouhani has never agreed to full and unfettered United Nations inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities,” the potential 2016 presidential candidate wrote.
She went on to say the Iranian government constantly violated sanctions placed on Iran by the United Nations. “We know that they have flat-out lied about every nuclear facility they have built over the last three decades,” added Fiorina. “This is not the behavior of a potential ally or of a partner. These are the actions of a country trying to bluff its way into persuading the United Nations, the United States, and its allies to allow it the freedom to develop a nuclear weapon for military purposes.”
Fiorina says the U.S. should not trust anything Iran signs because of the history of deceit it has displayed.
Ben Carson. Carson, a surgeon, is polling high, but is a novice making major gaffes, for example, on the origins of Islam and not knowing that the Baltic States are in NATO. Undoubtedly, he is a good man, brilliant doctor, and fearless as was seen when he criticized Obama to his face. But he will not win as he has not pro-gun.
Ben Carson is just beginning to comment on foreign policy, but he has leaned hawkish. On ISIS, he is open to the use of U.S. troops, telling NBC News, “We have to eradicate [ISIS] now. We have to use every means possible to do that.” He has also threatened military action that would make Iran “nonexistent” if it developed a nuclear weapon.
Bobby Jindal. As Governor of Louisiana, he improved the state’s finances, which will help if he does decide to run. He is a strong conservative whose parents were immigrants from India (his wife is also from India).
Although he will have a hard time winning the presidential nomination, expect Jindal to be mentioned as a vice presidential choice as he was in 2008.
Jindal has tried to make opposition to the Iranian deal bipartisan. “Every single person thinking about running for President, on both sides, should sign on to this letter to make clear to Iran that they are negotiating with a lame duck President,” Jindal said in a statement on the Senator Cotton letter written to the Iranian leadership.
Rick Perry. The longest serving governor of Texas, who took over from George Bush in 2000 and served until January 2015. He did run for president in 2012, but did poorly. In the past few years he has remade his image from the brash Texan to a more “thoughtful, middle of the road governor that can get things done.” Unfortunately, Jeb Bush has taken that position in the 2016 Republican presidential stakes.
Perry is hampered by what appears to be a politically motivated indictment by a Democratic prosecutor for exercising his veto powers. While this will likely be thrown out, it remains a stumbling block to a successful run.
Perry says the Obama Administration made too many concessions in its negotiations with Iran to reach the deal it announced. “Americans and our allies are right to be wary of a nuclear deal with Iran that is riddled with concessions by the Obama Administration,” Perry said.
Perry also backs the training and arming of Syrian rebels.
What to expect
Although 15 months is an eternity for politics, at this time, the most likely candidate to win the nomination is Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
Jeb Bush may have the money and backing of the Bush machine, but he is fighting his name and a series of moderate stands that aren’t in line with Republican voters. There is virtually no grassroots support for another Bush in the White House.
Cruz will likely be the standard bearer of the conservative wing of the GOP and the Tea Party. And, although he has considerably more experience in government than Obama did, the fact that he is a first term senator will be used by his opponents.
However, Cruz is the one that could break out in the debates as he is undoubtedly the most intelligent and mentally nimble candidate in either party at this time.
Cruz may also get another boost if Jeb Bush decides not to run or falters during the primaries. Cruz assisted in assembling the Bush legal team in 2000, devising strategy, and drafting pleadings for filing with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Bush v. Gore, during the 2000 Florida presidential recounts. Cruz also recruited future Chief Justice John Roberts. It’s quite possible his close relationship with President Bush could make the Bush money making machine swing to him if Jeb Bush falls out of the race.
But, one candidate that won’t fall out, no matter what is Rand Paul. With his strong core of supporters, Paul will stay in the race until the end, although he is unlikely to win many, if any states (except for his home state of Kentucky).
At this point and baring any major gaffes, Walker is the one to beat. He has executive experience as governor of Wisconsin. He has a reputation for not folding under political pressure. He is respected by both conservative and moderate Republicans. And, he is likely to bring Wisconsin into the GOP fold if he runs.
Leaving the Senate in 2017
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has announced that he will not seek reelection in 2016. Although the accident in December showed how frail he is, it was probably two factors that forced him to make his decision. The first is that it is looking more and more unlikely that the Democrats will regain control of the Senate, so he will stay in the minority role if he is reelected.
The second reason is that it was looking more and more likely that he could lose to a Republican challenger in 2016.
However, Reid may not be the only long time serving senator to not be coming back in 2016. Senator McCain has announced that he is running for reelection again in 2016. However, he is facing growing resistance in the Arizona Republican Party to his reelection and several Republicans are looking at challenging him, including two Representatives, who have the fund raising ability to oppose him.
McCain fund raising letters are sounding more desperate and several Republican leaders have let McCain know that he has very little support at the grassroots level. Even former supporters have made it known that they will not support him if he runs again.
Several members of the Executive Committee of the Arizona Republican Party have said that few, if any, of their precinct committeemen are backing McCain this time and straw polls amongst the Arizona grassroots show virtually no enthusiasm for his reelection. Defections include long time supporters, even some of his own delegates when he ran for president in 2008.
People who have talked to McCain’s close friends say he has become blind to criticism and is less likely to listen to many who are advising him to retire at the end of 2016.
Don’t be surprised if McCain loses in the GOP primary if he does run.
Intervention in Libya: Lessons in Leading
By Dakota Wood, Charlotte Florance, and James Phillips
April 7, 2015
The Arab Spring undoubtedly changed the political, economic, and security landscape in the Middle East and North Africa. More than four years after the self-immolation of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi and the catalytic explosion of the event on social media among Arab youth populations, authoritarian regimes quickly came under fire, with protests and rebellions erupting in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Jordan, and Morocco. While the leadership in Jordan and Morocco responded quickly to popular demands to reform the political systems and hold constitutional referenda, authoritarian regimes in Syria and Libya fared very differently. Syria remains mired in a brutal civil war and has become an Islamist terrorist paradise spanning the Syrian–Iraqi border. Oil-rich Libya has disintegrated in a series of sub-state conflicts.
Can Libertarian-Leaning Rand Paul Really Win the GOP Nomination?
By David Boaz
April 7, 2015
Sen. Rand Paul has officially announced he’s running for president. But can a libertarian-leaning candidate win the Republican nomination and ultimately the presidency? In a political world dominated by the liberal-conservative divide, there are many doubters. But there’s growing evidence that Paul can broaden the Republican base and appeal to the broad center of the electorate. The Republican base may be divided into establishment, tea party, Christian right, and libertarian wings. Paul starts out with a strong base in the libertarian wing, which gave his father, Rep. Ron Paul, 21 percent of the Iowa caucus vote and 23 percent of the New Hampshire primary in 2012. With his strong opposition to taxes and spending and his book “The Tea Party Goes to Washington,” he’s also well positioned for the tea party vote. His pro-life views will make him acceptable to religious conservatives as the field narrows.
Maghreb Rising: Competition and Realignment
By Haim Malka
Center for Strategic and International Studies
April 3, 2015
After decades on the margins of the Arab world, what happens in North Africa’s Maghreb region now reaches into its core. Since December 2010 much has changed. Libya is divided by civil war and is destabilizing its neighbors, political Islamists won elections in Morocco, and Tunisia is on a fragile path toward more representative government after decades of dictatorship. These trends, combined with regional uncertainty, turmoil, and competition, increasingly affect the interests of a wide range of actors. No longer is an outlier, the Maghreb now an important strategic component of new regional alignments that have been coalescing since the uprisings.
Critical Questions on the Iran Deal
By Sharon Squassoni
Center for Strategic and International Studies
April 3, 2015
How far-reaching was the agreement announced in Switzerland on April 2 by negotiators of the Iran deal? Answer: Politically, the agreement is very significant: the parties will continue to work toward the June 30 deadline to finalize the text of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that will be signed and further enshrined in a UN Security Council resolution. In making his case for the “understanding” reached in Lausanne, President Obama starkly referred to this as an issue of war and peace.
At the same time, President Obama and other officials have cautioned that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” Significant details are missing. In particular, it looks like the four key areas that eluded resolution earlier in the week may still be up for discussion: the duration of the agreement, whether to ship some material (low-enriched uranium) out of Iran or process it in-country, the sequencing of sanctions relief, and Iran’s research and development into advanced centrifuges.
The Reckoning: Tunisia’s Perilous Path to Democratic Stability
By Anouar Boukhars
April 2, 2015
For Tunisia, 2014 was a year of historic milestones. But despite a new constitution and free elections that led to the peaceful transfer of power to the secular Nidaa Tounes party, the democratic consensus forged after the country’s 2011 revolution remains fragile. The hard work of reconciling a deeply polarized society—one torn between Islamists and secularists, young and old, democrats and counterrevolutionaries, cosmopolitan coastal areas and the underdeveloped interior and south—still lies ahead.
The Fragile Thaw in U.S.-Turkish Relations
By Soner Cagaptay
April 7, 2015
President Obama’s March 27 phone call to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a welcome development that ended a six-month period of silence between them. It comes at a time when the United States would like access to Turkish air bases for armed drone flights and potential combat missions to help recapture Mosul, Iraq, from the “Islamic State”/ISIS. Thus far, Ankara seems eager to meet some U.S. demands. Such developments could lead to a thaw in bilateral ties, which have suffered since 2013. Yet any thaw could prove short-lived if Washington and Ankara do not settle a number of outstanding issues — particularly their divergent policies in Syria, where Turkey sees ousting Bashar al-Assad as its overarching goal while Washington has prioritized degrading ISIS. They also need to navigate various Kurdish issues, Turkey’s air-defense purchases, the wording of the White House statement on the upcoming Armenian Remembrance Day, and Turkish commitments to monitor the Syria border more diligently in order to stem the flow of radical fighters, all at a time when Turkish national elections are approaching.