WASHINGTON – It’s still a couple of months until spring, but already potential Republican presidential candidates are pushing their way through the frozen tundra like so many crocuses for an election still two years off. The list of wannabes seems to grow daily.
So far the Democrats don’t have the same problem because of the intimidating presence of Mrs. Everything, Hillary R. Clinton.
The latest of the GOP maybes is none other than the soccer mom, big game huntress and conservative icon, Sarah Palin, she of the animal magnetism and athletic credentials to soothe the souls of the most passionate exponents of Title IX. She told the press gathered at the country’s iconic watering hole and glitz venue, Las Vegas, to explore the potential 2016 field that she is clearly interested in joining the fun. But this time not as second on the ballot.
So get ready folks for two years of Iowa, which has become the center of the nominating process although it isn’t even a primary, just a caucus. Thank you very much, Jimmy Carter, who turned an unexpected win into gold and never looked back all those years ago.
Why the rush so early? Probably it’s because a more orderly, make that leisurely, process went out the window when the two elephants in the room, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and last party nominee Mitt Romney of Massachusetts suddenly turned speculation into reality and made it clear he might be more than probable as an entrant. Bush’s move actually appeared to goose Romney into action that required Romney’s loyal wife to disavow her earlier disavow of a third try for the rose garden in “no, no, no” terms.
Never say never to your husband, Mrs. Romney, not when you’re a loyal wife raised to respect that creed at any cost.
What made the Bush and Romney decisions (although of course not official) a stimulant for the rest of the crowd was of course money. To prevent these guys from taking the air out of the cash balloon, which seems likely, the rest of the field has to move fast or stand little chance in affording it all. I’m not so certain that is correct given the number of big spenders who seem willing to finance any number of candidates no matter what sort of goofy idea they’re peddling or little chance they have.
The idea is for the philosophically fractured Republicans to find a winner. To do that a whole lot of the party’s deep dish thinkers seem to have come to the conclusion that the best way to accomplish this is not to encumber oneself with radical positions just to certify allegiance to those who hold them as Romney did last time out. In other words, lose the election in the nominating process.
Can Bush hold off the hard right policies of the conservatives and hope to succeed in nailing down the right to carry the banner as did his father and brother? Probably he does, say the analysts, although there might be a slight negative factor in his name. Aren’t there any other birds in the GOP bush?
Romney’s campaign last time, however, wasn’t a text book example of how to run against a still popular but clearly vulnerable Barack Obama and many stalwart Republicans aren’t forgetting that.
Meanwhile there is HMS Clinton. Who can beat her? The hard liberals don’t like her much but Sen. Elizabeth Warren at this point anyway doesn’t seem to want to challenge her. Warren seems content, to just busy herself with extreme positions on the left. Clinton probably won’t hold off making her decision public too long. Her already formidable machine seems well oiled and she is not expected to make the same mistakes she did when she lost the nomination to upstart Obama six years ago.
Speculating this early, however, is sort of like trying to dip one’s toe in an iced over stream. All you get is a frost bitten diget … if you are lucky. Stay tuned for the next 18 months.
Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.