[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here are many things in life I don’t pretend to understand. Accretion discs. Dynamic scoring. Adam Sandler.
But I’ve always had a pretty good handle on politics. For one thing, it’s not that complicated. And for another, when I get confused, there’s always Nate Silver to straighten me out.
So, in that spirit, we will begin our 2015 column season by explaining why none of the many Republican presidential candidates could possibly be nominated in 2016. One of them will be, of course, which you’d think would ruin the concept of the column. But, fortunately, it doesn’t.
I mean, I said repeatedly that Mitt Romney couldn’t possibly be nominated in 2012 because the guy who invented Romneycare would obviously not be chosen to run against the guy who invented Obamacare. And yet I knew he would be nominated because, who else — Bachmann, Newt, Santorum, Cain, Oops? And so Romney got the job and, as everyone except Romney knew, he would lose. And looking back, it was clear he should never have been nominated …
… so clear that respected people are actually talking about him running for a third time. Why couldn’t Romney run this time? Are you kidding? It’s not just because Chris Mathews predicts – in mid-tingle – that Romney would win the nomination. It’s 47 percent of everything else.
Let’s go to the real candidates. One of them will win, I guess, even though none of them would seem to have a chance.
1. Jeb Bush. Of all the candidates, this is the most confusing one to me. Would Republicans really nominate pro-Common Core, pro-immigration Jeb Bush? Who is his constituency — the younger and smarter brothers of America? The idea of another Bush-Clinton race is so outlandish, so interstellarish, that when Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination (see: Romney, 2012), Americans will look back at yet-another-Bush candidacy as the time when someone actually Googled William Henry Harrison.
2. Marco Rubio. He’s a young, smart, attractive, inexperienced, first-term senator. And he’s written a book. (Sound like anyone you know? I can’t wait to hear about the time he spent in Indonesia.) He’s also from Florida, where Jeb Bush will have tapped every donor this side of South Beach. Rubio will run eventually. He might even win. Eventually.
3. Mike Huckabee. In 2008, he shockingly won in Iowa, winning the evangelical vote that Rick Santorum won in 2012, proving that winning in Iowa doesn’t mean all that much any more. Huckabee couldn’t raise money in 2008. I don’t see where he could raise any in 2016, even if he wins Iowa again. He’s a great retail campaigner in an era when retail campaigns have gone wholesale. I spent a day with him in New Hampshire in 2008 and one of his supporters gave me his card – which had imbedded in it a piece of a pink Elvis convertible. Or so he told me. What’s not to like?
4. Chris Christie. Bridgegate? Cowboygate? Coloradoqualityoflifegate? Obama hug? Jerry Jones hug? YouTube bully boy? Springsteen (who can’t stand him) fan boy? Governor who would be an underdog in his own state? I’m running out of questions. Anyone got any answers?
5. Rand Paul. Libertarianism is in among Republicans, or at least libertarian-lite. Not necessarily the kind of libertarians whose first thought is to blame a police-chokehold death on cigarette taxes. Not necessarily the kind who has to explain how his foreign policy chops differ from his dad’s, especially on Israel. He is a different kind of candidate. But Republicans don’t often pick different kinds of candidates.
6. (tie) Scott Walker/John Kasich. Midwestern governors who have won in blue states and who have taken on unions and who, in Walker’s case, has won three elections in four years and who would be even hotter prospects if there weren’t so many Republicans in the field who have major name recognition and major face recognition and who would, in the case of Bush, Christie and maybe Romney, take up all the oxygen (and money and establishment media) that a couple of Midwestern governors from blue states would need to be competitive.
8. Rick Perry. This is the do-over candidacy. He might have won in 2012 if he had actually prepared for the campaign. He apparently assumed that being the pro-secession, America-second candidate from Texas was enough against a field that included no viable candidates who hadn’t invented Romneycare or run a hedge fund. If Perry hadn’t run in 2012, he might be the favorite in 2016. He can raise money. He can tout Texas. He can say he’s not Ted Cruz. But since he did run in 2012, it’d be a victory if he leaves this campaign without once mentioning back-pain medicine.
9. Ted Cruz. I may have mentioned this before, but you have to be likable to win the presidency. (Hillary, you may recall: likable enough.) The last unlikable president was Nixon, and we all know how that turned out. But Nixon wanted to be liked. Cruz couldn’t care less what you think of him. And what do people think of him? Let’s just say when he’s introduced, the fans aren’t yelling Cr-u-u-u-u-z.
10. Mitt Romney. OK, I said he wasn’t running. But if I didn’t put Romney down at 10th, I’d have to go with Bobby Jindal or Rick Santorum or Ben Carson.
One of these people will emerge as the winner, although it’s hard to see who or how or when. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Clinton — we’re told – can’t lose because she’s basically cleared what there was of the field. But here’s the real question 22 months from Election Day: Does anyone really know which side is better off?