Yes, we just concluded the 2012 presidential election but in the modern era the race for the White House is a 4-year affair so we take our first look at possible contenders. There are a few things to consider in light of the results of last week’s election. One important consideration is that for Democrats at least, the era of assuming the party’s nominee will be white is over. The strong Latino turnout for President Obama, and the projected growth of that community, as well as African-Americans expectations that Black candidates will no longer be considered a novelty, makes racial and ethnic diversity a primary consideration. There is also the matter of women and the growing clamor for a woman at the top of the ticket. Both parties have now had a woman on their ticket as the vice presidential candidate but neither party has taken the leap and put a woman on the top of the ticket. In 2016 all facets of the Democratic base will be at play.
There has already been clamoring for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the presumptive nominee but it is doubtful that other hopefuls are simply going to cede her the nomination. While former President Bill Clinton still holds tremendous sway within the party, and redeemed his 2008 primary behavior by championing the President in 2012, there is still a lot of baggage trailing behind the Clintons. Suspecting that Democrats will continue their tradition of contested primaries, we have put together a short list of some individuals we think will be in the hunt for the White House in 2016. Some names on the list are familiar but there are a few surprises.
Mayor Julian Castro: The mayor of San Antonio was given a prime keynote speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention. His life story is compelling and he will excite the party’s Latino constituency and younger voters. It also helps that he comes out of the south. Castro would be the exception to the rule that mayors can’t make it onto the ticket.
Governor Deval Patrick: In many ways the governor was Barack Obama before Barack Obama. With a similar pedigree, Patrick, elected twice as governor of Massachusetts, would bring to the table much more governing experience than the current President did in 2008. Patrick has the pedigree and has built a cross cultural constituency in his state. He also gave one of the best speeches in Charlotte at the party’s convention and proved that he could fire up a crowd.
Senator Bob Mendendez: Battle tested in the rough and tumble world of Hudson County politics, the senior senator from New Jersey has strung together an impressive resume. He served in both houses of the state legislature, was mayor of one of the state’s largest cities, and has been re-elected to the U.S. Senate. Menendez, like Castro, will excite the party’s Latino voters.
Hon. Gary Locke: The Ambassador to China, former Secretary of Commerce and former governor of Washington is a sleeper candidate. Very smart and good on policy, Locke would appeal to Asian-American Democrats and proven himself capable of appealing to white voters with his success in the Pacific Northwest.
Elizabeth Warren: The newly elected Senator from Massachusetts is a favorite of the left and could pull an Obama and make an unexpected run for the White House in 2016. She will certainly be in the spotlight as as strong consumer advocate and the creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Her candidacy in Massachusets became somewhat of a crusade after Republicans blocked her appointment to head the new agency out of fears that the bankruptcy attorney would push hard for more regulation of the financial services industry..
Hon. Kamala Harris: She might not be on anyone’s list right now, and 2016 could be too early, but we believe Democrats would be crazy to overlook the potential of Harris at the top or second slot. She is a multicultural (African-American and Asian-Indian) candidate and has blazed a historic trail as the first Black/Asian-Indian and woman to become California’s top law enforcement officer. Harris also comes from electoral vote heavy California and would be very attractive to women and younger voters.
Hon Kasim Reed: He might not be ready for the top slot but we believe the mayor of Atlanta could be on the list as a possible vice presidential candidate. Reed has been tackling some tough issues in his city and he comes out of the south. Though it is tough for mayors to make it in presidential politics, and why we exclude Cory Booker of Newark, Mayor Reed could complement a ticket and maintain African-American enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket in 2016.
Vice President Joe Biden: You can’t count out the incumbent vice president. If the Obama years end on a good note, Biden will be positioned to claim the mantle as heir apparent. For all of his quirkiness, Joe Biden is a fighter and survivor. He knows Washington and could present his years of service as qualification to pursue the presidency. Biden also has a very compelling life story that speaks to overcoming adversity. Though the last two incumbent Democratic vice presidents, Walter Mondale and Al Gore, failed to make it to the Oval Office, Biden would enter the race with a different coalition and political circumstances.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: She brings the Clinton name and an impressive resume to the race. Clinton also has a large female constituency and her turn as head of the State Department only enhances her cache as a leader. Hillary Clinton also has the added benefit of having her husband, former President Bill Clinton, as a counselor and someone who is still adored within Democratic circles. The one drawback is that the Clinton name also excites the Republican base and her candidacy would likely motivate voters on the other side. Many Black voters might also take offense at a Clinton candidacy given the memory of her 2008 primary battle against Obama. Still, Clinton has to be considered a strong possibility even if not a certainty.