Thursday, February 12, 2015

Five Politicians to Keep An Eye On

by DANNY GUSTAFSON, SJ on January 28, 2015

This White House Picture shows the front of the White House | Flickr User U.S. Embassy, Jakarta | Flickr Creative Commons

So since President Obama has given the State of the Union and outlined his vision for the next year, that means politicians and the media will be focused on that, right? Wrong!

Even though it’s only the beginning of 2015, the 2016 Presidential Election is already beginning to take up much of our country’s political attention. This year promises to be full of photo ops, posturing, and the rise and fall of any number of presidential hopefuls. The jockeying for “who’s in the lead?” is already well underway, at least in the media. Whether the question is if Jeb Bush is defying conservative principles or how likely Elizabeth Warren’s populism is to win over swing voters, campaign season is upon us.

Here are five potential contenders that I think merit keeping an eye on.

Hillary Clinton

Ready for Hillary Bus | Flickr User Thomas Cizauskas | Flickr Creative Commons

This probably needs little to no explanation. Clinton is already the frontrunner in a campaign that hasn’t even started. Conventional wisdom says that anyone who is out in front of the pack like this so early can’t possibly maintain that lead. Chris Christie can probably attest to the truth of this. Being visibly in the lead attracts attention, and that might not always be a good thing. I suspect that Clinton is trying to stay out of the spotlight to the degree she is able until she’s ready to begin a full campaign schedule.

Clinton hasn’t officially announced her candidacy yet, although I fully expect her to do so in the coming months. If she doesn’t, the Democratic primary could get pretty chaotic.

John Kasich

If there’s one name on this list that most people don’t recognize, I expect it’s John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio. A former member of the House of Representatives, Kasich recently easily won reelection to a second term leading the Buckeye State.

With Congressional approval ratings at a pitiful 14 percent, an experienced, non-DC-based politician could effectively play the “outsider” card in the 2016 presidential campaign. Additionally, Ohio is a critically important swing state, as Ohioans have voted for the eventual winner in every presidential election since 1960 (Author’s note: Picking Nixon over Kennedy? Seriously, Ohio?).

Elizabeth Warren

The law professor-turned-senior senator from Massachusetts is a favorite among liberal activists. Unafraid to call out politicians on both sides of the aisle, Warren has been a vocal critic of structural economic inequality and the decline of the middle class.

While she repeated denies that she is running for President, her populist beliefs and willingness to break ranks with fellow Democrats could earn her credibility among independents and those not generally interested in the political process.

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush | Flickr User Gage Skidmore | Flickr Creative Commons

Former Florida Governor and First Brother Jeb Bush seems to be the frontrunner on the Republican side of the ballot. He recentlylaunched a PAC to begin his fundraising efforts. Like Clinton, he hasn’t officially announced, but all signs point to him doing so in the near future.

Two questions that I have about Bush are whether his brother’s legacy might limit his own potential support among voters, and whether he is too liberal for the Republican base. I’ll be particularly interested to see how conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers respond to Bush as he begins to test the presidential campaign waters.

Joe Biden

During an ice breaker before a meeting this past fall, I stated that my spirit animal is Joe Biden. How can this not bring a smile to your face? His recent presiding over the swearing in of the new Senate generated some classic Biden quotes. Some people find his unfiltered, off-the-cuff style of commenting to demonstrate a lack of polish or thoughtfulness. I, for one, like that he speaks without any sort of equivocation or overly politicized phrasing – a quality all too rare among our political leaders. Agree or disagree with his politics, at least he says exactly what he’s thinking.

On a more serious note, if for some reason Clinton does not enter the campaign, Biden immediately becomes the heir apparent to President Obama, and a serious contender in 2016.

Are there other politicians you think are worth paying close attention to as the 2015 portion of the 2016 election fires up? Feel free to share your thoughts by commenting!


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