Writing in the National Journal, political analyst Charlie Cook asks the question, "Is 2016 really worth all this talk just yet?" And then he answers it: Yes, but also no.
Personally, I have a lot of trouble getting excited about such conversations because they deal almost exclusively in an endless stream of questions, with no answers likely to be forthcoming anytime soon. Far more immediately important (and less hypothetical) is what will happen in next year’s midterm elections.
Even though those elections are just over 16 months away, we still don’t know whether Republicans will be playing defense as they were last year, when they had profound problems with minority, young, women, and self-described moderate voters. And, conversely, we don’t know if Democrats, as the party in the White House, will be on defense, as is usually the case during second terms and in so-called six-year-itch elections, halfway through a party’s second term in office. The potential for the Affordable Care Act to become radioactive again, as it was in 2009 and 2010, makes this scenario sound less theoretical and more plausible.
And then, dearie me, Cook goes on for 700 more words, handicapping the handicapping of the 2016 race in terms of why it's premature to talk about the 2016 race. The basic gist: there is all this time between now and 2016, and some stuff will happen during that period of time, and also some of the potential candidates are old, while some are not, and running for president sounds like no fun at all.
But Cook's efforts to calm everyone down may be all in vain, because here is a piece from the Daily Beast's Ben Jacobs that also insists that it is "too soon" to talk about 2016, but then goes on to demonstrate how you, too, can use the Internet to monetize your Google Alert for the word "Iowa":
Although the 2016 Iowa caucuses are at least two-and-a-half years away, presidential hopefuls are already descending upon the Hawkeye State with a sense of urgency that even the most rabid political junkie might find a touch unseemly.
Who is going to Iowa? Marco Rubio is going to Iowa. Also Rand Paul and Scott Walker are going to Iowa. Rick Santorum, who for all we know never left Iowa, is hosting a "party dinner," in Iowa. Also Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are going to Iowa.
I don't know if Paul Ryan is going to Iowa, but he did kiss a fish. Make of that what you will.
As Jacobs notes, the people who are going to Iowa are all Republicans, but he reports that one "Iowa political insider has heard rumblings that Maryland governor Martin O’Malley" might come to Iowa, but that rumor was subsequently "shot down" by "Lis Smith, an O’Malley advisor," who said that O'Malley would not be coming to Iowa. This is basically because he needs Hillary Clinton's permission to run for president.
Speaking of, Rick Klein reminds us today that there are already political action committees forming to stop the political action committees that are forming to help Hillary Clinton run for president, which she may or may not do. As I previously noted, there are also stories about how Clinton allies are worried about the political action committees that are supporting Hillary Clinton -- stories that actually don't pan out because the people writing them actually can't really find that many people who are worried about it.
Klein says that this year, all of the people who hunt "future presidential elections" like cable news ghosthunters hunt ghosts are pretty sure that they see ghosts, everywhere, which means this is the year, dude; it's all happening:
Political reporters for years have covered the “shadow campaign,” the quiet work of connecting with donors and local officials, speechmaking in critical presidential states, and early opposition research that seeks to define candidates before they have a chance to do that for themselves.
The pending 2016 race, though, looks like the election cycle where the shadows are illuminating themselves. Aside from the permanent campaign operations that are the Republican and Democratic national committees, opposition-research clearinghouses are now firmly in place in both parties, ready to shovel dirt on opponents real and imagined.
Even the speeches and meetings are getting less subtle. Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are popping up regularly not just on cable television but in states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. It’s almost as if it was 2015, or just 2014, when congressional races will hand national exposure to possible candidates.
Yeah, man, this is definitely the first time ever that political reporters and pundits have fallen to obsessing about a future presidential election mere months after the last one. This is absolutely unprecedented, never before observed in nature.
That said, it should be pointed out that we can already say a few important things about all of these people who are coming to Iowa. A few of them (and it's too soon to know precisely who) will bring a robust 4 percent -- or maybe even 7 percent! -- polling number with them to the Iowa Caucuses, which they will then lose. And at least one of the people who is coming to Iowa will probably, "opt out of competing in the Iowa Caucuses in order to establish a beachhead for momentum in the New Hampshire primaries." In 2008, this was the strategy that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman rode to non-success.
Besides, we all know that Rick Perry has got 2016 on lock, because of that big press conference he gave yesterday, in which he explained how he was not going to continue doing the thing he's been doing for the past several years. Unless he doesn't have 2016 on lock, in which case you can ignore all of that.
If there is a good reason to start perseverating on the 2016 election, it's probably the fact that states are already jockeying for who gets to hold the first presidential primary, and for all anyone knows, the "2016 Iowa Caucuses" are going to happen on Arbor Day 2014.
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