THE BLOG

First Impressions of the 2016 Field

03/11/2015 03:29 pm ET | Updated May 11, 2015

Hillary Clinton: She is now famously known as the inventor of 'ME-Mail" -- maybe better than Snapchat for ultimate privacy and "control," because you have your own server and thus can "wipe the slate clean" before the hackers or Congressional committees or Republican National Committees can get into your trash bin. But has the ensuing controversy -- about whether the public or the press at least can ever know whether she has truly released or handed over everything or just "everything that is relevant" (it depends on what the word "is" means, yet again) -- moved her candidacy or election from the "inevitable" category to, say, somewhat more "evitable?" The more immediate question is which reporter and network will land the "inevitable" first interview on this subject (enough of the self-serving tweets, already)? What a way for Katie Couric to come back to NBC; Brian Williams probably wouldn't be the best "contextually."

Joe Biden: He's Bide'n his time ("cause that's the kind of guy I am") but look for an appearance in the Des Moines area shortly. He's back from the "Guatemala Getaway" that took him "out of the picture" -- literally -- at the Bibi Netanyahu showcase at the Capital. He should be in no hurry because all the negative focus now is on Mrs. Clinton, which is what he should like. Thus far it appears (i) he had nothing whatsoever to do with Benghazi; (ii) might have used the exactly right dirty participle to describe the Affordable Care Act; (iii) figured out that Iraq was three real countries (at best) before anyone else here did; and (iv) got wind of the change early on gay marriage among senior politicians -- just like Gavin Newsome did years ago among junior politicians (watch him if he gets to be Governor of California someday).

Martin O'Malley: The highly progressive Maryland governor gets a standing ovation in South Carolina? Wow. But then again, there are more than a few Irish roots in the Low Country. Perhaps Democrats are just anxious to have at least a real scrimmage in the presidential primaries next year if only to get Mrs. Clinton or whoever ready for the regular season; every sport does it, especially blood sports like politics. Question: will O'Malley be the Eugene McCarthy of 2016? Remember, McCarthy only got 42 percent of the vote -- not a majority -- against sitting President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, but it was enough to push Johnson out of the race after Senator Robert Kennedy announced he was "reassessing" his position and ultimately declared his candidacy. If either McCarthy, or Vermont's Independent Socialist Bernie Sanders (of Brooklyn originally), or Virginia's ex-Senator and novelist Jim Webb plays through to Iowa and holds Mrs. Clinton's victory margin to a bare minimum, could we witness a scenario similar to 1968?

In the current case, Clinton would be the de facto "Restoration Incumbent" (the role Kennedy fit in '68) but who would play the role of Kennedy this time around? It must be someone not yet in the race. Can you say Massachusetts' Senator Elizabeth Warren (who could raise money quickly)? Or perhaps Deval Patrick, also of Massachusetts? Or another Governor, Andrew Cuomo of New York (whose father famously decided at the last minute not to run against Bill Clinton in 1992) or Mark Warner or Tim Kaine (the sitting, swing state Virginia Senators)? How about Kirsten Gillibrand (Clinton's successor in a New York Senate seat); or even good old Jerry Brown, the once and current Governor of California who gave Bill Clinton his toughest fight in 1992? There's more than enough psychological drama to play out on the Democratic side in 2016 if Hillary slips up at or before Iowa. And, of course, there's always Vice President Joe Biden (see above) in the wings to play the Hubert Humphrey role from 1968 of the actual nominee once the Convention convenes. Stay tuned (and check your emails).

Jeb Bush: Gets early style points for taking on his critics about his support for comprehensive immigration reform, perhaps realizing he has already lost the Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Mark Levin talk radio primaries anyway. The far-right wing (that Obama is an Islamo-Fascist traitor and communist who should be disposed of like a rabid dog is just a mild everyday sample) is a very effective force among the Republican "base," but it collectively failed to prevent the Mitt Romney nomination even in the Tea Party heyday of 2011-12. Bush is clearly trying to be "not-Romney" (i.e., by consistently being himself) while appealing to residual Romney voters among the many Republicans who believe Romney should have won and would have been better than Obama. Of course, a lot of these folks didn't bother to vote: not quite "buyer's remorse" in their case!

Scott Walker: Has been "beamed up" by kicking the public employee unions while they're down, but jumped the shark when he compared their protests to ISIS and sought to turn the University of Wisconsin into the DeVry Institute (with apologies to DeVry, which is pretty good at what it does). Walker may be peaking too soon (like an overripe Wisconsin cheese?). He has set himself up as the current poll favorite and frontrunner in Iowa, but is therefore as vulnerable as the failed student government candidate he once was: he quit the race and then quit school. Doesn't sound like a quitter now, but he is a "flip-flopper" (a tried and true GOP blood-phrase), since he now has embraced the full-on anti-abortion "personhood amendment." And he at least has the transparency to straight-up endorse deportation of all illegal immigrants, unlike GOP rivals who are "against amnesty" but afraid to resultant utter the "D-word" outcome publicly.

Ben Carson: The doctor in the house distinguished himself by diverting his own announcement of his exploratory committee with his discourse on the supposed "choice" roots of homosexuality -- a diagnosis by the good doctor that amounted to a ridiculous cross between Orange is the New Black and Fifty Shades of Gay. He later issued a non-apology apology. He'll need to memorize that phraseology for the primaries. Meanwhile, he's moved up in the rankings, probably at the expense of Ted Cruz, who has the opportunity to embarrass himself daily in the Senate, and clearly is an unabashed opportunist who could probably come off as a fairly smart, decent guy if he'd drop the Joe McCarthy-style hysterics. But he won't.

Bobby Jindal: Has traded caffeine for bitters in his approach to issues: quickly endorsed the Rudy Giuliani-view of President Obama's lack of love for America and Americans, trashed the Common Core he once supported, and ultimately failed to get much attention for his efforts; still in the back row.

Chris Christie: Who? Went to Iowa and looked like he just left a long, state-imposed Ebola quarantine. Claimed to know a lot about farming because he is governor of the "Garden State." He should re-watch the movie by the same name -- it's not about corn. Maybe he was spooked by the Bridges of Madison County.

Rick Perry: Do not underestimate this fellow. He does know farming. He has done his homework this time around and not just about a pair of new glasses. He will parlay his on-the-ground experience with immigration as well as his realism about the folks already here borne of multiple terms as Texas Governor into what will pass as a "centrist" position on immigration reform in the GOP.

Marco Rubio: Watch this man also. He is gaining respect for reaching for command on both domestic and foreign affairs. Although he has been burned once on immigration reform, he won't be burned twice. He has successfully changed the subject in terms of his own themes to incorporate the tax reform issues that will be central to the 2016 campaign. Has generation change appeal and could climb rapidly, especially if Bush falters. Jeb has not, as expected, choked off Rubio's money supply, or his news-making oxygen.

Carly Fiorina: Has defined herself as the un-Hillary, but there has not been a more obvious VEEP audition since Julia Louis-Dreyfus got the part! But then again, Julia is president now, if only on TV. Probably won't be the same for Carly in the end, but she has likely made many new friends.

Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham: The "odd couple" ticket: one never met a war opportunity he liked, the other just the opposite. Would make quite a compromise ticket. Holy Southern Strategy! Paul has a great chance in early primaries with a vast number of candidate because (i) his core 20-25 percent libertarian support is solid as a rock and that could be enough to win; and (ii) at least he has a foreign policy.

John Kasich: Governor of the swing state next time around. But for the moment, he's Just-in-Kasich.

More later.

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Terry Connelly is an economic expert and dean emeritus of the Ageno School of Business at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. Terry holds a law degree from NYU School of Law and his professional history includes positions with Ernst & Young Australia, the Queensland University of Technology Graduate School of Business, New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, global chief of staff at Salomon Brothers investment banking firm and global head of investment banking at Cowen & Company. In conjunction with Golden Gate University President Dan Angel, Terry co-authored Riptide: The New Normal In Higher Education