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2016 is all about Hillary Clinton and the GOP drama

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • A completely gratuitous look at the 2016 presidential election
  • Hillary Clinton starts as the favorite, but Democrats have no bench
  • Republicans have a deep bench, which is going to create another long primary
  • Morning Line going on a two-week break

Setting the table for 2016: Congress is back today for the first time following the midterm elections, and there will be plenty to chew on about what will get done in the lame duck (Attorney General nominee? Keystone vote? President Obama executive action on immigration?). We’ll get to that, but following the midterms, we, at Morning Line, are taking a short break. We’ll be on a two-week hiatus, starting tomorrow. But first, to be completely politically gratuitous, we set the 2016 table for you. We have avoided it through the midterms, but, unfortunately, there’s no avoiding it anymore with all the political activity going on with the people who will be seeking the White House.

The presidential race: If she were a Republican, she’d be the elephant in the room. In many ways, the 2016 election is all about Hillary Clinton. She leads in all the polls. Republicans have been taking aim at her since she stepped down as secretary of state. The day after the midterm elections, Republicans were saying that her policies were on the ballot, too. Some in the media want to create drama in a Democratic primary, because why not? So there will be lots of coverage of Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb and the mysterious candidate who could ultimately derail Clinton’s nomination (will Elizabeth Warren re-think it, etc.) Problem with that narrative is there’s no Barack Obama this year, and Warren has said definitively she won’t run this year. The only wildcard is if Clinton has a change of heart or has a prohibitive health issue. And then, what do Democrats do?

GOP drama set to play out: The Republican race, on the other hand, is setting up to be another long, drawn-out primary process. The GOP has a good problem — unlike Democrats, they have a deep bench. But they also have a continued presidential primary problem — the internecine conflict between the conservative and establishment wings. What’s happened predictably in the last two elections is the establishment candidate has won out, but gets pulled to the right (see John McCain on immigration, Mitt Romney on, well, almost everything). That is going to continue to play out. Conservatives’ argument is, “We nominated two so-called moderates in the last two elections and how’d that work out. Plus, we stuck to our principles in 2010 and 2014, and we won.” That’s an easy, but false narrative. Midterms are different elections than presidentials. The white vote has continued to decline in presidentials and will continue to do so with the non-white vote increasing. It’s why people like Rand Paul have been out there talking to black voters and trying to sell his more libertarian message. But many of Paul’s views are likely going to be seen as outside the mainstream, and how does he get through a GOP primary with some of them? Maybe he will, but there’s lots of drama to play out.

Establishment vs. Conservative wings: The GOP primary usually sets up as a fight between two brackets — conservative and establishment candidates with the winner of each squaring off. We’ve outlined 13 potentially serious 2016 Republican candidates, and where they fit:

For the conservative bracket (the people who have to win Iowa): Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — he could be a hybrid, but being from a state that borders Iowa, he needs to do well there; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, the 2012 Iowa winner; Indiana Gov. Mike Pence; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Dr. Ben Carson, who is on the lips of every tea party/grassroots conservative — and, yes, we predict there will be a poll that shows him leading the GOP field; South Dakota Sen. John Thune. (We’re not buying runs by Mike Huckabee or John Bolton.)

For the establishment slot (the people who have to win New Hampshire): New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. (We’ll save you the digital ink — Mitt Romney is NOT running.)

Hybrids, who might try to play in both: Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan — if he runs and we’re not convinced he will; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — it’s not clear he will run if Jeb Bush does since they have many of the same donors; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — he could play a third route here and for a while in the primary. Unlike his father, who always had a following but won no delegates, we predict this Dr. Paul will pick up at least a few and maybe more than that.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day 1979, President Carter shut down all oil imports from Iran in response to 63 Americans being taken hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran eight days earlier. Why were the Americans being held hostage? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to P Arndt (@parndt66), roy wait ‏(@ind22rxw) and EmGusk ‏(@EmGusk) for guessing Tuesday’s trivia: Who was president when Arlington Cemetery was established? The answer was: Lincoln.

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