But it’s never too soon to start wildly guessing about the next presidential campaign.
Let’s set the stage: Big winners tonight (November 5) are Chris Christie and Hillary. Christie, because he’s getting the big mo with a blowout victory for a red pol in a blue state. Hillary, because she helped D’s win the gubernatorial race in Virginia (and picks up Mcauliffe’s machine for 2016) and is tight with De Blasio in NYC.
First, Christie — for him, the Christie 2016 campaign begins tomorrow. The national media, in the absence of bigger campaigns (and tiring of ObamaCare stories), keeps trumpeting the “pugnacious” (how many times will they use that description?) Christie, how he’s the anti- tea party guy and how he’ll attract moderates in a general election. He will definitely get a bump and earn a look from early state activists. His message that winning elections is more important that winning arguments is a good one (see Clinton, Bill). And he’s shown he can win re-election in a deeply blue state. But does he have a glass jaw? Could this be the high water mark? Yes, a lot of R’s are hungry for a winner and for someone who has proven mainstream strength. But he got a cakewalk for re-election and D’s inexplicably avoided using the race as an opportunity to soften him up pre-2016. Plus, Iowa, NH and SC primary Republican activists love them some RINO roasting — and there’s nothing like a northeastern (perceived) moderate to light their fires.
This will be a really interesting Republican primary. You have to go back almost a half century to 1964 to find a Republican primary without a “supposed to win” candidate in the race: Nixon ’68, Ford ’76, Reagan ’80, Bush ’88, Dole ’96, Bush 2000, McCain ’08, Romney ’12. Each time the winning candidate was the odds-on favorite years in advance of the primary. Republicans don’t like surprises. They won’t be able to avoid it this time around. Who’s the favorite three years out? Cruz, Paul, Santorum, Rubio, maybe Perry (plus a few Bachmann types) will be tacking hard right in early states. Is there room for less-right candidates like Christie or Jeb Bush or even Scott Walker to flourish? Tea party a paper tiger? I’m not so sure. (If Iowa caucuses were tonight, Ted Cruz would win.)
Christie v. Hillary in a 2016 general? Save for the emergence of national independent voice, that might be the best case for centrists to hope for. Will it happen? I wouldn’t put money on Christie just yet.
How about Hillary? I’m also not clear about her trajectory. Unlike Republicans, Democrats are not prone to nominating the “supposed to win” candidate, preferring to give newcomers, outsiders and long shots a chance (see Obama, Barack; Carter, Jimmy; Dukakis, Mike; and, most importantly, Clinton, Bill). Team Hillary is clearly trying to slowly stage manage her rollout. Freeze talent and dollars with cat-and-mouse appearances, timely surrogate endorsements and creating campaigns in waiting. But as Frank Bruni pointed out in his NYT column this week, the D activists are restless, unsure of the Hillary coronation and maybe (?) looking for love (Warren? Others?).
What does it mean for centrists? It’s way too early to tell. But it will be fun to watch unfold.
Tomorrow, 2013 Colorado results and what they mean.