Is She a Lock for 2016?
Busy week for Hillary Clinton. A private lunch with President Obama at the White House, and the next day breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden. Clinton has said little about her plans for 2016, but with her rock-star status these days she doesn’t have to. From now until she announces whatever she’s going to do in 2016, the next presidential election cycle will be largely all about Hillary.
Public opinion polls show she would be the odds-on favorite to win both the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and the presidency in 2016. The good news is she’s been there before. She was in the same position leading up to the 2008 race with then-Senator Barack Obama. The bad news is she’s been there before. A heavy favorite against an untested rookie senator, Clinton was defeated in a lengthy and at times bitter primary contest with Mr. Obama.
Of course she went on to serve as his secretary of state, and by most accounts a lot of political healing has taken place between the two camps since 2008. Some Obama campaign veterans are now poised to join the Clinton team if she decides to go for it in 2016 when her main Democratic primary competition would likely be Vice President Biden.
Biden may feel a bit like the odd man out at this point. But he recently told GQ magazine that he’ll decide on his own when the time comes about running for president and whether he is the best person to “move the ball.” A Clinton-Biden matchup in 2016 could be divisive for Democrats, but it’s hard to see how Biden might win if Democratic women activists line up solidly behind Hillary Clinton. Biden has been a champion of women’s issues in the Senate for years, but his presidential bid could be eclipsed simply because many Democrats will wind up deciding that it’s Hillary’s turn and time to put a woman in the Oval Office.
Republican’s Health Care Roulette
Immigration reform has been a big deal in Washington for much of this year. But I think it’s about to be pushed aside by a looming battle over funding President Obama’s health care law. There is a rising faction on the right of the Republican Party that sees an opportunity to drive a stake through Obamacare once and for all, and the strategy is tied to the broader debate over funding the government beginning October 1st.
Among those leading this effort are Tea Party heroes like Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. They are putting enormous pressure on fellow Republicans in both the Senate and House of Representatives to fall in a line with a move to strip funding for implementation of the health care law from any bill to fund the government in the new fiscal year beginning in October.
These conservatives are itching for a fight over Obamacare even though it was passed into law early in President Obama’s first term and a key part of it was upheld last year by a divided Supreme Court. Ted Cruz told reporters this week that “We either stand for principle now, or I believe we surrender to Obamacare permanently.”
By the way, I noticed in a recent speech that even the president sometimes refers to the Affordable Care Act as “Obamacare.” I guess that’s one fight the White House sees no point in continuing. The president was on Capitol Hill this week trying to reassure Democrats that they are on the “right side of history” for supporting the health care law. Some of them are worried about public reaction to the implementation of the law as they prepare to face voters in congressional town meetings over the August legislative recess.
Litmus Test for 2016
Republican congressional leaders have yet to embrace this tactical fight of denying funding for the health care law. This could be the latest issue to split the party and could also become a key litmus test for Republican presidential hopefuls in 2016.
Ted Cruz recently won a Republican straw poll among western conservatives meeting in Denver and his bid to defund Obamacare is also drawing support from two other likely Republican contenders in 2016, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio appears to be anxiously looking for ways to regain the confidence of Tea Party conservatives who were not happy with his role in helping to pass a comprehensive immigration bill in the Senate that includes a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the country.
But some senior Republicans worry that threatening to shut down the government over funding Obamacare could hurt their party with moderate voters who may prefer a more bipartisan tint both in next year’s congressional midterm elections and in the 2016 presidential contest.
Cruz may be crazy like a fox here. Even if the effort ultimately fails, he will get credit from Tea Party believers and conservative activists shopping for a true-blue conservative candidate for 2016. It could give him a leg up over Paul and Rubio, not to mention another possible contender, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
So remember, the political stakes for Republicans over the effort to defund Obamacare extend well beyond this year’s budget fight, all the way to the presidential caucus and primary battles in 2016.