The Calm Before the Storm

Jackie Gingrich Cushman
|
Posted: Mar 19, 2015 12:01 AM
The Calm Before the Storm

It's mid-March; Daylight Saving Time has just forced us to spring forward in time; spring break is either recently over or about to happen and it's time to look forward. It's the calm before the storm of the 2016 presidential primaries.

For the next month or two, news organizations and pundits will pontificate about possibilities and potentials. But, once the race begins, with numerous candidates entering, it will be like a fox hunt -- they will be off and running, and the news organizations will be trailing after them like bloodhounds.

For those wishing to keep score, here's my prediction about who will enter: On the Republican side, potential candidates include former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida; Dr. Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon; Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey; Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas; Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas; Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana; Gov. John Kasich of Ohio; former Gov. George Pataki of New York; Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky; former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas; Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida; former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the frontrunner, but she has been in that position before. Vice President Joe Biden has been standing in the wings, and former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia and former Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland have both formed exploratory committees. (Because of their lack of name recognition, the latter two men would be serious long shots). The news media have also bandied about the name of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, despite her assertion in January that she would not run for president.

As occurs every election season, world events will likely affect the course of the presidential race. Just this week, two events occurred that will shape its path -- the victory of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the resignation of Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill. The Israeli elections could be seen as a rebuke to President Barack Obama, whose 2012 field director had been sent to defeat Netanyahu. His win, along with the rising power of ISIS, and its potential use of chemical weapons, will keep the topic of national security in the forefront of voters' concerns.

This will prove helpful for all the presumed Republican presidential candidates, except for Paul -- who is challenged by having to explain how isolationism works in a complex world.

The juxtaposition of Clinton's response to questions from the news media regarding her emails while secretary of state against Schock's resignation amid his own ethical and legal problems is fascinating. Clinton held a news conference last week, during which she answered no real questions. In contrast, Schock resigned due to what he referred to as the "great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District."

If the Clintons had offered a similar response to reporters' scrutiny about their own foibles, then Bill would likely never have made it to the presidency and certainly would not have remained in office after his relationship with Monica Lewinsky was made public in 1998. But the Clintons are made of sterner stuff than most, are more experienced than most and have built a fundraising and organizational foundation that is accustomed to dealing with the scandal of the week.

Once the presidential primary process kicks off, the candidates, their families and organizations will have to endure scrutiny unimaginable to anyone who has never been in the national spotlight. Every stone is turned over; every statement is parsed for hidden meaning, and there is nowhere one can go for privacy.

Some of this next group of candidates have experienced the withering scrutiny of the news media, but are expected to return anyway. Of the Republican potential candidates, those who ran the 2012 primary include Perry and Santorum. Rand Paul also has recent experience, as he and his family campaigned for his father in 2012. Huckabee ran in 2008. While Jeb Bush has never run for national office, both his father and his brother have served as president. While this helps his name recognition, some of them will judge him based on what they thought of his brother and/or father.

Here's my prediction for the 2016 race: Once the gates are flung open and primary season opens, some candidates will grow stronger under the pressure and intensity of the scrutiny, while others will simply melt away.