January 2, 2013


During the 1992 campaign, Democratic strategist James Carville updated the phrase "Keep It Simple, Stupid," with his advice to Bill Clinton: "It's the economy, stupid." The astute Clinton focused on that issue, which propelled him to the White House.

However, acronyms will not necessarily overcome the symmetry and balance of U.S. presidential politics. With monotonous regularity, usually in 8-year increments, the "outs" beat the "ins." In the 64 years from 1952 through 2016, a Democrat will have held the presidency for 32 years and a Republican will have held it for 36.

That means that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are the nation's undisputed governing party. There is a perpetual ebb and flow. Voters want partisan alteration so as to minimize corruption, complacency and stupidity. Given that history, 2016 looks like a switchback election, in which a Republican wins.

For the Democrats, salvation lies in another phrase -- "Nominate Hillary, Stupid" -- as in outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. After 8 years of Barack Obama, with a still-sputtering economy and a national debt which will top $20 trillion by 2016, America should be ready for the traditional "change we need." That was Obama's theme in 2008, when his race, coupled with George Bush fatigue, gave him a sweeping 9,549,975-vote victory.

By 2016 there will definitely be Obama fatigue, and a dozen or more Republican presidential candidates will be busily portraying themselves as instruments of change, attacking Obama's policies and performance. They'll lambaste him for taxing too much, spending too much, borrowing too much and regulating the private business sector too much.

Assuming she recovers from her current hospitalization, Clinton has the proverbial trump card -- gender. She need not run for president as an apologist of the Obama Administration. She need not defend his economic or foreign policies. By resigning as secretary of state, she separates herself from the president. Apart from the Libya situation, Clinton has been a competent diplomat, visible on the world stage, provoking no wars. Her poll approval ratings, down in the 30s when she was the first lady, are now in the 60s. For 2016 Clinton can concoct her own platform, rejecting and criticizing Obama's failures.

If she runs, she will be, as Obama was in 2008, an instrument of "change," as America's first female president, and her gender alone is enough to elect her. On the strength of the female vote, every state that voted for Obama in 2012 would vote for Clinton in 2016.

According to the 2010 census, the U.S. population is 308,745,538, of whom 50.8 percent are female. There are 5,182,890 more females than males. There are more male births than female births. There are 104 males to 100 females in the 14 to 24 age bracket, which drops to 98 to 100 in the 24 to 44 bracket, while in the over age 65 bracket, there are 70 males to 100 females. By 2016 the post-World War II "Baby Boom" generation will be near or in the over 65 bracket, as will Clinton, who was born in 1947, and there will be hundreds of thousands of women, especially in urban areas, and especially "Baby Boomers," who will say to themselves: I want a woman president in my lifetime.

The drumbeat has already begun. If she were elected in 2016, Clinton would be age 69 when she assumed the presidency. Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was elected in 1980. To blunt the age issue, Clinton's boosters trot out Golda Meir, who was 71 when she became Israel's prime minister in 1969, who was called the "toughest man in the government," and who retired at age 75.

In reality, however, it's statewide, not nationwide, gender allocation that matters. U.S. presidential elections, as demonstrated in 2012, are determined in 10 states: Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa, which have a combined 142 electoral votes. Obama won nine of those 10 in 2012, amassing 127 electoral votes. In 2008 the "Obama Nation" produced a 365-173 electoral win; in 2012 it was 332-206. The only states that flipped from Obama to Mitt Romney were Indiana and North Carolina.

The national Democratic base is solid. Obama defeated Romney by 60,652,238-57,810,407. In 2008 he defeated John McCain by 69,498,215-59,948,240 over. Amid a stumbling recovery from what the Democrats portrayed as the "Bush recession," Obama persevered. He did not absorb voters' blame. Absent an economic holocaust, meaning unemployment over 10 percent, gross annual domestic product growth under 2 percent, and debt mushrooming at over $1 trillion a year, a Democratic path to victory exists. If the 2016 election is a "referendum" on Obama, any Democrat other than Hillary Clinton will be the underdog. If the election is an incumbentless "choice" between the well known Clinton and an untested, budget-cutting Republican, Clinton has the edge.

Here are key facts going into the 2016 race:

First, the Democratic field is desultory and uninspiring. The contenders are:

Deval Patrick, the Chicago-born governor of Massachusetts. Patrick is the hope of those who subscribe to the notion of "nonretrogression," meaning that once an office is occupied by a minority, it must forever be held by a minority. Patrick, who is term-limited in 2014, is the only African American on the national scene with stature sufficient to run for president. Whether he will be 2016's Obama is doubtful.

Joe Biden, the vice president who was first elected as a senator in 1972, will be age 74 in 2016. A Biden presidential candidacy would neutralize Clinton's "age issue" problem and present Clinton with the perfect foil. If Biden runs, he will be the "Obama Administration candidate," even if Obama does not publicly endorse him. Clinton would then be the "outsider," and she could excoriate Biden for all of the administration's flaws. That would allow Clinton to be both the gender-change and the policy-change candidate -- an unbeatable combination. If Biden runs, his candidacy means "more of the same."

Andrew Cuomo, New York's governor and the son of Mario Cuomo, who was the state's governor from 1982 to 1994 and whose gutlessness in 1992 allowed Clinton to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Elected governor in 2010, Cuomo has tried to straddle the raise taxes/cut spending divide, and he has not enamored himself to the party's pro-spending/pro-taxing/liberal/minority base. He evokes no enthusiasm.

Martin O'Malley, Maryland's governor, is the Howard Dean of 2016: unabashedly liberal, an enthusiastic tax-and-spender, and an apologist for Obama. While other governors have addressed their fiscal crises by slashing spending, O'Malley took the easy, politically expedient course, and raised Maryland's already oppressive taxes. The former head of the Democratic Governor's Association, O'Malley has nationwide contacts. Term-limited in 2014, he will have plenty of time to campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early primary states.

Kirsten Gillibrand, New York's junior senator who was appointed to replace Clinton in 2009. Once an Upstate anti-gun control congresswoman, Gillibrand, who will be a youthful age 50 in 2016, is now a conventional, pro-Obama liberal. If Clinton doesn't run in 2016, Gillibrand definitely will, if only to build a base and name recognition for 2020. As the only woman in a big field of men, she would draw well, and she would position herself for the vice presidential nomination.

Mark Warner, Virginia's senator and former governor (2001 to 2005), is a mega-wealthy entrepreneur who could be 2016's Bill Clinton. Warner's mantra is nonpartisanship, and his theme is "bring us together." In 1992 Bill Clinton ran as an "electable Democrat," but in 2016, with the liberal Obama having won twice, the liberal and minority Democratic base will feel no desperation.

Bob Casey, Pennsylvania's senior senator, who beat Rick Santorum in 2006, is pro-gun rights and pro-life -- not popular nationally, but very much so in Pennsylvania. His father was the state's governor from 1987 to 1995. Casey may run for governor in 2014 against conservative Republican incumbent Tom Corbett, who has cut spending and entitlements. If Casey is governor, he'll be well positioned to run for president, especially by waiving Corbett's scalp to the liberal base.

Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota's senior senator, is on Obama's short list for a U.S. Supreme Court appointment. If she doesn't get it, a presidential run is an option.

Brian Schweitzer, Montana's outgoing governor, could be 2016's Jimmy Carter -- an obscure westerner with rural appeal who, if he spends months in Iowa, could surprise in the January, 2016, caucuses.

The consensus among the Democrats is that their 2016 ticket must contain a woman or an African American. If Clinton is nominated, a Clinton-Warner ticket is likely; Clinton-Patrick would be problematic. If a white man is nominated, former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in 2010, is everybody's choice for veep.

Second, nobody has the credibility or money to beat Clinton for the nomination. In 2008 she beat Obama in the Pennsylvania primary with 55 percent of the vote, in Michigan with 55 percent, in New York with 57 percent, and in California with 51 percent. If Clinton runs, she wins, but the Rush Limbaugh-led conservative media machine will soon begin churning out anti-Clinton propaganda, with the Benghazi assassinations first up.

Clinton may win the presidency, but it will be long, nasty, brutal campaign.