With a year and a half to go until the 2016 general election, the American presidential campaign is gathering speed. Politicians who have been dropping hints for months are now throwing their hats into the ring. The media’s in-house graphic designers are busy working on the flashiest election coverage info-graphics yet. And with Obama now in the latter half of his second term, both the Republican and Democratic nominations for president are up for grabs.
The Republican and Democratic nominees will be officially selected at their respective nominating conventions in the summer of 2016. Until then, politicians vying for the official nomination will face months of inner party sparring in a long and gruelling primary system. While the election is still far enough away that Donald Trump and Sarah Palin are still flirting with the media, it is close enough that front-runners have already emerged. At this point, while it is impossible to tell who will win the White House, it is never too early to speculate on who will win their respective party’s nomination.
It was clear Hillary Clinton was going to run for president in 2016 when she stepped down as Obama’s Secretary of State. Despite her unsuccessful bid for the democratic nomination in 2008, things are certainly looking up for Clinton. In a New Hampshire poll of likely Democratic general election voters, 56% indicated that Hilary Clinton was their first choice to be the democratic nominee. The second most popular choice was Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a relative newcomer to the national political scene who has declared that she isn’t interested in the Democratic nomination. For the moment, at least, there seems to be no real competitors standing between Hilary and the nomination.
The list of potential republican candidates is much longer. This is due, in part, to the fact that the Republican Party is basically two parties, the “establishment” wing and the Tea Party. The shortlist will inevitably shrink as funding dries up and skeletons emerge from closets. For now, the front-runner, like Hilary, comes with a familiar last name. Former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, holds a slight lead in early polls on the New Hampshire Republican Primary. Of likely Republican voters, sixteen per cent selected Jeb Bush as their first choice; Kentucky Senator Rand Paul followed with 13% of likely voters putting him as their first choice. If elected president, Jeb Bush would follow his father and his brother into the White House.
The election will take place in a deeply divided country. Each candidate will have to address difficult and uncomfortable issues during their campaign: the future of the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’), issues around reproductive rights, crumbling race relations, illegal immigration, a fragile economy and growing wealth inequality. When heading to the ballot box, the question on the voters mind may not be ‘which candidate would I rather have a beer with’ but rather ‘which candidate can I trust to get the country back on track?’ Some commentators fear that America is heading towards social unrest and political gridlock. Many voters realize that more than ever, and feel the country needs a leader who can cross partisan lines and enact true reform. While both Hilary and Jeb may have the credentials for the job, it is yet to be seen if the voters can or will look beyond their famous last names.
Moreover, both candidates will need to navigate the strong partisan biases that exist within both parties during the primary system. For many Republicans, Jeb appears too liberal and some Democrats find Hilary to close to the centre of the political spectrum for a left-wing politician. Voters will need to sort through these concerns on what America needs, but for many, there’s a feeling that the next government will need moderation. As the clock ticks down, all is still to play for as America heads towards an election.
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