Fellow Talks

Whalen: Election 2016: Far From The Republican Madding Crowd

Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Image credit: 
Thinkstock

Hoover Institution fellow Bill Whalen gave bullish forecast last year concerning Republican fortunes that turned out to be remarkably accurate. This year, Whalen takes us on a fascinating ride through current and past presidential races. Whalen notes that  the Republican presidential race of seventeen candidates is not quite a crowd. Seventeen Republicans are running for president in a diverse field, but the Democratic field is old, white, and looks like a North Eastern Amtrak route. Both parties have one woman running for president, but the Republicans have many minority candidates; the Democrats have none.

Whalen observes that the presidential election has switched parties every eight years, going back to Clinton, which bodes well for the Republicans. But complicating things for them is the search for the next Reagan.

Whalen winnows down the field with the following observations. Jeb Bush has benefited from Donald Trump but  has not found his niche. Scott Walker, the son of a pastor, talks in a pastoral way similar to Reagan, but Walker has dropped in the polls and may have peaked too early. John Kasich, who lectures conservatives on what it means to be a conservative, is the spiritual heir to the late Jack Kemp. Marco Rubio would be the youngest Republican nominee since John Fremont in 1856. If Rubio goes against sixty-nine-year-old Clinton in November, that’s a twenty-four-year age gap, the opposite of what worked well for Bill Clinton against Bob Dole and Barak Obama against both McCain and Romney. Rubio also has an interesting immigrant story. Ted Cruz sees the race boiling down to two moderates, Bush and Rubio, and the Tea Party alternative, Cruz. Cruz has raised the most hard money and will have a big September and October because of the federal budget and the deficit ceiling negotiations. Finally Donald Trump, who is sixty-nine and has been on the scene for more than thirty years, cannot be dismissed. Huey Long was Donald Trump before Trump. Trump understands mass media and feeds on public resentment.

In the next five and a half months the candidates must come up with concrete policy ideas that will help voters sort and support their choices.

Whalen ends by offering the candidates advice, noting that they need to be authentic and not try to sell themselves as something they are not. The candidates should focus on the uneasiness of people regarding the economy and the state of the world. Don’t try to be the next Ronald Reagan; offer who you are and how you will get the country back on track.