Trinity faculty discuss the 2016 presidential candidates

Professors of political science, David Crockett & Keesha Middlemass offer insight and opinions on political candidates

C:  “Rand Paul represents the more libertarian aspect. Rand Pauls’ iconoclastic views on drugs and his focus on incarceration rates for African Americans and his arguably heretical views on foreign policy and national security, for Republicans anyway, puts him in an unusual situation.The question is whether he can win a nomination where in some way he is running outside the mainstream. If he can come across as articulate and people think that he has a fresh look then he might get a better look.”

M:  “Rand Paul is interesting. I think he is just going to be, not necessarily a trouble maker, but an upstart in the Republican Party. I think he is going to push Republicans on some of the policies they don’t even want to consider. Criminal justice reform, because he’s taking a libertarian approach so he wants to sort of get the government out of peoples’ marriage decisions and let the states decide. Rand gets young people excited and he has a certain brand of republicanism that gets people excited and I don’t think Rubio has that.”

C:  “On the Republican side it’s a much more tricky thing to predict. The research in political science would suggest that the person who has the money, the preseason donor support and the endorsements from the political class has the inside track in getting the nomination.  The question is, who is that? The money right now would be put slightly in Jeb Bush’s favor mainly because of his name, and he has his father’s and brother’s network there, so he is likely the default establishment candidate. He has his own weaknesses, his name being first among them. In terms of the general election I think that is the biggest strike against him in the nomination process: people aren’t convinced we are ready for a third Bush.”

M: “He has name recognition, can raise money, has credentials but has not been in office for such a long time and may start making rookie mistakes.. He wasn’t in office with Facebook or Twitter or social media, which is crazy, but it matters if you don’t have the right social media approach or a savvy team; it doesn’t matter if you have name recognition. Jeb may also be too moderate, particularly on immigration. I don’t see any excitement for him. There is respectful excitement for him but Jeb does not get people excited and you start to wonder why. He is kind of a boring candidate but he has experience.”

C:  “Hilary Clinton is obviously the far, far front runner in the Democratic Party. If you want to put these into tiers she is in the first tier and there is no second tier. Everyone else is third tier. She just has the entire Clinton machine, the ability to raise money, her husband working on her behalf; everyone seems to be afraid of her. The only way they will get any traction, I think, is if something like either the email issue or fundraising stuff becomes a much bigger story, becomes big enough so people think she won’t win come November.  Two reasons they would run: set yourself up for the future or guide the discussion. The second reason is  you can’t win if you don’t play the game.

M:  “I think she has the experience. She has the credibility. She would be able to raise a ton of money. She has high name recognition, but she has high degrees of “˜unfavorability’ in certain subpopulations of the Democratic caucus, and so I think she is going to start tacking to the left to capture more of the group. If you’re Secretary of State, you’ve met the leaders of other countries. And she’s also had previous elected experience in the Senate. So the profile is good. She will have to figure out her unfavorable Democratic caucus on the far left for her to make the Democratic caucus cohesive and get behind her and excited. She is a forward-thinking, positive presidential candidate, so she needs to get the Democratic base excited even if there is no Democratic competition.”

C:  “Marco Rubio also has Tea Party credentials. He is more charismatic in my view than the other two, much more mainstream in terms of who he would appeal to and he has the ability to appeal to a  different faction in the Republican Party. I tend to think Rubio gets the edge to Rand and Cruz.”

M: “He comes across as sort of the potential savior of the Republican party. On the demographic issue, he being Cuban in particular, but it is undermined because he flip flopped on immigration. It’s that whole idea that Rubio on the surface has got what the Republican party needs. He’s younger, he is well liked among most of his colleagues, he’s got a good reputation, he’s been raised from money, but he doesn’t seem to have much depth””which, of course, everyone said Obama didn’t have any depth or credibility, so that may not hold any weight, but going against heavyweights like Jeb [Bush], Rubio is going to look like a beginner in that sort of balance in experience and what have you actually done.”

C:  “Ted Cruz represents one aspect of the Tea Party faction: hardcore “˜I don’t compromise’ arch-conservative.”

M: “He’s a long-shot, bombastic rhetoric but the right loves him. Ted doesn’t have a record to run on. He hasn’t even tried to introduce legislation that has gone anywhere. He has filibustered and is opinionated. He has criticized and degraded President Obama but he doesn’t have a record. But he is raising lots of money on the right. One person that might challenge Cruz is Mike Huckabee. If you get one candidate to coalesce around a Christian conservative that can go up against President Obama, until there is another Christian conservative in the race, Ted Cruz will take up that space and volume.”