by Guest Columnist: Henry Graebe
At this point it is difficult to predict what will be the defining issue(s) of the next presidential election. Our political landscape will surely change but there are some things that we know will be a major factor. The national debt in 2016 is projected to be over $22 trillion and entitlement reform will be as pressing as ever. ObamaCare will have been implemented and its effects carefully weighed. This update can hopefully serve as a one-stop-shop to see what the right’s prospective 2016 candidates have recently been up to over the past two weeks.
America’s most famous governor, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, is never quiet for long and his latest announcement was to reverse his position and accept the Medicaid expansion. If Christie was facing a tough reelection, this reversal might have been written off as a political decision to appease some moderates by doing what works best for his state. But with a 74 percent approval rating, Christie has the advantage of looking beyond 2013’s gubernatorial race and gearing up for 2016, which makes the decision seem unwise and politically miscalculated. His defense: It makes New Jersey a “better, more compassionate” state. There you have it ladies and gentleman.
Bottom line: Governor Chris Christie has become a big-spending, compassionate conservative Republican who just sealed his fate and ended his political ambitions outside the Garden State.
Jeb Bush has been making the media rounds after the release of his new book, “Immigration Wars.” There has been a lot of attention and criticism directed his way for an apparent flip-flop on the issue of immigration. It seems to be the recurring theme this week for Republican governors to change their views in attempt to become more palatable for a 2016 run at the White House. He has been asked several times about his political future and has stated that he will eliminate the possibility of a presidential run.
Bottom line: Despite not holding office in quite some time, Bush has successfully managed to stay on the political grid. The media will keep him as relevant as possible for the easy storylines, but not too many people expect him to become the third President Bush.
The former VP nominee is expected to release his annual budget proposal next week, which is set to erupt a renewed national debate on the insolvency of entitlements, specifically Medicare. Reports claim that his budget will include reforms to a majority of people currently receiving Medicare, a big shift from his past budgets that have exempted changes to the retired. America is addicted to entitlements and the first step in fixing it is admitting we have a problem. Although his budget is not nearly drastic enough to solve the problem, he deserves credit for at least addressing the issue. Most politicians do not dare to even put this issue on the table. It is a step in the right direction.
Bottom line: Ryan is already a strong contender for 2016. But if Republicans decide to champion his upcoming budget, it may elevate him to front-runner status.
Senator Rubio returned from a trip to the Middle East and immediately advocated for American intervention in the region. He announced it was time for the United States to begin supplying the oppressed Syrians with ammunition to continue defending themselves. It’s important to keep in mind that Senator Rubio hired Jamie Fly, who acted as foreign affairs advisor to George W. Bush and has been shaping Rubio’s worldview in the neo-conservative mindset. Jamie Fly published an article last year in National Review titled “The Perils of Paul: Republicans should isolate the isolationists.”
Bottom line: Marco Rubio is trying to delicately toe the line between tea-partiers and the establishment, but is struggling to juggle both. He’ll need to define his philosophy and solidify his base quickly if he hopes to make a successful run.
If Rand Paul isn’t a household name by now, I’m not sure what else he can do. Senator Paul took a stand (literally and figuratively) against the White House and Eric Holder when they would not definitively state that lethal force on Americans, within the borders of the United States, via drones was unconstitutional. Liberty defenders from all ends of the spectrum joined in a campaign to “Stand with Rand” as he performed a 13 hour long filibuster to block the confirmation of John Brennan as the next CIA director. The following day, Eric Holder sent a letter to Senator Paul and stated that indeed President Obama does not have the authority to issue a drone attack on an American in a non-combat situation. Also taking the place the next day were attacks from Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, which speaks volumes to the effort put forth by Senator Paul.
Prior to Rand Paul’s now famous filibuster, it is worth noting that he too visited the Middle East this year and discussed starkly different views than his colleague. Unlike Senator Rubio, he does not see a continued role for the U.S. to meddle in the politics and conflicts of sovereign nations.
Bottom line: Rand Paul exorbitantly raised his name ID and popularity last week. It seems as though he is eager for the right time to announce his candidacy and, more importantly, there a lot of people awaiting him to do so.
Governor Scott Walker rejected the Medicaid expansion and is often praised to standing on principle. However, this past week has been more difficult for Governor Walker, as members of his own party, most notably Senate President Mike Ellis, are fighting him on advancing school choice within the state of Wisconsin. He has proposed a freeze on per-student spending in order to rein in the cost of property taxes, but his private school voucher expansion is being fought by teacher union-backed Republicans. It will be interesting to see if and how he is able to manage this important issue.
Bottom line: Walker is popular among conservatives for winning some important, early battles. Nonetheless, he will have to prove his effectiveness as he has only completed two years in his role as governor and has some big fights ahead.