26/02/2014 - 06:16

Contenders jockey for poll position

26/02/2014 - 06:16


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As the Obama presidency meanders along, the Democrats are already preparing for 2016.

Contenders jockey for poll position
GOAL: Hillary Clinton has long sought her nation’s highest office.

As President Barack Obama's second term is plagued by policy setbacks and international missteps, political commentators are already starting to narrow the field in terms of the Democratic nominee for the 2016 poll.

From the bungled Obamacare health legislation rollout to having to play second fiddle to Russia's President Vladimir Putin over Syria and Egypt, President Obama's administration is in danger of going the same way as many other second terms have – into irrelevancy.

Even though the next presidential election is 32 months off, Democratic hopefuls are beginnings to shuffle into position, with three contenders ahead of the rest.

The first is, of course, is Yale University graduate and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who resigned that post last year to gear-up for the 2016 Democratic primaries and presidential race.

Mrs Clinton's two most likely and highest profile rivals are Vice-President Joe Biden and junior Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a onetime Harvard University academic.

In such a three-way party convention contest, Senator Warren would have the backing of the party's left wing.

Vice-President Biden would run as a centrist, with Mrs Clinton needing to snatch maximum support from the middle and the left camps.

The party's right wing is virtually non-existent.

During a recent CNN interview, Vice-President Biden gave what seemed to be a practised deflecting reply when asked if he'd seek to become President Obama's successor.

"There may be reasons I don't run, but there's no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run," Vice-President Biden said.

But according to a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, Vice-President Biden is running distant second to Clinton 73 to 12 per cent.

And that's despite her far-from-impressive record as First Lady, a New York senator and secretary of state.

The Clinton machine has already piled-up many millions of dollars for the 2016 primaries and presidential race.

That's not surprising since the Clintons have always been close to big Wall Street money, meaning Vice-President Biden and Senator Warren, if they're to put on respectable showings, need to start stacking funds soon.

But Senator Warren's harsh remarks about the dubious practices of Wall Street bankers means fundraising in the Big Apple won't be easy.

Another crucial factor to watch as 2014 unfolds is who President Obama will fall in behind.

Senator Warren is almost certainly an outsider in this regard.

The question therefore comes down to whether it's his long-time loyal vice-president or onetime secretary of state and 2008 Democratic rival.

Mrs Clinton's burning ambition to gain the White House keys in her own right is charged by her long-standing desire to go down in US political history as the first woman president.

If she misses by losing to a Republican, Vice-President Biden or another Democrat, it would be 2024 before another female Democrat bid could likely succeed.

The question is who that other contender could be.

It's unlikely to be Senator Warren because in 2024 she'd be 75, six years older than Mrs Clinton in 2016.

But there's another option some suspect may well emerge, and that's President Obama's wife, Michelle, who's been politically active from her Princeton and Harvard University days.

She was born in 1964, so would only be 60 that year (2024) meaning she'd be well placed to become either the first woman president, if Mrs Clinton fails for whatever reason in 2016, or the first black woman president.

True, all this is a long way off. Much can and will change over the coming decade.

But US presidential races have all the flavour of a Hollywood extravaganza, and long-term planning is essential.

So seeing Mrs Obama this early out as a presidential hopeful isn't farfetched.

If President George H Bush's son, George W, could carry on the family name and Mrs Clinton is seeking likewise for the Clintons, why not African-American Mrs Obama for her family?

The first sign that she'll be focusing on becoming either the first African-American woman president or perhaps first woman president may well appear in 2016.

And the reason it'll come so early is that it would be helpful indeed if she became a senator that year, say for the state of Illinois her husband once represented.

If that were to happen her husband would fall in behind her like ex-President Bill Clinton has been doing for the past several years for wife Hillary.

That being so, President Obama needs to begin making deals with various Democratic Party power brokers very soon.

And that means carefully weighing-up whether the Clinton or the Biden machines and their financial backers are the best placed to help ensure Mrs Obama emerges for 2024, after having served either one or two senatorial terms.

Anything's possible, including especially that the Obamas have already begun eyeing off a 2024 presidential first, but this time with Michelle at centre stage and husband Barack at her side.


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