Las Vegas Sun

July 5, 2015

Currently: 91° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account


Presidential possibilities for 2016 already emerging, including Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval


Sam Morris

Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the media Thursday, March 22, 2012, while looking at aviation education in Southern Nevada.

Tired of presidential politics? Get over it: As many as 15 prominent Republicans are privately contemplating 2016 campaigns for the presidency — and the most serious and ambitious of the bunch are plunging in, some quite publicly.

Click to enlarge photo

Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla. speaks at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson on Tuesday, October 2, 2012.

Don’t expect them to officially announce or even officially decide for many months. But Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin are doing nothing to disguise their presidential ambitions.

Jindal, a Rhodes scholar and the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is making a very public case for a more intellectual approach to conservatism, accusing the GOP of being, in his words, “the stupid party.”

He offered a similar premeditated critique to reporters at the RGA, on Fox and in an opinion piece.

Click to enlarge photo

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal delivers the Republican Party's official response Tuesday to President Barack Obama's address to a joint session of Congress.

Rubio and Ryan, both arguably better positioned than Jindal, also are competing for the mantle of the high-energy, forward-thinking conservative. Politico has learned both will unveil new policy plans at an awards dinner of the Jack Kemp Foundation in early December: Ryan will begin a new push on a more modern approach to alleviating poverty, focused on education; Rubio will lift the curtain on an economic empowerment message, heavy on college affordability and workforce training.

That upcoming duet is one of the clearest signs that this presidential race is beginning as early as any in history.

Click to enlarge photo

Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. gestures as he speaks during a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 in Reno, Nev.

Not to be outdone, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, son of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, and heir to his father’s libertarian following, is on the record exploring a run that will focus heavily on returning power to the states. In a post-election interview, Rand Paul said he wants to find common ground with liberal Democrats on softer marijuana laws and help create an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Click to enlarge photo

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012.

These 40-something rising stars are hardly alone. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, despite party grumbling about his embrace of President Barack Obama during Hurricane Sandy, has made plain that he plans to make the case that he has cracked the code on winning on Democratic turf. Christie has the perfect chance to take the temperature of big donors as he raises money for his 2013 re-election race for governor. He will do just that, friends say.

Click to enlarge photo

President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visit the Brigantine Beach Community Center to meet with local residents, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Brigantine, NJ. Obama traveled to Atlantic Coast to see first-hand the relief efforts after Superstorm Sandy damage the Atlantic Coast. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Politico also has learned that Rick Santorum is telling friends he wants to run again. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said publicly that he might, too, and has begun talking to donors and other top supporters like he means it. And Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor with strong credentials on education and winning back Hispanics, has told advisers he will sit back to see how things unfold over the next year before deciding whether to finally give it a go.

Jeb Bush Jr., the former governor’s younger son, said Tuesday when asked on CNN’s “Starting Point” whether his father would run: “I certainly hope so.”

“You have this young crop of attractive, successful, proven problem-solvers,” former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said. “Old guys like me have to get out of the way.”

Barbour said the way to stand out in the field will be to help with the party’s 2013 and 2014 races.

“We’re not going to wait till 2016 to set a strong new course,” he said.

Click to enlarge photo

Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann are introduced before the GOP presidential debate sponsored by CNN on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, at the Venetian.

This all might seem premature — and a possible big-time distraction for a party that lost the presidency and Senate and House seats this time around. But top Republican officials are encouraging the never-ending presidential campaign in hopes of creating influential national voices beyond Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.

“On every conference call, the message is the same,” one top official said. “We’re going to push out our new generation of leadership. We’re not going to sit back and let the extreme voices define what it means to be a conservative.”

Republicans still are haunted by the post-election chaos of 2008, when, with John McCain diminished by defeat and few clear future leaders with national juice on the scene, Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin filled the void — and dominated news coverage. This time feels different: Unlike 2008, when Republicans chalked up their defeat to a bad GOP ticket in a terrible post-Bush environment for the party, many of the most influential voices are calling for substantial rethinking of the conservative approach to politics. They are reckoning with demographic trends that favor Democrats — as well as with exit polling suggesting the assumption this is a center-right country might be wrong, or was at least wrong on Nov. 6, when a center-left electorate showed up.

The danger, of course, is that Republicans get pulled into a bitter fight over the direction of the party, especially as more traditional and hard-edged conservatives jump into the race.

Republican sources said Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota might want to fill the void on the religious right now and that Mike Pence, who just won the gubernatorial race in Indiana, has expressed interest in running, too.

Click to enlarge photo

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker casts his ballot Tuesday, June 5, 2012, in Wauwatosa, Wis. Walker faces Democratic challenger Tom Barrett in a special recall election.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who unlike Ryan won statewide in a state Obama won twice, also harbors national ambitions and remains a favorite of Tea Party conservatives.

For now, most of the media attention is on Republicans who can help the party adapt to the changing demographics, weeks after the party lost blacks by 90 points, Asian-Americans by 50 points, Hispanics by more than 40 points and women by just over 10. This will put a lot of emphasis on the small minority of minority leaders inside the GOP. Condoleezza Rice, one of the few stars of this summer’s Republican convention in Tampa, has told Republicans she will continue speaking out on the future of the party, which will fuel 2016 speculation. A Rice run strikes many Republicans as unlikely, given her previous resistance.

Click to enlarge photo

Gov. Brian Sandoval and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talk with media after their tour of Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in the northern Las Vegas Valley on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011.

Others known to be openly thinking about a run include New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte; two Western governors who are Hispanic, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada; and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Finally, there are the elected officials who are perpetually looking for something bigger: Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and Rob Portman of Ohio; Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose term ends in 2014; and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who like so many others on this list has made his ambitions known in private conversations with donors and activists.

Click to enlarge photo

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D, waits for his ride in the snow outside of the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009, after the Senate passed the health care reform bill.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in an email to Politico: “While the RNC engages in a serious post-election analysis of what worked well and what needs to be improved upon, one area that gives me great optimism is the caliber and quantity of potential 2016 candidates on the GOP side. The top names on the GOP side are talking about serious solutions and reforms to the major issues facing the country, which will put the Republican field in a solid position.”

With all this activity, Jindal, Rubio and Ryan know there is little time to waste in trying to position themselves to be “the one,” the candidate who can lead the party back with conservative thinking calibrated to appeal to a changing America. Jindal has been the most aggressive, hitting his party hard in his post-election interview with Politico, posting an op-ed on CNN and offering a sharp critique of his party during last week’s RGA meetings. In the interview, Jindal urged an end to “dumbed-down conservatism.”

“We need to stop being simplistic. ... We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything,” he said.

Ryan allies believe that although his vice presidential run ended in a disappointing rout (with Obama winning his home state of Wisconsin), he has more celebrity, credibility and clout after the race. With his expertise and power in the upcoming budget fights, Ryan will be a central figure in the policy and political debates of 2013.

Rubio plays up his working-class roots and values as part of an appeal to voters making $30,000 to $50,000 a year — a group Romney lost badly but with whom Republicans used to be very competitive. That, combined with his connection with Hispanic voters, would make him a bit of an anti-Romney — the one card nearly every one of these candidates will try to play, however subtly. Rubio planted the flag in Iowa last weekend, setting a record at a Republican fundraising event. Look for him to flex his muscles in coming months in the other early states: New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 9 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Not one original candidate. Not one of them connects with the majority of the American People. More of the same people who backed the flawed Republican platform and backed Mitt Romney. Mrs. Clinton will beat them all.

    Having Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus back at the helm almost assures Democrats a victory in 2016.

    Move along people, nothing new to see here.

  2. I predict the next person to be the candidate for the Tea/Republican Party for Presidency will be someone they consider to be in the minority.

    All indications show that strategy emerging for them.

    They felt they got walloped this last election in that area. I agree. They did.

    But what they incorrectly assume is, that if they decide that course of action, it will appeal to all minorities.

    The problem with this is the simple fact that, because the Tea/Republican Party has decided not to change their policies, they figure that picking someone different than a senior citizen Caucasian will fix their ability to attract voters.

    You change the messenger, but you still got the same ole tired worn out message that serves a very, very small percentage of America.

    Words of wisdom, but hey, GOoPers, don't listen to me. I really hope you continue to pursue this course of action.

    In other words, they are not going to change.

    And the worse thing they could do is already happening right now. They are letting the ultra-conservative media STILL dictate what their policies are. With little cracks here and there, this is changing, but it sure don't seem they are interested in appealing to anyone except a very small core base of voters out here in America.

    I still believe the modern creation of the Republican Party, along with their Tea Party parasite faction, will continue a downward slide in popularity. In other words, they love who they think is 53 percent of the people, and have decided to continue to ignore the other 47 percent. But the problem with this thinking is the percentages don't add up when you look at the last election. The percentages they are trying to build in voters is shrinking for them.

    Lastly, the very idea of Sandoval becoming a front runner is laughable. He has no personality. He rarely comes out and speaks to citizens of Nevada. There is absolutely no charisma to speak of with him. The only reason why his name is floated out there is because it fits with the abovementioned party line tactic...find someone of color....find a minority....make sure he is uber ultra-conservative....just ANYONE of color. This tactic the Tea/Republican Party is using is going to fail also. Because people don't like to be taken advantage of. Especially for political purposes.

  3. Sheesh!! Can we just enjoy the Holiday Season THIS year and not think about who the Republicans are starting to dangle in front of everyone for 2016? This list will probably change 10 times in the next two years.

    @Nevadashop: Agree about Chris Christie. I like the guy. However, he needs to seriously change his appearance by losing weight. Some will say weight shouldn't be an issue but when a person is a good 200lbs overweight, it is a serious issue for a potential presidential candidate.

  4. Brian?....LOL

  5. I gotta agree with Colin on this one.

    The only reason that Sandoval would be chosen would be based upon his skin color as a way to try and lure in hispanic voters. I also agree that he is a lame-duck governor. He's not done anything outstanding to impress Nevada at all. Plus his past statements that he isn't concerned about racial profiling latinos affecting his kids because they look white is one massive skeleton in his closet.

    Sandoval is NOT going to unite conservative voters. He doesn't display any confidence at all, and just tries to blend in and stay out of the spotlight as much as possible. He's got a great opprotunity to become outspoken and poach jobs from California in order to build a track record of creating jobs in Nevada. And with the current economic state, that would REALLY help him allot. But the truth is that he's too weak and won't do that. You get the feeling that he just wanted to be governor in order to throw out some favors so he could land cushy consulting jobs for the rest of his life, and that he doesn't want to jeopardize that at all by becoming too much of a lightning rod.

    Agreed that Christie is a good candidate. With hurricane sandy he's shone as dedicated, and he not only distanced himself from Romney but attacked Romney's asinine comments.

    I still don't think that any of this is going to work out for the GOP. The new wave of voters have a very distinct separation of church and state, and the GOP is just too far entrenched with organized religion. A minority candidate won't attract minority votes, and it certainly won't unite them. The Tea Party will siphon off more people and weaken the GOP further.

    As much as Sharia Law is a "bogey man" that conservatives fear monger about, modern voters have the same fear of Christian Laws from outlandish fundamentalists that Republicans cater to for votes. That is why they don't vote Republican. Barry Goldwater warned about the dangers of religion taking over the GOP way back in the 1960's...

  6. LMAO!!! You must be joking. The governor from the state that is almost 50th in everything. If Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state to join the union, NV will drop down and rank 51st in almost everything. The man won't even get a shot at riding in the 2016 GOP Primary clown car of candidates.

  7. Christie is interesting, but unless he loses 200lbs in the next 3 years it will be hard for any reasonable person to vote for a walking heart attack waiting to happen. If he doesn't lose the weight, his choice for VP will be a MAJOR consideration.

    RefNV, I have to disagree that Hillary's age alone would stop her. Reagan was even older. Yes, her mental ability should be examined, like any candidate's (say, Reid, for example) but age alone is not a factor.

  8. El_Lobo,

    First you state that Ike, Ford and even Reagan would be unable to win the Republican nomination today (an opinion I agree with) but then you say the Republican Party is going backwards.

    That doesn't make any sense at all. American politics, and the Republican Party in particular, would be MUCH better off if they were to return to what they were in the 1950s or even 60s.

    No, the Republican Party has been moving ever more to being controlled by religious dogma, in large part thanks to Reagan embracing the Moral Majority (read Constitution Party) and welcoming them into the party with open arms. (And if you want to draw a comparison between this and Sharia Law I wouldn't stop you.)

    If you really want to go back, look at the original party of Lincoln, the Whigs. :)

  9. The Only Republican candidate that did not pander to the Tea Party and is logically the Next Candidate is John Huntsman. He would have won This time, however the extreme right wing of that party has moved Republicanism backwards far enough that it's no longer recognizable. Had it not been for Citizens United and the Billionaires wanting full control over our government -, the Republican Party would already be dead.