There are several Republicans, and a few Democrats, running races in 2014 which will directly impact the playing field in 2016. This piece will examine a few of those races.
1. Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin)
Scott Walker was cruising to a fairly easy victory just a few months ago yet now finds himself nearly tied with his Democratic opponent. Walker’s name has been floated as a strong 2016 contender with a good record in his state and as a good compromise candidate to bring the establishment and Tea Party wings of the GOP together.
Even President Obama is swooping into Wisconsin hoping to oust Walker from 2016 contention:
President Barack Obama is making a rare appearance on the campaign trail just one week before Election Day in an effort to help a Democratic challenger oust Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker from office.
Walker is a top target of Democrats in the midterm elections after he angered organized labor by enacting a measure in 2011 that reduced the power of public sector unions in the state. Obama was scheduled to campaign Tuesday evening with Democrat Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycles executive and state commerce secretary, who is running close against Walker, a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
Polls show the race is deadlocked with very few voters undecided, which makes it even more important for Walker and Burke to get their backers to the polls.
Walker might still eek out a victory which would leave his credentials untouched for a possible 2016 run. However, if Walker loses, he’ll be off the national scene and will not have any momentum if he decides to run for President. A loss wouldn’t be career-ending, but it would put him behind Republicans who won re-election, like Chris Christie.
2. Governor Susana Martinez (R-New Mexico)
Unlike Walker in Wisconsin, Susana Martinez is cruising to an easy victory in a state which leans fairly to the left on most issues. Martinez is leading her Democratic opponent by 13 points on average. National Review is predicting that a resounding 10+ point victory will force Martinez on the list of 2016 contenders.
Martinez is winning 50 percent of women (38 percent for the Democrat, King) 40 percent of Hispanics, 52 percent of independents, and 28 percent of Democrats.
All of this is in a state with 600,540 registered Democrats (47 percent) and 401,377 registered Republicans (31 percent).
Susana Martinez is probably going to turn in the Republican party’s biggest win in the least GOP-friendly state in the entire 2014 cycle. A lot of Republicans will be hoping their 2016 nominee or ticket can emulate that ability. [Emphasis added]
I could see Martinez as a strong choice for Vice President. She’s had much more time in the spotlight than Sarah Palin meaning she’s much more battle-hardened.
3. Charlie Crist (D-Florida)
As you may know, Crist used to be the Republican Governor of Florida before switching to identify as an independent for the remaining years of his term until 2011. After a failed run for Senate against Marco Rubio in 2010, Crist is back running as a Democrat for his old job against incumbent Republican Rick Scott.
There are two scenarios here which both affect the 2016 election, specifically in Florida which is an important swing state.
If Crist wins the Governor’s race on Tuesday, he’ll be in a position to campaign heavily against either Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio in 2016, perhaps both. Rubio will either run for President or for re-election to the US Senate. Jeb Bush is considering a presidential run. Both of them need Florida but with Crist as Governor, he’ll be working day and night to foil two of his main political foes in the Sunshine State.
On the other hand, if Crist loses, he might consider taking on Rubio for the Senate seat in 2016 which would create an interesting situation of Rubio decides to run for president.
Either way, win or lose, the future of Florida politics will still be going through Charlie Crist for several years to come.
There are more races that affect 2016, of course, please list and discuss others that I missed.