Favorable Climate Attracts Huge Gop Field For 2016

With a simple Facebook post, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush became the first person to express interest in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He’ll have plenty of company in the near future, as nearly two dozen others have unofficially expressed similar interests. To say the race is wide open is an understatement.

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There are many reasons for this wide-open field. At one level, it’s the natural result of Republicans having so many governors, senators and other officials to choose from. And, of course, the fact that there is no one clearly “next in line” makes it easy for many prospective candidates to believe that this could be their one chance to catch lightning in a bottle.

But a bigger reason may be the fact that the GOP nomination looks to be a particularly attractive prize in 2016. While an awful lot can and will happen before Americans select their next president, the Republicans have to be considered the favorite to win the White House.

The biggest reason for this is Barack Obama. His job approval ratings are stuck in the low 40s, and he could be as much of a drag on the Democratic nominee as George W. Bush was on John McCain in 2008. It is possible, of course, that the current president could rebound and somehow become popular again by 2016 — but that’s a long shot at best.

On top of that, the president’s signature legislative achievement — his health care law — shows no signs of winning over the voting public. Unless “Obamacare” becomes wildly popular in the next two years, it will continue to drag down both the president who signed it and the Democratic nominee who will be forced to defend it.

I recognize that this runs against the conventional wisdom. Many in the media simply assume that the presidential election will bring out more young and minority voters to carry any Democrat over the top. Some talk of a “Big Blue Wall,” a group of states that “always” vote Democratic. That theory suggests that the Electoral College is stacked against the GOP because so many states have voted consistently for Democrats over the past generation.

But the Big Blue Wall is a myth. The Republicans pedaled a similar myth in the 1980s. The reason so many states have gone Democratic so consistently over the past generation is because Democratic candidates have consistently won the popular vote. The reality is that if a Republican candidate wins the popular vote in 2016, he or she will also win the Electoral College.

But perhaps the biggest reason to see the Republican nomination in 2016 as valuable did not become clear until last month’s elections.

With their stunning success on Nov. 4, the Republicans now control 54 seats in the U.S. Senate. If a Republican wins the White House in 2016, the party will likely retain control of the Senate for several more years. On top of that, GOP control of the House is virtually assured through the rest of the decade.

The last time a Republican president entered office with a reasonable assurance that his party would control both houses of Congress came nearly a century ago. That potentially historic opportunity makes the Republican nomination worthy of serious pursuit.

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