Election 2016: Weekly Rundown

Audrey Bowler ‘16 – EI Campus Communications Team

As the modern world of politics and government evolves, campaigning has become a permanent fixture in social and political culture. As potential candidates prepare for the 2016 presidential election, here’s what made headlines this week:

5.) Romney Drops Out

Three weeks after announcing that he was considering seeking another bid for elected office, the former presidential candidate pulled the plug on his campaign on January 30th. Romney stated that it was “best to give other leaders in the Party a chance to become our nominee” and that he expected the 2016 Republican nominee to be “one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today.”

Romney’s surprise announcement came via a conference call with journalists and supporters on Friday. The former Massachusetts governor is no longer planning to organize a campaign team or take donations.

As news of Romney’s decision spread early Friday morning, many of his donors began making calls to pledge their support to other potential presidential candidates, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Reactions to Romney’s third attempt at a presidential bid had been lukewarm, both from the public and from his former campaign staff. Many of his former aides have accepted offers with other Republican candidates – including David Kochel, one of Romney’s most valued staffers, who has joined Jeb Bush’s exploratory team.

Romney says that it is “unlikely” that he will change his mind.

4.) Jeb Gears Up

While Romney’s 2016 presidential campaign may never quite have taken flight, Jeb Bush’s may be growing wings. On Wednesday, the former Florida governor addressed the Detroit Economic Club in his first major policy speech since taking steps toward putting together a campaign team. Bush focused his remarks on the effects of large-scale inequality in America, saying: “We have a record number of Americans on food stamps and living in poverty. The opportunity gap is the defining issue of our time. More Americans are stuck at their income levels than ever before. It’s very hard for people to go from the bottom rungs of the economy to the top. Or even to the middle. This should alarm you.”

Bush also fielded questions regarding difficulties that he may face as the son and brother of former presidents. Saying that he would have to be his “own person” to win a presidential election, Bush said that running in 2016 would be an “interesting challenge” due to his family history. If the former governor decides to move forward with a bid for the presidency, he will have to decide how closely to align himself with the Bush family dynasty.

3.) Sunbelt in the Spotlight

A recent study conducted by the States of Change Project focuses on the important roles that Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida – three states located along the “Sunbelt” – will play in the 2016 election. Projections indicate that if Republicans are unable to hold onto at least two out of these three states, the path to gaining an Electoral College majority will be much more difficult than previously anticipated.

Republicans may face their largest challenge in Virginia, where both Senate seats and the governorship are held by Democrats. In contrast, the same three seats are all held by Republicans in North Carolina. Florida remains a tossup however, with newly reelected Republican Governor Rick Scott in office and one senator from each party currently holding a seat.

All three states are in the midst of two distinct demographic shifts: dynamic population growth and increasing racial diversity. From 2000 to 2013, the population of both Florida and North Carolina have grown by 22.3%, while Virginia’s electorate increased by 16.7%. Studies indicate that racial diversity in the voting pool will continue to expand across the Sunbelt, especially in Florida – which gives the Republican Party extra incentive to improve their standing among Florida Hispanics.

2.) Where’s Hillary?

While rumors about Hillary Clinton’s potential candidacy continue to swirl, many of her advisors are urging her to delay a formal announcement until the summer. Other members of the Clinton team reportedly want to stick to the original plan to kick off an official campaign in April. Those favoring a later start argue that the delay will give the Republican Party a chance to expand their field of candidates, who will be too consumed with targeting each other to focus on Clinton once she enters the race.

Although Clinton has not yet issued an official decision regarding the 2016 race, new polls conducted by Quinnipiac show her leading potential Republican opponents by double-digit margins in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. No candidate has won a presidential election during the last fifty years without securing at last two of these three swing states.

1.) Vaccine Controversy

The medical community reacted with concern and alarm on Monday after two of the top contenders for the GOP presidential nomination made statements that seemed to doubt the legitimacy of requiring vaccinations during childhood.

New Jersey Gov.Chris Christie stated that parents were entitled to “some measure of choice” in vaccinating their children. He later backtracked, saying that “there is no question kids should be vaccinated.”

Later that day, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul argued that the use of vaccines should not be a government mandate. “The state doesn’t own your children,” he said, “Parents own the children. And it is an issue of freedom and public health.” Further controversy erupted when it was revealed that Paul, an optometrist, has long been a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, an organization that strongly opposes mandatory vaccinations.

Christie and Paul’s comments created instant pushback as fellow 2016 hopefuls rushed to distance themselves from the “anti-vaxxer” community. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, another member of the Republican presidential field, released a statement clarifying his position on vaccines, saying: “There is a lot of fear mongering out there on this. I think it is irresponsible for leaders to undermine the public’s confidence in vaccinations that have been tested and proven to protect public health.” Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker joined Jindal in saying that parents should vaccinate their children.

Hillary Clinton also weighed in on the controversy on Tuesday night, using a less-traditional channel – Twitter:

EI twitter pic

While both Gov. Christie and Senator Paul have attempted to further clarify their comments, allegations of being “anti-vaccine” could come back to haunt them as the 2016 presidential candidate pool begins to take shape.