On the Democratic and Republican Benches

Aug 31 '12

A reporter asks:

bq. In advance of the Dem convention next week, I’m working on a piece about the 2016 presidential candidate “bench,” for lack of a better term. It seems that plenty of Republicans are mentioned as potential candidates in 4 years: Christie, Daniels, Rubio, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush… even Nikki Haley and Rand Paul. It seems far fewer Democrats are on the bench… there’s always Hillary, and some talk about Martin O’Malley and Andrew Cuomo, but I don’t hear too many more.

bq. The story would focus on that disparity, and whether the Democratic party needs to use its convention to introduce new faces. Is it natural that there is less focus on the “bench” when the party is in power, i.e., President Obama and the Dems right now?

My response went like this.  This is a really questionable moment at which to evaluate the party’s benches.  We’ve just gotten a chance to see all the GOP faces, but not the Democratic faces.  Who knows what will happen at the Democratic convention?  I would wait until after Charlotte to know for sure.  And even then, as the reporter noted, perceptions might be skewed because the Democrats are the incumbent party.

Moreover, 2016 is four years away.  Can we adequately perceive the party’s bench now?  People who seem like strong candidates will never emerge as such.  People we didn’t even think about will suddenly come to the fore — e.g., Barack Obama in 2004.

Also, re: “there’s always Hillary.”  That’s a little like saying, “There’s always Lebron.”  With a relatively strong candidate like Hillary Clinton, the Democrats may not need a deep bench in 2016.

But we will see.