Sometimes people say it is too early to start talking about 2016. They look at polling and can’t believe it has already begun. While I can understand some of their campaign fatigue, I disagree (if I agreed I would stop this blog and get a life) with their sentiment.
One reason is that the GOP has some big questions to answer on policy. Unlike in elections past that were more about differing styles than contrasting substance (i.e. 1996, 2000 or 2008) this time policy differences are what is driving the debate. Look at the back-and-forth between Chris Christie and Rand Paul over the summer. That was about the NSA and government spending, which are big questions the GOP is trying to settle on answers to. Or consider immigration, which has already helped to sink Marco Rubio’s poll numbers.
The fact is that right now you have big issue disagreements that are pulling at the heart of the GOP. A party can’t have such divisions over the long run.
For example, is the GOP going to have the foreign policy of John McCain or Ron Paul? Is the party going to follow Marco Rubio or Steve King on immigration? How does the party treat gays and lesbians? These are three big areas in modern political life that the GOP doesn’t have a unified answer on.
Second, this is a very talented field. Unlike past years where it was someone’s turn (Bush in 1988, Dole in 1996, McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012) or one person just overwhelmed the field (Reagan in 1980 or Bush in 2000) this race is wide open. No one is pulling over 20% in any of the polls. Part of the reason it is so open is because people have many quality options to choose from. Looking at Christie, Rubio, Walker, Paul, Cruz, or Ryan it is plausible to see any of them getting the nomination.
Third, the GOP has work to do. The party has lost the last two Presidential elections and needs to find a way to reach out to Latinos and more secular voters. This process is the only way they are going to find that voice, even if it takes a few tries.
Lastly, they’ve already started running. Why do you think Ted Cruz is going to Iowa on Friday? Aside from the fact that he loves Hawkeye Football.