It’s still 2014 for at least another week, but that hasn’t stopped the 2016 presidential speculation from jumping to an accelerated start, with news that another Bush may be tossing his hat in the ring. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, son to President George H.W. Bush and brother to President George W. Bush, has announced a plan to announce a run for president in 2016, and these days that’s all it takes to start a media cycle turning.
If Jeb Bush does win the nomination, pundits cite that it would be the fifth time in the last eight national elections that a Bush was on a presidential ticket, and seven of the last ten. But fears that voters would turn off in the face of what begins to look like a political dynasty are being brushed aside as this Bush is meeting with advisers and, more importantly, donors.
According to the Chicago Times, Bush was recently in town to meet with a handful of money people, a sure sign of campaign preparation. “While no money was being solicited, the small group attending indicates Bush may be meeting with potential bundlers as part of a nationwide strategy to set up a fundraising network for a presidential campaign. Bundlers solicit funds from their own well-heeled contacts and deliver the cash to the campaign in a large lump sum.”
His early move is expected to start the entire 2016 cycle in motion sooner rather than later. Pundits are already speculating that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will need to announce soon, if for no other reason than to be able to begin his own fundraising and gather backers before Bush takes in too many GOP resources.
Interestingly, one candidate coming in with an early entrance in response? Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO and failed 2010 California senate candidate. Not only does she acknowledge that she will likely be the only woman running for the nomination, she allegedly intends to staff her campaign that way, too. “According to three sources with direct knowledge of the situation, she has authorized members of her inner circle to seek out and interview candidates for two key positions on her presidential campaign: political director and communications director,” writes the National Journal. “Notably, the sources said, her associates are aiming to fill both positions with women.”
Other likely candidates may not be as obvious about their intentions yet, but they are most definitely laying the groundwork for a campaign down the road. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says he isn’t planning on announcing a run, but his decision to headline the Louisiana affiliate of “The Response,” a national prayer rally hosted by extremist evangelical group American Family Association, has many thinking a run is imminent, especially when you weigh in the fact that Texas Governor Rick Perry did the same in 2011 right before he announced his own Republican candidacy.
“The event is expected to raise the Republican governor’s profile with Christian conservatives, a group that Jindal is heavily courting as he builds a possible presidential campaign in 2016,” writes the Advocate. “Texas Gov. Rick Perry headlined a similar prayer rally in 2011 only a few days before launching his White House bid.” AFA, meanwhile, claims The Response is only a religious event, not a political one.
Jindal isn’t the only one potentially rallying the Christian soldiers for a grassroots campaign. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum ran a highly competitive nomination race in 2012, and many social conservatives have bemoaned his loss to Mitt Romney, who eventually lost to Barack Obama. Santorum has long been thought to be preparing a 2016 campaign, and this time social conservatives may be much less willing to support the “establishment” candidate in the end, feeling that is what made them lose in 2012.
Santorum may have a secret weapon to put him over the top this time: the churches of America. In January, with the help of Family Research Council, Santorum is leading a simulcast of a new pro-religious liberty movie that features a who’s who of the social conservative right. The goal is to get as many churches as possible to show the movie, then turn to those churches and demand they stand up for religious liberty.
It is in fact the perfect way to groom a grassroots network that could help one candidate excel during caucuses and primaries, and even, potentially, a general election.
With so much action even before 2015, it’s hard to imagine what the race will be like next year. With little restrictions when it comes to campaign finance, superPACs growing in importance daily, and religious groups able to turn donations into political support, 2015 is going to be a heated and expensive political year.
And that’s still before we ever get to 2016.