While Democrats did not have to worry about a presidential primary battle during the 2012 election cycle, they will not have the same advantage in 2016. Both Democrats and Republican nominees will have to fight their way through a primary season.
Peter Beinart wrote an interesting piece in The Daily Beast about a potential Hillary Clinton run for the White House in 2016. Beinart wonders how receptive far-left Democratic primary voters will be to her candidacy if she decides to run. Will these far-left Democrats make life difficult for Clinton as far-right Republicans did for presidential nominee Mitt Romney?
Primary voters are far more liberal and conservative than general election voters. The danger for both parties is nominating someone so far to the left or right that they can't win a national election. Both parties have suffered from this challenge in the past, especially Democrats in 1984 and 1988.
Beinart believes that if Clinton does run she may be challenged from the far-left wing of her party who perceives her as too moderate. Most of my Republican friends may not consider Clinton a moderate, but many people on the far-left remember her support for the war in Iraq and her approving votes for the Patriot Act when she was in the Senate. During her debates with a young senator from Illinois named Barack Obama, Clinton was frequently challenged on those votes, and some say that her support for the war in Iraq was a significant variable in her defeat.
Beinart makes the case that Clinton's support of the Patriot Act will come back to hurt her as a majority of Democrats today believe that the National Security Agency "has gone too far" with monitoring of American phone and email records in its pursuit of terrorists.
More progressive Democratic candidates, says Beinart, will be pushing Clinton to the far left on social issues "like guns, immigration, gays and abortion" as Romney was pushed to the far right on the same issues during the GOP primaries. Try as he might during the general election, Romney could not undo the damage he had inflected upon himself just trying to survive the GOP primaries.
Republicans remember the last primary season when some of their candidates hurt the GOP's brand in the general election. As GOP Chairman Reince Priebus acknowledged on Bloomberg TV, the 2012 primary season was "a 23-debate traveling circus."
Priebus would like to avoid another circus in 2016, and so he wants to cut the number of GOP debates in half. Priebus has already stated that he will try to avoid debates on CNN and NBC. He is already complaining about the unfair treatment of his GOP candidates on CNN and NBC, but side-stepped questions about the fairness of Fox News.
Priebus and the GOP have two strategies for 2016. First, keep attacking Clinton over the tragic killing of American diplomats in Benghazi in an effort to weaken her prior to the 2016 election cycle. Second, limit the number of GOP debates to reduce public exposure of some of their crazier tea party candidates who are less likely to win the nomination, but who may hurt their eventual nominee.
Priebus says that the GOP may boycott CNN and NBC because both networks are working on a Clinton documentary that even the liberal media watchdog, Media Matters for America, says raises "too many questions about fairness and conflicts of interest ahead of the 2016 election." Interestingly, Priebus doesn't seem to be concerned about a possible Clinton documentary by Fox News. But political observers state that by boycotting CNN and NBC, Priebus will be able to reduce the number of debates and, as a bonus, avoid the networks more likely to ask their candidates challenging questions.
Presidential primary season is always entertaining, and next time we'll get two for our money.