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Presidential Contenders Reflect Factions of Their Parties

Apartment Industry Colleagues,

In less than 20 months the next President of the United States will be sworn into office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Within the last month a number of aspirants for the highest office in the land have officially thrown their hats into the ring. A host of others are making strong signals that they will do the same. Currently, the GOP has a much wider field of candidates than the Democrats competing for the chance to represent the party in the Presidential campaign. There are six declared candidates in the mix already with at least another three suspects.
If you measure status of a candidate by money, then former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is certainly the GOP front-runner at this point. The New York Times reported that Bush claimed during a recent donor event to be on track to raise “tens of millions” of dollars in the first 100 days of this year, mostly through his Super Pac “Right to Rise.” Recall that since the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, candidates can raise unlimited funds for their Super PACs, but cannot coordinate the activities of that entity once they are a declared candidate. That last bit is important since Governor Bush has not declared yet and can still raise money directly for and coordinate with Right to Rise. 

Governor Bush is also, in my opinion, the “establishment” candidate. He comes from an obviously well-established political family, is conservative though not extreme in his views and as a two-term leader of a state with the third most citizens and fourth most gross state product in the nation, has real executive experience. He should be a comfortable choice for a large portion of the Republican Party and, more importantly, a very plausible choice for the independents, undecided voters and maybe even a few Democrats during the general election. But, those attributes also make the Governor decidedly unattractive to many of the far right conservative and tea party voters in the GOP. They are looking for other options.

As an aside, it’s worth noting that other Republican governors are contemplating Presidential runs. The most-often mentioned is Scott Walker of Wisconsin who busted unions in his state and then survived their attempt to keep him from a second term. In addition, there is Ohio Governor John Kasich. Known to be energetic, a “doer” and sometimes testy, Governor Kasich has made no secret of his aspirations, spending a lot of time in primary states like New Hampshire and South Carolina. But even he admits that he must “reintroduce himself” to the electorate and raise a lot of money.

By way of historical reference, according to the Center on the American Governor at Rutgers University, 17 -- or 40 percent -- of the 43 American Presidents were governors.

The other candidates in the GOP bring similar but also some unique benefits to the table. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (the other guy from Hope) is the clear choice for evangelicals and is marketing himself that way. Dr. Ben Carson, a retired surgeon, has zeroed in squarely on social conservatives. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina promotes herself as the true business candidate who can turn around the ailing national economy. Texas Senator Ted Cruz is the maverick who shakes the establishment at every opportunity and has his sights on a much smaller federal government. Florida Senator Marco Rubio is the young, smart, energetic leader who can attract the next generation of conservative voters. He also could help to bridge the gap with Latino voters who the past two GOP Presidential candidates lost by wide margins. Finally, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is also pondering a run. He has a more international, foreign policy focus to his narrative and also happens to be from a critical primary state.

Of course, I should not forget Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, son of the original maverick, former Texas Representative and perennial Presidential candidate Ron Paul. Senator Paul has also earned maverick stripes during his tenure in Congress with a generous amount of libertarianism sprinkled in. His views on the Patriot Act, National Security Agency spying and interventionism overseas put him at odds with the more hawkish members of the Republican Party. But these views also put him in good stead with many tea party activists who are suspicious of domestic intelligence gathering by the federal government and are tired of wars in faraway lands.

It’s telling that I can address the Democratic side of the Presidential primary in a single paragraph. Former First Lady, New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton managed to clear the field of competition for the party’s nomination until the end of April when Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders entered the race. Senator Sanders is liberal and represents the progressive base of the Democratic Party. Also in this category is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Also a left-wing progressive, Senator Warren has solid star power within the base of the party and could mount a serious challenge to Secretary Clinton. What she does not have is access to the blizzard of Wall Street money that will almost certainly go to the Clinton campaign. 

The fun is just beginning, friends. Take your vitamins, drink your OJ, get some rest and gird your loins. Winter is coming.

As always, thanks for reading. Talk with you next month.