Special feature: What we will be watching in 2016
by Danielle Pletka, Karlyn Bowman, Alan D. Viard, Heather Sims
This past week, we issued a challenge. We asked some of our scholars to reflect on and list the main events, trends, negotiations, policy goals, etc., that will, could, or should shape 2016. So what should we mark in red on our calendars? What is at the front of policy and political leaders’ minds this New Year? Read on to be enlightened by Danielle Pletka (Foreign and Defense Policy), Karlyn Bowman and Heather Sims (the Political Corner), and Alan D. Viard (Economics).
The Political Corner:
The key dates for AEI’s Political Corner in 2016 are election-related and front-loaded. Here’s what we’ll be watching and why.
- January 1: Early reports from the presidential campaign committees about their fourth quarter 2015 fundraising are beginning to dribble in. Ted Cruz raised nearly $19 million. His average contribution: $67. Since he announced in March, his campaign has received 670,000 donations from over 300,000 donors. Ben Carson also reported a good haul. Will Bernie Sanders raise almost as much as Hillary? Also in January, Super PACs will report their activity for the second half of 2015.
- January 4 is Bill Clinton’s first solo trip for Hillary’s 2016 bid (He’s going to New Hampshire). Will he be an asset on the trail?
- January 12 is President Obama’s final State of the Union address. This speech will lay out the parts of his legacy he will focus on most in his final year as president. It will also set the stage for any remaining conflicts with Congress, which will bear heavily on Republicans as they try to hold onto their majority in the Senate and keep their losses to a minimum in the House.
- January 14 is the next GOP debate, followed quickly by another Democratic one on Sunday, January 17. Will either debate further winnow the field?
- February 1: It starts officially with the Iowa caucuses. In 2012, most people went to bed thinking Mitt Romney had won the Iowa caucuses. But when the votes were finally certified, Rick Santorum had. Both parties are working with Microsoft on a new technology that should address past problems with voter reporting. But, yet again, the outcome is all but certain.
- In 2008, 57% who attended Iowa’s Democratic caucuses told the entrance pollsters that they were first-time caucus goers. The Obama campaign did a brilliant job of enlarging the electorate that year. Will any candidate do that in 2016?
- February 9: The New Hampshire primaries. The threshold for getting delegates in the New Hampshire GOP primary is 10%; in the Democratic primary it is 15%. Today, in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls in the Granite State, only four GOP candidates are polling at that level or above. Given the state’s moderate orientation, this state should be fertile territory for a John Kasich or Chris Christie. But Donald Trump continues to lead the GOP field there, as Sanders continues to lead the Democratic one.
- February late: South Carolina holds its primary on the 20th. This state’s GOP electorate looks more like the nation than Iowa’s or New Hampshire’s. On February 23, Nevada holds its caucuses. Without Mitt Romney in the race this time (he did well among Nevada’s Mormon population), this contest could be pivotal.
- March 1: Super Tuesday. The SEC primary. Call it what you will; its significance remains the same. Five hundred and sixty five bound delegates will be awarded this day. The 13 primaries and caucuses that take place on March 1 have different rules and thresholds for allocating their delegates. Watch the big states of Texas (155 delegates) and Georgia (76), but Tennessee (58) could be very important given the influence of its media markets in nearby states, such as Arkansas and Virginia, that will also hold contests on March 1.
- March 8: The date on which half of the GOP delegates will have been allocated. In 2008 and 2012, the GOP leader in the delegate count at that point has been able to win the nomination by the time 75% of the delegates are awarded.
- March 15: If no Republican candidate has a strong lead at this point, states that award their delegates by a winner-take-all system on March 15 will assume enormous importance. Watch Florida (99) and Ohio (66). Illinois (69) and North Carolina (72), which also hold their contests on Super Tuesday, have a version of winner-take-all allocation.
- July 18 and 25: The Democratic Party’s convention begins on July 18 followed by the GOP’s the week of July 25. The mid-summer gatherings are earlier than recent conventions by design to give the parties’ nominees more time to campaign before Election Day.
- September 5: The home stretch. For those of us in Washington, campaigns never stop. But most Americans start tuning in to them in earnest after Labor Day. Polls have very little predictive value until about 100 days out from the election. If you thought polls mattered before, they really matter now.
- November 8. Election Day. It’s all over. Will Republicans hold the Senate? Will Democrats gain governorships? Will they pick up more than a handful of seats in the House? Will this election be the pollsters’ Waterloo? Join AEI’s Election Watch team for lunch on Thursday, November 10 to understand what happened and why.