Post Midterms, the 2016 Presidential Contenders Recalibrate

Some candidates are already gearing up for 2016, while others are nowhere to be found.
Photograph by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The 2014 midterm elections may be in the books, but for the crop of contenders who hope to be elected president in 2016, the next chapter is already being written. For some that means jumping into campaign mode, for others it means laying low and nursing political wounds, and for Texas Governor Rick Perry it means spending the morning in court. 

Here’s how the politicians expected to run for their party’s nomination have spent their time since Tuesday. 

Rand Paul 

Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s main goal since the GOP's D-Day has been to tie Democrats’ losses not just to Obama, but to favored 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton. “Today, voters sent a message to President Obama and Hillary Clinton, rejecting their policies and many of their candidates,” he wrote in a Facebook post late Tuesday called #HillarysLosers. Paul has also said that he would push for tax reform in January. 

Paul Ryan 

Republican Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan is the favorite to become the Ways and Means Committee chairman. Given the nature of the job—proposing sometimes unpopular reforms to entitlement programs—it would probably not be helpful to a presidential bid. Like Paul, Ryan also went after Hillary Clinton. During an appearance on the "Hugh Hewitt Show" Thursday, Ryan said that the substantial Democratic loses showed that she could lose in 2016. “It just tells you that she’s not inevitable,” he said. “I think she’s very beatable.”

Rick Perry 

Not all Republicans are having a great post-election week. After being allowed to miss the first two pretrial hearings, Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry will made his first court appearance on Thursday morning. The governor was indicted in August by an Austin grand jury on abuse of power charges, which his team has called a politically-motivated attack from Democrats. His lawyers will attempt to get the case dismissed on technicalities.

Bernie Sanders

Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has made it clear that he thinks Americans made a mistake on Tuesday. “I fear that the American people who want change … I think perhaps they have just voted for some folks whose agenda is very different than what they want and need,” Sanders said Wednesday during an appearance on CNN. Sanders, also retweeted a link to a statement he released last month, making it clear that he’s not going to caucus with Republicans. In the statement, he said he intended to caucus with the party that supports stances like rebuilding infrastructure, raising the wage, pay equity for women and a single-payer health-care system. “I could be wrong,” Sanders said, “but my guess is that will not be the Republican Party.”

Hillary Clinton 

Hillary Clinton hasn’t made any major appearances, or even minor ones, but is still the talk of the town. What do the midterms mean for Hillary? One thing we know for sure is that, according to the exit polls, more people thought Clinton would be a bad president than a good president. Paul, Christie and other GOP hopefuls fared worse, but it’s another sign that running for president isn’t good for your popularity.

Scott Walker

Winning re-election means Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker gets to stay on the 2016 presidential long list. Earlier this year he declined to commit to serving his full term if elected, but on Tuesday night he told the Associated Press that his decision on running “will have to wait [until] long after” he passes the next state budget, which might be next spring.

Mitt Romney


Ted Cruz 

In an interview with The Daily Beast Tuesday night, Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz said he was prepared to work with the White House. But on Wednesday he and a few likeminded senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, threatening to use “all procedural means necessary” to prevent Obama from following through with his promise to “lawlessly grant amnesty.” Cruz, who will likely be the bane of Mitch McConnell’s existence, has also repeatedly refused to say whether he supports him for Majority Leader.

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush released a statement Tuesday night congratulating “Majority Leader Mitch McConnell” on a great night. “Republicans in Congress now have the opportunity–and the responsibility–to demonstrate to American voters that our party can effectively govern,” he wrote.

Marco Rubio 

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio released his own statement, saying he looks “forward to working in a Senate Republican majority to advance the reform agenda I’ve presented this year.” In January the senator released a plan to help families lift themselves out of poverty, which doesn’t include raising the minimum wage. 

Chris Christie

After visiting 19 states in 5 days to help rally the troops for Republican governors, New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie probably took a well-deserved nap. On Wednesday, he has a fancy two-course lunch at the four Seasons Grill Room with a few billionaires. 

Bobby Jindal

Louisiana’s Republican Governor Bobby Jindal gave a late endorsement on Wednesday to Republican Representative Bill Cassidy, who’s heading into a runoff election to try to unseat Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu. "I don't think Mary, anymore, represents Louisiana's values in Washington D.C.," Jindal said of Landrieu. 

Martin O’Malley

After watching his second in command lose, Maryland Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley has spent his post-election days being taunted by Governor Christie. The outgoing governor’s lieutenant, Anthony Brown, suffered a surprise defeat for governor against Republican Larry Hogan and many saw the race as a referendum on O’Malley, including Christie. “Even for Maryland, it got to be too much,” Christie said Wednesday of O’Malley’s policies. “That’s quite an accomplishment.”

Joe Biden

On Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife hosted a reception commemorating Breast Cancer Awareness month, but otherwise he has kept a low profile. Given that he predicted on Monday that Democrats would keep the Senate and that Greg Orman would likely caucus with his party, that’s probably for the best.

Elizabeth Warren

The general consensus is that unlike Biden, O’Malley and Clinton, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and populist hero, backed winners. Her record on the trail (of the 11 candidates she campaigned for, six won and five lost) is decent given the circumstances, and while she’s still a “no” on running in 2016, her supporters saw the results as more proof that Democrats need to get with the Warren program. 

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