Monday, August 12, 2013

Whoops! Maybe Ted Cruz...

...isn't running for president in 2016 after all. On Saturday Sarah Palin all but endorsed Rand Paul:

“I’m on team Rand. Rand Paul understands. He gets the whole notion of don’t tread on me government. Whereas Chris Christie is for big government and trying to go-along-to-get along in so many respects.

“But Chris Christie’s for more government and his record proves that, whereas Rand Paul with that healthy libertarian streak that we need more of, in our politicians -- team Rand Paul.”

I had thought for sure that Ms. Palin would back Sen. Cruz, but I take this as a signal that the freshman senator from Texas isn't running. All those trips to places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina must have been just to raise Cruz's profile and improve his fundraising nationally.

I'm also beginning to rethink my prediction that the GOP nominee in 2016 will be the most conservative candidate in the race. I still think the Republicans are itching to commit a Barry Goldwater-type suicide, but only now if the economy is really good (in which case they have no chance of winning anyway) or if the economy is really bad (in which case they could persuade voters to change direction entirely).

But I don't think the economy in 2016 will be either rocking, or in the dumps. Instead, I expect things to remain much as they are today: a slow, steady recovery -- nothing to get terribly excited about either way. The stock market will be higher, the housing picture improving and the unemployment rate falling slowly, albeit due more to retiring Baby Boomers than any great surge in job creation.

It's likely that most people won't be feeling a whole lot better in 2016 than they do today. (At the end of FDR's second term, the U. S. economy was on the mend only as a result of arms sales to Great Britain. Absent the Second World War, Roosevelt may very well have been turned out of office in 1940.)

So if the economy is only middling in 2016 I expect the Republicans to nominate someone who can actually win the general election, like a Chris Christie or a Jeb Bush. But my gut tells me that Bush doesn't have the fire in the belly (nor does Paul Ryan), so the governor of New Jersey may get the nod.

If nothing else, Palin's remarks this weekend signal that there could still be one heck of a fight in 2016 between the tea party base and the establishment wing of the Republican Party.

I'll still bring the popcorn!

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