WASHINGTON: With eight declared Republican presidential hopefuls and eight more expected to run, consensus has been brushed aside for 2016, as GOP rivals battle to shape the future of the party, and America, in the post-Obama era. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton may have the aura of inevitability about her, but it is another world for the GOP, where social conservatives and fiscal hawks are galloping alongside moderates as they race to see which philosophy prevails.
At no time in the last half-century has such a diverse crop of politicians sought a presidential nomination.
Republican tradition has largely had it that party leaders engage in the so-called “imaginary primary,” in which the establishment anoints a consensus candidate before the primary contests kick off at the start of an election year.
Democrats engage in such formulas too, and Clinton, a former first lady, senator and secretary of state under President Barack Obama, has clearly emerged as her party’s likely flag-bearer.
But “there is no consensus candidate” for Republicans in 2016, Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University, told AFP.
Instead there are governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin and first-term senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, two Cuban-Americans with rockstar-like followings.
Then there is former Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina and neurosurgeon and political neophyte Ben Carson.
And don’t forget ex-governor and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee, New York’s pro-environment 9/11 governor George Pataki, and another Bush for good measure.
Even Donald Trump, the property tycoon and media figure who perpetually threatens to run, is in the mix.
“They’re having a thorough vetting—not just of people and candidates, but also of issues and the direction of the party,” University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala told AFP.
Having not held the White House since George W. Bush is “a good thing for a party to do to renew itself,” he said.
There has been no Republican commander-in-chief other than Bushes since the 1980s, and candidates are all-too-aware of the historic difficulty in a party holding the White House for three straight terms.