Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Florida Sen. Marco Rubio don’t necessarily agree on everything –- as we’ve learned in the past few weeks, whether or not they support the same plan for comprehensive immigration reform largely depends on which side of the bed Bush has woken up on that morning. But if there’s one thing the two men have in common, it’s a real, pointed dislike of premature presidential speculation.
Back in January of 2011, Rubio was a new senator still working out of a temporary office when he was confronted by reporters, who really needed to know right then and there if he had any plans to run for president in 2012. “It's a circus. You guys are part of the circus," Rubio eyerolled, "This is stuff ... they talk about. They'll talk about somebody else next week.” And they totally did talk about other people in the weeks to come. This did not stop anyone from talking about Rubio, however.
Still, while it seemed a little absurd to be wondering if a guy who only got to Washington yesterday was ready to run the whole show, the press did at least wait until almost three years had passed since the 2008 election to ask about it. On the other hand, as of this past Sunday, only about four months had passed since our last presidential race. And so I understand why Jeb Bush, when asked by “Meet The Press” host David Gregory if he was going to run in 2016, answered with a more biting pejorative, “Man, you guys are crack addicts.”
Naturally, the relative unfairness of comparing David Gregory with anyone who shows the singleminded determination of a crack addict was not lost on Bush, who immediately amended the comparison to, “OK, heroin addict, is that better?"
A bit! If only because the withdrawal seems to be so painful. See, the joke used to be that as soon as the presidential election season concludes, the midterm election campaign begins. And as soon as midterms were over, everyone got to take six hours off before turning into a fountain of breathless speculation over the presidential campaign. But this year, we seem to have stumbled out of the gate looking to skip the midterms entirely.
There is already a Wikipedia page dedicated to the 2016 presidential election, and looking at it is like staring at a sickness. Right now, the page lists the people who have publicly expressed an interest in running for the White House, along with “other potential candidates.” If there’s good news to report, it’s that the former category of politicians -– those who have explicitly expressed an interest -– is still quite restrained. Bush, Chris Christie, Jon Huntsman, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum are on the list for the GOP, and Joe Biden is the only Democrat. That’s okay. We can live with that.
On the other hand, the list of “other potential candidates” is completely out of control. As of this moment, it includes 49 people, and as near as I can tell, they're included in this list if anyone, anywhere, at any time suggested that they might or should or could run for president. And so, you get a mix of those people who we know are thinking about running but just won’t say (Martin O’Malley, Bobby Jindal), partisan wish-list candidates (Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cruz), the “these guys ran the last time” set (Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry), a handful of “most likely nots” (Kamala Harris, Jim DeMint), and some “please please please no please don’t” candidates (Evan Bayh, Sarah Palin).
It’s just too early to be doing this much speculating on who might run. It’s too early to be tracking which politician shows up at a barbecue in Iowa. It’s too early for an early primary state -– I’m looking at you, Nevada! -– to be mucking about with the 2016 primary calendar and pushing the other states to move their contests back to Thanksgiving. And why is anyone talking about canceling the Iowa Straw Poll? Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and Gov. Terry Branstad are already talking about doing away with the presidential election-year tradition. It’s way too soon to be worried about it! Besides, if you get rid of the Iowa Straw Poll, how will Tim Pawlenty find out no one wants him to run for president?
Right now, my favorite candidate in the 2016 race is Hillary Clinton, because -– as the media tells me -– she is “freezing the field.” What that means is that she’s such a force majeure as a potential candidate, that until she says she’s in or out either way, none of the other 2016 wannabes can afford to stick their toes into presidential waters.
While Chris Cillizza suggests that Clinton can’t spend too much time not telling people what she intends to do, I hope that she refrains from announcing her intentions for a good, long while. I think that in the meantime, everyone should just try to calm down and stop worrying about an election that’s many years away.
Besides, the midterm elections are an exciting, spontaneous, id-driven wreck of a political season –- way more fun than its tweedy presidential year counterpart. So let’s allow the midterms to unfold on schedule, if only because it will inevitably identify the next young political hotshot to emerge from obscurity and come to Washington. Whereupon he or she will get barraged by a bunch of idiot reporters with questions about his or her plans for 2016, and regret ever coming here.
This story appears in Issue 40 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, March 15.