Happy new year! Welcome to the start of the presidential campaign marathon. For your consideration are five likely candidates, each representing a distinct segment of the U.S. political spectrum.
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Happy new year! Welcome to the start of the presidential campaign marathon. For your consideration are five likely candidates, each representing a distinct segment of the U.S. political spectrum.

Republicans have three probable candidates. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush would represent the business conservative wing of the GOP -- Pew Research estimates this is 12 percent of likely voters. Bush would be the favorite of the big GOP spenders, the one percent that favors capitalism over democracy. Jeb's strengths are national name recognition, personable manner, Hispanic spouse, and reputation for moderation on social issues. His weaknesses: high unfavorability ratings and he appears too moderate for many Republicans. His likely platform: make America safe for big business, lower taxes and remove regulations. His slogan (before the Republican convention): "I'm as conservative as these other guys;" his slogan (after the GOP convention): "I'm not as conservative as those other Republicans." Among business conservatives, Jeb Bush has three likely opponents: Chris Christie, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney. All three have more baggage than Bush: Christie has a reputation as a sleazebag, Perry as an airhead who doesn't understand national politics, and Romney as a two-time loser.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee would represent the conservative values wing of the Republican Party -- Pew estimates this is 15 percent of likely voters. Huckabee would be the favorite of the Christian right, the zealots who favor Christianity over democracy. Mike's strengths include his affability and national name recognition; plus he's a Southern Baptist minister. His weakness is his dogmatic stance on social issues. His likely platform: make America a Christian nation. Slogan: "Let God decide." Huckabee's possible opponents include Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson. Cruz and Carson are big hits with the Tea Party base but lack national appeal. Rubio looks like a better choice for Vice President.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul would represent the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party -- Pew estimates this as 15 percent of likely voters. Paul's strengths include his reputation as a maverick and his dislike for the national security state. His weaknesses: Paul is a waffle; for example, he was for ending aid to Israel and then he backed off; he was for legalization of same-sex marriages but now says he would leave it up to the states. His likely platform: get rid of big government and big business. Slogan: "Every man for himself."

Democrats have two likely candidates, both women. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would represent centrist and religious Democrats -- Pew Research estimates this is 29 percent of likely voters. Hillary would the choice of Wall-Street Dems and most people-of-color. She appeals to big Democratic spenders who are liberal on social issues but against government regulation of their industry. Clinton's strengths include: name recognition, experience, a popular husband, and moderation on social issues. Her weaknesses: high unfavorability ratings and unwillingness to reform Wall Street. Platform: stay the course -- continue the progress of the Obama administration; gender equity. Slogan: "It's time for a woman to lead."

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren would represent the liberal wing of the Democratic Party -- Pew estimates this as 17 percent of likely voters. Her strengths include her intelligence, her reputation as a maverick, and her stance against Wall Street (and big business in general). Weaknesses: low national name recognition, inexperience, and largely unknown foreign policy perspective. Platform: break up the big banks and make the one percent pay their fair share. Slogan: "The system is rigged."

(According to Pew Research the remaining 12 percent of likely voters are independents, Pew calls them "hard-pressed skeptics.")

On major issues these five candidates represent a broad spectrum of opinion. On economic inequality, Warren would take the lead promoting a equitable society. Clinton and Bush waffle on this issue. While Paul says, "Let the market decide," and Huckabee responds, "Let God decide."

On job creation, Clinton and Warren support increasing the minimum wage and Federal job creation plans. Bush and Paul would, "Let the market decide."

On free trade, only Elizabeth Warren opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Clinton and Warren believe global climate change is real and would reduce carbon emissions via government regulations. Bush, Huckabee, and Paul respond, "I'm not a scientist."

Warren and Paul would reduce domestic surveillance and the size of U.S. military and intelligence. Clinton, Bush, and Huckabee would leave things as they are.

On immigration, Jeb Bush has a more humane attitude towards undocumented immigrants than do Huckabee and Paul (Bush said, "Immigration is not a felony but an act of love.") Clinton and Warren support immigration reform and a "pathway to citizenship."

On social Issues (Abortion, Drugs, Same-sex marriage), Mike Huckabee is the most conservative. In January he told a Republican gathering "The government shouldn't help women who can't control their 'libido or their reproductive system' by providing co-pay-free birth control and that Democrats are encouraging women to be 'victims of their gender.'" Bush and Paul are far to the right of Clinton and Warren.

Welcome to 2015. Cover your ears and hold onto your wallets!

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