Looking Ahead To 2016: Enough About The Candidates, What About The Message?

Douglas E. Schoen and Jessica Tarlov

If today’s paper was any guide, you’d think that the 2016 presidential election was just around the corner and not years down the road.

Former Obama advisor David Axelrod took to Twitter to remind us that we still have midterm elections to get through before we should be thinking 2016. He tweeted, “With the Senate seriously at risk, and the Koch Brothers spending prodigiously, shouldn’t Dem funders be focused on ’14 and not ’16 races?”

Axelrod’s tweet came in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report that Democrats are worried that pro Hillary Clinton super PAC Priorities USA could eat into donations that candidate’s need for the midterm elections.

Democrats are right to worry about this. Not only in terms of potential seats lost in the Senate or missed gains in the House, but also for the message it sends to 2014 candidates and the electorate overall.

It follows that in the midst of all the frenzy over the frontrunners for the nomination in 2016 – will Hillary run? Can Chris Christie survive “Bridgegate”? Will we see another Bush take aim for the nation’s highest office? – analysis of potential candidates has been consumed with personality politics, scandals and fundraising potential.

But is that what really matters in electing a president? We don’t think so.


2.9.11ChrisChristieTownHallByLuigiNovi7 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enough about the candidates. What about the message?

Headline grabbing stories have pushed actual content by the wayside. This is certainly, at least in part, a consequence of the culture of celebrity and how that has informed politics. That said, the danger here is that we’re not electing Tom Cruise to be president, so why should we treat politicians in the same way?

Our politics have become image based rather than not content based. And that needs to change – fast.

A candidate’s most important role is to be the vessel for their vision and the message they want to communicate to the American electorate.

We need to know how candidates are going to make Americans respond to them and their ideas. And, crucially, what their plan is to turn the country around.

We want to hear – and believe Americans want to hear – a clear message from our political elite that they understand that this is not about process, but the future of our country.

Our economy is slowing. While we may have picked up steam in 2013, we are still facing a subpar recovery from the recession that ended in 2009. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, we can expect federal budget deficits between 2014 and 2023 to be $7.3 trillion – a whopping $1 trillion more than predicted because of weaker economic growth. Apparently, we only have the potential to grow at 2.1 percent per year over the next decade.

We need a pro-growth strategy for the economy. It’s not too late for the Simpson-Bowles plan, which could generate $300 billion in revenue and spending savings in the first 10 years by moving to the Chained CPI (consumer price index), a more accurate gauge of inflation, which would translate to $1.2 trillion in the second 10 years. We could simplify the tax code and lower income-tax rates. And make $585 billion in health-care cuts in the next 10 years, which will translate into $2.8 trillion in the next ten.

Read more at Forbes.com