By Alyssa Sanford News Assistant
Rubio, Clinton, Paul and Cruz.
Three Republican senators and a former Democratic Secretary of State are currently vying for a presidential nomination from their respective parties. While primary elections are still nine months away, there’s a lot that these candidates can do in the meantime to improve their public image before it comes down to the inevitable vote.
For instance, Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX) has a 4 percent Republican backing, according to a CNN/ORC International poll. Perhaps that’s because he has only been in office since 2012 and lacks widespread recognition, as some experts at the Washington Post suggested.
But his staunch conservatism might actually alienate moderates who are looking for a fiscally-conservative president. He may attract support because of his infamous 21-hour filibuster against Obamacare in 2013, but he also holds some radical views that can’t possibly entice a band of truly loyal proponents.
The New York Times posted an editorial on Friday, April 17, about Cruz’s stance on the Second Amendment, in which they quoted him as saying, “(It) is a Constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home, our lives and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny — for the protection of liberty.” The suggestion that the right to bear arms might be retooled to mean that anyone can rise up against perceived governmental tyranny is ludicrous, and it could have disastrous consequences. Strongly held beliefs like these could block Cruz’s path to a Republican nomination.
Senator Rand Paul (R–KY) is faring better than Cruz at this stage; presently, the ORC International poll ranks him at 12 percent backing, which puts him in third place behind Jeb Bush (16 percent) and Scott Walker (13 percent). Paul is an interesting candidate because he is difficult to define. He holds libertarian views on social issues but has also been affiliated with the Tea Party, a right-wing conservative group.
Like his father, Ron Paul, who was a presidential hopeful in 1988, 2008 and 2012 according to ballotpedia.org, Rand Paul refuses to be defined by traditional party-line ideology. In fact, the Post noted that in his official campaign announcement on Tuesday, April 7, he “frequently knocked the Republican party throughout his remarks.” It could be problematic, but Paul’s real issues lie with his public image.
In recent months, Paul has gained a reputation for being short-tempered with reporters, even going so far as to ‘shush’ a female journalist, according to CNN. If Paul wants to have a serious shot at a presidential nomination, he has to overcome this somewhat belligerent attitude toward the free press and adopt a more stately manner.
Of course, this is second nature for Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State who announced her candidacy on Sunday, April 12, in an online video. She is a diplomat with vast experience in foreign policy, White House politics and governance because she’s done it all before and with acclaim.
There’s considerable support for Clinton in her second run for the presidency. A CBS News poll projects that 81 percent of Democrats would consider supporting her. As for moderates who are socially liberal, Clinton is a compelling candidate because she has a chance at making history by becoming the first woman to earn a nomination from a major political party and possibly the first woman to become president.
However, there are problems with which to contend. The email scandal may continue to plague Clinton, as well as her somewhat hypocritical stance on women’s rights, as the New York Times reports her family foundation accepts donations from Middle Eastern countries that actively suppress women’s rights. She’ll need to be as transparent and forthcoming as possible, something that a skilled politician isn’t always good at being.
For Marco Rubio (R–FL), Clinton is a perfect target. In his campaign announcement on Monday, April 13, he attacked “a leader from yesterday” who wants to take the country back to its problematic roots, according to CNN. But it could also be interpreted as an attack on Rubio’s good friend and potential candidate, Jeb Bush.
Rubio is the youngest candidate out there at 43 years old, which is promising for voters looking for a fresh-faced politician to lead the nation into a new age. But because Bush is part of a prominent political family, it looks like he might take support away from Rubio, regardless of his age and his affiliation with the increasingly unpopular Bush legacy. Rubio also only has about 6 percent backing at this point according to the Times, which could keep dropping once Bush formally announces.
The four aforementioned candidates are viable; however, until frontrunners Scott Walker or Jeb Bush announce their candidacy, the race remains wide open. It might also be interesting to see former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina go head-to-head with Hillary Clinton, but a nomination seems like a longshot.
For now, the candidates should focus on public relations. This is particularly true for Clinton because she is the lone wolf in the Democratic race. Until then, I’m not entirely convinced that any of these candidates are prime presidential material.