ᔥ The Atlantic
The Republicans have a stack of candidates lined up for 2016, and the primary will be bloody good. On the other side there is just doubt.
“Whew, man, that’s a tough one,” said Jeanette Baust, a 55-year-old educator and activist from Denver who was attending the progressive conference along with her partner, Evelyn Hanssen. “I guess I’d have to say Elizabeth Warren if she can get elected.” What about Colorado’s Democratic senators, Michael Bennet* and Mark Udall, and governor, John Hickenlooper? The women didn’t think they had national potential.
The bench of up-and-coming talent in the Republican Party is an instructive contrast. A recent straw-poll ballot for vice presidential choices at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Chicago featured 22 names, from retreads like Newt Gingrich to fresh faces like Rubio to newly minted political stars like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Nine major Republican candidates participated in this year’s presidential primary, and while it was seen as a weak field overall, Republicans dismayed by the spectacle of Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain as momentary front-runners comforted themselves by contemplating the party’s many future stars in the Senate, House, and governorships. Many of those rising stars, like New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Virginia’s Bob McDonnell , have already begun building relationships with their party’s national base by appearing at party events outside their home states or on the busy circuit of conservative activist conferences.
The Democrats might have a shallow talent pool in 2016 but they are building.
Many Democrats acknowledge the looming talent gap and give the GOP credit for its candidate recruitment and training in recent years. They are trying to match that effort down the line: Numerous sessions at the Take Back conference focused on candidate development at the minor-league level, informed in part by state-level controversies that have recently made national news, from the recent Wisconsin recall to numerous states’ abortion-ultrasound bills. Even as they had trouble coming up with names for 2016, many at the conference were eager to tout up-and-coming candidates currently incubating at the state legislative or congressional-contender level.
The big thing is the Republicans have invested heavily in “down ticket” or “farm” candidates, the people that do the work getting elected at local or state level, and are training to take the step up. The last twenty years has seen a massive number of Republicans get elected on school boards, local councils, to their state congress or senate, other state positions, and build name recognition, campaign teams and donor networks that let them take a step up. More farm or down ticket candidates coming through mean more potential governors, senators or congressmen.
The Republicans have spent twenty years doing this.
So what has National done? Anything at all to help people win down ticket races? Training up local government candidates? Supporting the de facto National C&R and iCitz? Stopping stupid rebrands that mean nothing because organisations are competent to begin with? Helping these organisations become competent to get more good down ticket candidates?