2016: Rare same-state pairings in the early stages challenge both Republicans, Democrats
Evan Vucci, Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. — The early stages of the 2016 presidential race feature an unusual cluster of high-powered potential candidates hailing from the same states, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan among them.
Walker gained Republican Party cult-figure status when he beat back a labor union attempt to oust him from office last year. A few weeks later, Ryan shot into the GOP stratosphere as the party's vice presidential nominee. Now, party activists view both as having serious shots at the White House should they choose to run. And their decisions — as well as those by pairs of New Yorkers, Floridians and perhaps even Texans — might just come down to personal conversation between longtime friends and political allies.
"At some point people are going to have to make a choice," said Brandon Scholz, a former executive director of the Wisconsin GOP. "That's a really hard choice for Republicans in Wisconsin."
Party faithful in New York, Florida and Texas face a similar predicament, with at least two possible home-state presidential candidates sharing overlapping constituencies and common financial donors. It all means that many of their friends are left watching, waiting — and, of course, prodding — while each weighs whether to launch a campaign.
Hillary Rodham Clinton sits atop some early polls and is the favorite among Democrats if she runs. But insiders view a fellow New Yorker, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a former Cabinet member under her husband, President Bill Clinton, as a strong alternative if the former first lady bypasses another presidential campaign. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also could be a possibility in a Clinton-free New York primary.
Florida has former Gov. Jeb Bush and his political protege, Sen. Marco Rubio, both of whom are keeping their options open for 2016. Several of their closest confidants have ties to both camps, and Bush works from offices in the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, just a two-mile drive from Rubio's West Miami home.
Texas has two potential Republican candidates, too: Gov. Rick Perry, whose 2012 campaign flamed out against Mitt Romney, and freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, a brash conservative who is headlining a GOP fundraiser in South Carolina on Friday that's stoking talk of a possible candidacy.
At this stage, few party loyalists expect such pairings to turn into full-fledged rivalries in the early primaries, or on debate stages. But the odd situation has forced many insiders in the potential candidates' home states to avoid playing favorites. And it has turned on its head the old notion that a state can serve as a springboard for only a single "favorite son" candidate. With online fundraising networks and the ability of wealthy donors to bankroll entire ad campaigns, multiple figures from a single state can emerge.
Rewind to 2012, when former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a favorite among libertarians, and his home state governor, Perry, each had turns in the spotlight. Paul eventually outlasted Perry, who was staggered by poor debate performances and dropped out while the congressman stayed in the race, perhaps partly to lay the groundwork for a future presidential run by his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Also, in the last presidential race, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty got an early look from Republican loyalists, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., later rocketed to the ranks of contenders after winning a key Iowa test vote — a moment that forced the ex-governor to fold his campaign. In Minnesota, there were same-state troubles from the start — Bachmann's presence froze what had been expected to be a reliable home-state fundraising base for Pawlenty. Old factions in the state's Republican ranks resurfaced, fueling a rivalry that saw Pawlenty and Bachmann clash at debates.
Any friction in the 2016 campaign remains muted for now.
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