By Scott Rasmussen
One of the sure signs that political activists have too much time on their hands is all the chatter about who will win the 2016 presidential nominations.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a lock on the Democratic nomination and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the frontrunner among Republicans. Some of the silly chatter from the condescending class in Washington wonders if the Republican base will be smart enough to nominate someone like Christie or if they will insist on a more conservative candidate.
These attitudes are bolstered by early public opinion polls showing Clinton and Christie both leading the primary battles. Not only that, Christie is doing better than other Republicans in matchups against Clinton.
Despite that, I doubt that either Clinton or Christie will top their party tickets in 2016.
I say that despite the fact that there are many things I admire about both of them.
Among the Democrats, the conventional argument goes that Clinton has an enormous lead and a great political organization backing her. Vice President Joe Biden is a serious candidate in his own mind but an afterthought to other Democrats. Nobody else is even registering a pulse in the early polls.
But as others have noted, the last candidate to have such an enormous early advantage was none other than Hillary Clinton herself, just eight years ago. At that time, hardly anybody had even heard of Barack Obama.
Among the Republicans, Christie has a smaller lead, but his resume includes a tantalizing electability argument. After all, he managed to win as a Republican in a solidly Democratic state, and he is coasting to a huge re-election victory. Additionally, his blunt style has won him approving notice in many places around the country. Christie is also benefiting from very positive media coverage at the moment.
The New Jersey governor's campaign is looking a lot like an earlier campaign by another Northeastern Republican -- former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. At the same time Hillary Clinton looked unbeatable for the 2008 presidential nomination, Giuliani was leading the GOP polls. His strength was built upon a national profile earned in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.
Like Christie, though, Giuliani's lead was partly the result of a crowded field. He had a base of supporters, while other voters were divided among many other options. But he also had a number of electoral liabilities that placed an effective cap on his level of support. That's true of Christie today.
Still, Giuliani led in the polls almost until the end of 2007. But once the voting began, reality set in, and the liabilities became clear. The mayor did poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire, took a break before losing in Florida and then dropped out of the race. He didn't win a single primary, much less the nomination.
None of us know what the political environment will look like when 2016 arrives. We don't know how the candidates will perform on the long campaign trail. Some, like Barack Obama, will exceed expectations. Others, like Fred Thompson and Rick Perry, will disappoint.
When all the votes are tallied, I expect both parties will nominate decent candidates. But the names Clinton and Christie will not top the ticket in November 2016.