Road to the White House 2016: Candidates, Issues and Campaigns

Road to the White House 2016: Candidates, Issues and Campaigns

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Christian Holm
April 15, 2015

The Washington Center’s spring interns heard three top political analysts from across the political spectrum preview the 2016 presidential election during an engaging April 10 Simpson-Mineta Leaders Series discussion.


The semester’s final SMLS featured MSNBC commentator and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele; Rachel Smolkin, digital executive director for CNN; and Alexis Simendinger, White House correspondent for Real Clear Politics.


Coincidentally, the discussion began just minutes after news broke that both Hilary Clinton and Marco Rubio would begin their presidential campaigns the following Monday. The development added an exciting wrinkle to an event planned to focus on the road to the 2016 campaign.


The trio of analysts agreed on one thing: The 2016 elections will likely be as much of a battle within each party as it will be between the parties. Both Democrats and Republicans will choose between established stalwarts (Clinton and Jeb Bush) and emerging young power players (Martin O’Malley, Rubio and Rand Paul) to determine what direction each party will take in the general election.


”I could see a candidate like Rand Paul making a serious bid because of his willingness to reach out to new audiences and go where other GOP candidates won’t go. For Hillary, it’s more about working out the issues that slowed down her 2008 campaign and perfecting her message,” Simendinger said.


Following the panel discussion, C-SPAN Senior Executive Producer Steve Scully invited students to ask questions of the guest speakers.


James Marsh: (Institution: Gannon University, Pa.; Internship: Akerman Senterfitt) I know that you spent three years in seminary before getting into politics. How did that experience shape your political career?


Steele: The biggest thing I learned was how to remove the exterior of yourself to get to the interior; that’s what faith is all about. I can certainly tell you that I would have done a very different job as lieutenant governor and chairman without my faith.


Daniel Roman: (Institution: Monmouth University, N.J.; Internship: The White House) With so many far-right conservatives in the GOP field, is it possible for such a conservative candidate to get elected?


Smolkin: To create an electable brand, the GOP will have to define what “conservative” means. President [George W.] Bush did it when he won the presidency in 2000 by labeling himself as a “compassionate conservative.” That label really connected with people well. [Republicans] will have to do something like that again.


Courtney Thomas: (Institution: Furman University, S.C.; Internship: Council for Opportunity in Education) Are increased restrictions on voting rights aimed at suppressing minority voters a good strategy for the GOP, given the shifting demographics of the electorate?


Steele: This issue has divided the GOP completely. I think you have to separate the reality from the rhetoric. We can’t ask an entire community of people for our vote and then encourage them not to show up at the polls. Voters aren’t stupid.


The SMLS creates a forum for TWC students around the world to engage with extraordinary leaders, explore issues of contemporary public concern and articulate their own views about the meaning of leadership and citizenship in a global society. SMLS sessions happen three times in the fall and spring semesters and twice during TWC’s summer term.


To view photos from the SMLS, click here

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More