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HANDICAPPING THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION - JULY, 2015

Political pundits make predictions. Then they change their minds. Then, at the last minute, they change their minds again. And the only way that you'll know whether they were right or wrong at any point during the process is if Jon Stewart (or the replacement guy) does a piece about it on The Daily Show.

I'm going to handicap the American Presidential primaries and election. In the primaries, I'll call the Favorite, the Long Shot, the Wild Card, and my Prediction. And at the bottom of each segment, Republican and Democrat, I'll repeat my initial take on those four categories so you can rate my ability to prognosticate. I'll post about every month until the winners have emerged.

DEMOCRATS
It won't be a coronation but it's hard to bet against Hillary. Is the country ready to elect Bernie, a self-proclaimed Socialist? I don't think so. Not after eight years of a Communist like Obama. (That's sarcasm, in case you missed it.) Can a dark house, like O'Malley or Webb, match Hillary's money and name recognition? I don't think so. Is there a better political pro to have in your corner than Bill? I don't think so. Am I going to bet against Hillary? I don't think so.

I don't dismiss Bernie lightly. He strikes a chord. But I'm with Barney Frank, a guy with certified Progressive credentials. There's really not that much space between Hillary and Bernie, Barney says. I believe him. He's worked with both for years. Therefore, the inevitable animus of a primary fight will only hurt the Democratic Party and its chance to elect the next President. Without primary opposition, Humphrey beats Nixon and, maybe, Romney beats Obama.

The Wild Card is, of course, Elizabeth Warren. She says that she's not running. If she did, she'd certainly suck the air out of Bernie's candidacy. She'd be the female alternative to Hillary for women that Fiona will never be. And you have to admire a woman with the flexibility to be a Texas Republican in the 20th Century and a Massachusetts Progressive in the 21st. But I believe Warren. I don't think that she'll run. This time.

O'Malley and Webb are good men. Chafee has an interesting history. Biden is...Biden. And there are others. But I'm going to have to live with this for the next several months. So...

Favorite: Hillary Clinton
Long Shot: Bernie Sanders
Wild Card: Elizabeth Warren
Prediction: Hillary Clinton

REPUBLICANS
While the Democrats present a clear front-runner in Hillary, the Republicans can barely hold their noses long enough to proclaim Jeb Bush their favorite. Hillary may have baggage, but Jeb has steamer trunks - his grandfather, his father, his brother, and his conservative credentials will all be dragged into the mix. (If you don't know Grand Dad's story, you really need to do your research. It's fascinating in the way that the Kennedy story is fascinating. That is to say, cringe worthy.)

It should be noted that, as is the case with Hillary, in addition to name recognition Jeb has the second of the most important pieces of the puzzle in hand...money. In fact, he has raised almost twice as much money as Hillary for his campaign and his Super PAC combined.

After Jeb, anybody who claims insight into the Republican field is blowing smoke. Could Scott Walker or John Kasich be the next Mike Dukakis? Is Rubio too young? Huckabee too Christian? Cruz too crazy? Paul too Paul?

Trump? Look, The Donald is just smart enough to understand that he doesn't stand a chance of being nominated. But any publicity is good publicity, especially when you can solicit contributions from the average Joe to pay for it. Ben Carson? He's creating buzz but, just as the country is not ready to elect a men who calls himself a Socialist, so the country is not ready for two black Presidents in a row.

Don't forget, Rick Santorum was the last man standing against Romney in the last go round and he actually won eleven primaries. And, since Huckabee is the most likely alternative of the Christian Right, the two of them combine as my Long Shots. I have to admit that it's just too early to choose between (among?), in order of likelihood, Walker and Kasich and Graham and Cruz and Rubio and Paul...I promise that I'll narrow this one down in future.

Favorite: Jeb Bush
Long Shot: Rick Santorum / Mike Huckabee
Wild Card: Any Current/Former Republican Governor/Senator Not Named Christie or Perry
Prediction: Jeb Bush

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