The Future of the Democratic Party: Top Ten Prospects for 2016

Created: 31 August, 2012
Updated: 13 October, 2022
7 min read

The first part of this story covered the up-and-coming Republicans who are likely to run in 2016, should Gov. Romney lose. This covers the Democrats.

If President Obama wins re-election, these 10 Democrats can hypothetically be the next Democratic presidential candidate. Some of these names may not currently carry national attention, but they are the future of the Democratic Party. Some have family ties (Clinton, Cuomo), close relationships with past presidents (Biden, Emanuel), while others made a name for themselves in Congress (Schumer) and as governors (Kaine, Warner).The Democratic National Convention is also a great place to see who else is out there and who’s next.

Below are the top 10 Democratic presidential prospects.

1. Joe Biden

As the current sitting vice president, Biden has the closest relationship to Obama. Biden will have the best opportunity of continuing Obama’s policies, almost as an "Obama third term." Obama tapped Biden to head the Middle-Class Task Force to come up with solutions to help common Americans. Biden also led the Debt Commission with Congressional leaders to pass a deal. As one of the youngest senators in the history of Congress back in 1972, he has been in politics most of his life and ran for president twice before. Joe Biden is able to relate to the American people. One of his problems is that he doesn’t censor what he says as often as he sometimes should and makes comments such as the recent “Gonna put y’all back in chains” referring to Romney’s de-regulation of Wall Street. Also, Biden’s age comes into the question as he’ll be 74 come inauguration day.

2. Hilary Clinton

Secretary Clinton has the unique background from being the First Lady for 8 years and following that up with 8 years at being the Senator from New York to finally being nominated by Obama as Secretary of State. Her gender should not be seen as an impediment to her political career. Her name recognition goes beyond her political career, but as a candidate in 2008, she was Obama’s toughest opponent in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. That primary, which went into June before Clinton withdrew, showed Clinton to be an excellent fundraiser and campaigner. The greatest drawback to her running in 2016 would be her age; she would be 69 years old in 2016. Regan was 69 when he won and there have only been 3 president’s who were 65 and older at their inauguration.

3. Chuck Schumer

The ambitious senator from New York has been a vocal defender for Obama in Congress, where his name recognition is most high. He is the number 3 Democrat in the Senate behind Harry Reid and Dick Durbin and Sen. Schumer is also Democratic Policy Committee, which focuses on party unity and creating a party platform. As chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2006, he was instrumental in winning back the majority. However, he helped put together the 2008 bailout under Bush and Wall Street is one of his largest contributors. That will certainly come up if Chuck Schumer does run for president.

4. Tim Kaine

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Tim Kaine is the former mayor of Richmond and governor of Virginia, a major swing state. The most obvious obstacle to Kaine’s future aspirations is his upcoming senatorial election against George Allen. Allen was a former governor, senator, and representative, which makes Kaine’s 2012 race one of the most watched in the cycle. Kaine was also chairman of the DNC and endorsed candidate Obama back in 2007 allowing him close ties to other prominent Democrats across the country. Politically, Gov. Kaine’s views are moderate, as he does come from a swing state.

5. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Cuomo’s list of accomplishments are enough to receive votes from Democrats and Republicans alike. His bi-partisan form of governing New York saw the passage of the same-sex marriage bill, which also saw Cuomo reach national headlines. His earlier career as a lawyer saw him championing the rights of the poor and homeless in NYC and by the 90s he was in the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Clinton. On top of that, he has family connections on his side. He was married to a Kennedy and is the son of a former three term governor, Mario Cuomo.

6. Rahm Emanuel

Sending a dead fish in a box may seem an extreme reaction, but Rahm Emanuel earned a reputation of being a hard-edged politician. Back as an advisor to Bill Clinton in the 90s, Emanuel earned the nickname “Rahmbo.” In 2002 he entered the House of Representatives and by his second term, he chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee where he oversaw the House return to a Democratic majority the same way Schumer did for the Senate. After becoming Obama’s Chief of Staff for just under two years, he stepped down to successfully run for mayor of Chicago. Mayor Emanuel’s critics will point to his brief stint at Freddie Mac after Clinton appointed him as a director. Close ties to the real estate and investment market before it went bust may be a blemish, but Rahm’s skills in campaigning and fundraising shouldn’t be overlooked.

7. Mark Warner

Warner was a former governor of Virginia and the current senator. Prior to these roles, he was a venture capitalist and helped fund the wireless phone provider, Nextel in the early 90s, earning millions from the investment. Back when he was governor, he worked with both parties to restructure the tax code and increased tax returns by $1.5 billion, which he put towards education. After that term was over, he gave the keynote address at the 2008 DNC, following on Obama’s speech in 2004 that boosted his popularity on a national scale. In an interesting hypothetical May 2012 Public Policy Poll, Warner would beat current Virginia Governor, and possible Republican presidential candidate, Bob McDonnell in a 2014 Senate race and a 2016 Presidential run.

8. Martin O’Malley

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Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is 49 and served two terms as governor as well as two terms as mayor of Baltimore. He saw a decrease in the crime rate as mayor, increased taxes as governor to combat the deficit, fought for same-sex marriage equality, and public funding for illegal immigrants. The last two measures will be on the ballot in 2012, forming a coalition among supporters for both but also has strong opposition. Gov. O’Malley may have two more victories to claim by the time he finishes his second term as governor.

9. Evan Bayh

Like Cuomo, Evan Bayh has a famous politician for a father, Birch Bayh. Senator Birch Bayh oversaw two amendments to the Constitution and was a proponent of Title IX. Evan Bayh is a former two term senator and governor of a state that, before Obama, went Republican in presidential elections dating back to Nixon in 1968. The centrist Bayh favored smaller government and, as a fiscal conservative, lowered taxes and created a surplus for Indiana. However, during President Obama’s debates for health care reform, it became known that Sen. Bayh’s wife sat on the board of five major health insurance companies, earning millions. Chief among them were WellPoint, headquartered in Indiana and vocally opposed Obama’s health care overhaul.

10. Bill Richardson

With Spanish and Mexican heritage, Bill Richardson brings a unique background to the table. In the 1980s through the late 1990s Gov. Richardson was a representative for New Mexico. After that, Bill Clinton selected him as the Ambassador to the United Nations. Clinton followed that up by appointing Richardson as Secretary of Energy. He served at several think tanks and advisory firms before running for governor of New Mexico, which he won twice. During that time, he served as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and ran unsuccessfully against Obama in the 2008 presidential primary. As an elder statesman, Richardson helped ease tensions between the US and North Korea when Pyongyang was developing nuclear fuel rods. His age is a concern as he will be approaching 70 in 2016, but he has the ability to serve other pivotal roles in government.

There are several other notable mentions. Those that have youth on their side have time to foster greater name recognition and develop their career further. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has reached headlines as being vocal in his support of Obama’s budget and fiscal matters and Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ is 43 and a Rhodes Scholar just like Bill Clinton. Deval Patrick, a former Assistant Attorney General under Bill Clinton, followed Mitt Romney as Massachusetts’s governor and finishes his second term in 2014. Even Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.) deserves honorable mention as a prominent female leader in the House of Representatives and current DNC chairwoman.

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