In politics there are windows of opportunity that differ from candidate to candidate based upon age, job status, political environment and chance.
If Mario Cuomo seriously entertained the thought of running for president, he missed his opportunity in 1992. Had the New York governor sought his party’s nomination in 1992, Bill Clinton would have been an also-ran instead of the 42nd president.
Instead Cuomo, at the time the Democratic Party’s most imposing figure, punted, either not harboring the desire to make a run or miscalculating President George H. W. Bush’s re-election odds and thinking his own better in 1996.
Cuomo missed as best chance of winning in 1992 and saw whatever White House dreams shatteted after getting caught in the national GOP undertow in 1994.
Though only a few years removed from the Illinois senate and into his first term as a U.S. Senator, Barack Obama saw a ripe political opportunity in 2008 even if his experience was lacking. He and his team gambled that there was truly no time like the present and seized it. Who’s to say Obama would have been re-elected in 2010, in what was another strong Republican year?
On the Republican side two men chose to sit out the presidential campaign in 2012, either would have been a stronger challenger to President Obama.
The first was Indiana governor Mitch Daniels. After delivering the best speech at the 2011 CPAC event in Washington, Daniels pulled the brake-cord on a possible presidential run (in 2012 and forever) with the GOP lost its most eloquent advocate for national fiscal reform.
On the opposite side of the age spectrum was Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. The ambitious son of Indian immigrants has been a rumored presidential aspirant since before he took the oath of office as governor and proved plenty of state political observers wrong by not pulling the trigger, though perhaps he should have.
Surely the young, consistently conservative, hyper, policy wonk, non-traditional Republican would have made a better candidate than the old, pedigreed, privileged, wooden, philosophically inconsistent uncle of ObamaCare in the 2012 election.
At a minimum, the GOP’s terrible showing with Asian voters in 2012 would have improved.
Rather than compete directly for the party presidential nomination, Jindal energetically got behind Texas governor Rick Perry’s bid. In a lot of ways, Perry’s campaign served as a Jindal (fill-in-the-year) exploratory committee, making inroads with party leaders in the early states and building relationships with the Texan’s financial backers.
The problem for Jindal was that his proxy candidate collapsed too quickly, staggering out of Iowa, passing on New Hampshire and shutting down in South Carolina before the primary.
But did Jindal miss his window of opportunity by playing it safe in 2012?
The presidential calendar works out conveniently for Jindal. Assuming he does not run for the US Senate in 2014, Jindal’s second term as governor ends around the time Iowans will be shuffling through the snow to caucus in January 2016 and Louisiana will have a governor-elect a few months before.
The problem for Jindal is that a deeper field of competition will have matured by then.
And no potential opponent looms larger than the Sunshine State’s junior senator, Marco Rubio- considered the miracle cure for the Republican Party’s Hispanic and Florida ills.
When CPAC 2013 convenes at National Harbor in March, Rubio will almost certainly win the straw poll. Behind Rubio will be Kentucky US Senator Rand Paul and Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan.
If the 2012 Republican candidate herd looked weak, the 2016 field will be the strongest in decades, which is good for the GOP though not so much for Jindal, whose name isn’t usually included on the first tier of potential candidates.
Jindal remains popular with evangelicals and young party activists and the political seeds he planted across the Iowa cornfields could yield a bumper crop of support in caucses where social conservatives created Rick Santorum’s formidable candidacy.
Jindal’s path to the White House looked a lot easier going over Romney than it does over Rubio.