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And They’re Off!

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After months of speculation and conjecture, the race is officially under way. The starter pistol has been fired, the starting gate has opened, and the candidates have begun their run around the track. The 2016 presidential contest has formally commenced.

With much-anticipated formal campaign announcements, newly unveiled websites, and fresh logos, a number of recently declared presidential candidates have hit the road to take their case directly to the voters.

On the Republican side, there is no shortage of declared candidates, with several others waiting not so quietly in the wings. Conversely, on the Democratic side there is but one confirmed entrant in the presidential race, setting up what may be one of the most anti-climactic primary seasons ever.

The first one to throw his hat into the ring was Ted Cruz, a Senator from Texas. With his ultra-conservative views and close association with Tea Party figures and ideals, Cruz will have an extraordinarily difficult time trying to get the various factions in the Republican Party to coalesce around his candidacy. Even if lightning strikes and he somehow secures his party’s nomination, the Democratic candidate running against him in the General Election would quickly embrace the opportunity to paint his or her GOP opponent as a conservative radical who is completely out of touch with mainstream America. Running for president may boost Ted Cruz’s national profile, but it will not earn him a ticket to the White House.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was the next Republican to jump into the race. A libertarian who preaches fiscal conservatism and is a strong advocate for smaller government, Paul is also aligned with the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. As he tries to appeal to mainstream Republicans in an effort to garner their support, Paul runs the risk of alienating his base if he deviates from his conservative ideals in a substantive manner. It is a tough balancing act that I believe will fall short.

Perhaps the most intriguing candidate to enter the race thus far is Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. With his youthful exuberance, unbridled optimism, and boundless energy, Rubio is a candidate that is worth watching as he works to build a broad coalition within his party. With a pledge to look ahead and not dwell on the past, Marco Rubio is not only taking a dig at his once-mentor Jeb Bush and the 67-year-old Hillary Clinton, he is also endeavoring to blaze a trail to a better and stronger America that he hopes will lead him straight to the White House.

In the “I am strongly considering running for president” category, there is an array of other Republicans, all of whom believe that they are capable of being the standard bearer for the GOP and in the best position to retake the White House.

The aforementioned Jeb Bush, a scion of a powerful political family that has already seen two of its members take up residence in the White House, is expected to enter the race. With a vast fundraising network and a famous last name, it is anticipated that he will be a serious contender, though Jeb has his work cut out for him if he wants to successfully paint himself as his own person and not just another “Bush.”

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is another likely GOP presidential hopeful who has the ability to capture the spotlight as well as support. After recently leading a trade mission to France, Spain and Germany in a not-so-subtle effort to buttress his foreign policy experience, Walker is talking and acting like a person who is preparing to formalize his candidacy for the presidency.

New Jersey’s own Chris Christie is ramping up his presidential exploratory efforts as he inches closer to a formal announcement. With a recent trip to New Hampshire where he held a town hall style meeting, Christie is testing the presidential primary waters and assessing if his blunt approach to retail politics is the fresh approach that Republican voters in key states are looking for.

In addition, there is a long list of other Republicans who are purportedly contemplating running for president, including Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Dr. Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina, although I do not believe that any of these folks has the wherewithal to break through what is already a crowded and competitive GOP field.

On the Democratic side, there are a number of people who are reportedly considering a presidential run. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and former Senator and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee have all expressed interest in running. Vice President Joe Biden is often mentioned as a possibility, although I do not think that he is serious about a White House run at this point. The problem for all of these Democrats is that there is another Democrat that has already staked her claim to the spotlight. That Democrat is Hillary Clinton.

With her much-anticipated announcement this week that she is indeed running for president, Hillary arguably locked up the nomination before a single vote has been cast in a primary. Almost immediately after she made her candidacy official through a web video, the endorsements started rolling in from scores of other prominent Democrats.

As she attempts to avoid the missteps that felled her 2008 presidential run, Hillary and her army of supporters are going to desperately try to dispel the widespread notion that this is a coronation and not a campaign. Securing a presidential nomination is not about entitlement; it is about exerting an extraordinary effort to sell oneself to the voters. As a former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary is undoubtedly qualified to lead. However, the devil is in the details, and many voters are waiting for Hillary to articulate her vision for the future of this country before they commit to supporting the presumptive Democratic nominee.

With Hillary a virtual certainty to be on the ballot in the general election, it is the Republican contest that has the ability to captivate the nation in the months ahead. Should he decide to run, Jeb Bush has the ability to catapult to the front of the GOP pack. That being said, he should keep looking over his shoulder at the candidate that I believe is capable of shocking the Republican establishment.

In 2008, a young and relatively obscure senator named Barack Obama came out of nowhere to win his party’s nomination, and ultimately the presidency. In 2016, there is again the possibility that a young and relatively obscure senator could come out of nowhere to win his party’s nomination. That senator’s name is Marco Rubio.

With several candidates already having declared their candidacies and others sure to follow, the 2016 presidential race has officially begun. Hang on to your seat – this should be an exhilarating (and exhausting!) ride.

N. Aaron Troodler is an attorney and principal of Paul Revere Public Relations, a public relations and political consulting firm. Visit him on the Web at TroodlersTake.blogspot.com, www.PaulReverePR.com, or www.JewishWorldPR.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @troodler

By N. Aaron Troodler, Esq.

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