Countdown to 2016: The Key Issues

American election campaigns are usually always summed up by the famous quote “It’s the economy, stupid” made during Bill Clinton’s successful Presidential Election in 1992, it summed up that the campaign was mainly about the economy, which at the time, was just pulling out of a recession. The 2012 election could be said to be similar, with the economy slowly improving; not good enough to be an automatic re-election for Obama, but not bad enough to force him out after his first term. Since then, the quote has also been widely used in other forms, with recent campaigns claiming “It’s the deficit, stupid,” “It’s about the Constitution, stupid” or even “It’s healthcare, stupid.” Rarely is an election fought on just one issue, aside from a recession or a war, so it’s likely that the 2016 election will be fought around various issues, with the following currently seen as the potential focus points.

The Economy

Clinton’s campaign message still rings clear today, with American voters likely to consider the economy one of the major factors when it comes to the 2016 elections. One of the main reasons that McCain lost was due to the fact that the US had just entered recession under Bush, but it also works on the opposite; with people likely to re-elect a party if they think the economy is doing well. Currently the labour market isn’t perfectly, with many out of the labour force. GDP, on the other hand, is doing fine, with strong growth and other indicators showing progress as well. This is unlikely to change in the run up to 2016, with further progress likely on the horizon rather than another recession. However, with the economy on the mend, it’s unlikely that many will see this as a reason to ditch the Democrats. It’s possible that this means that the Republicans try and turn the attention to the Budget problems, but many Americans will probably prefer to focus on the likeability of the candidates rather than the economy.

Gun Control

Ever since the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary there has been a renewed focus on guns and the 2nd Amendment. However, yet again, the country was deeply divided. The NRA saw this as an opportunity to push the fact that more guns are needed, potentially stopping a shooter, such as an armed security guard at each school. On the other hand, the opposition pushed for stricter gun laws, with some calling for an outright ban, as seen in countries such as the UK. Some states, such as New York, have passed tougher laws, but they’re unlikely to change the national picture. Since a group of laws, including stronger background checks, were stopped in the Senate, the gun control campaign seems to be losing momentum, with a poll claiming that 62% of Americans want to see the Senate drop the legislation and move onto something else. Additionally, with the power of the NRA, it’s unlikely to see candidates push the issue. With this in mind, it seems that unless there is another major tragedy (bear in mind many people are killed in smaller incidents regularly), gun control might not be that big of an issue at the next election.

Edward Snowden

Ever since Snowden first released details of the NSA plans it has become a major talking point in the US. Obama has recently announced plans to make a few changes, including meeting with technology bosses. However, when it comes to an election, this is a rather strange issue. It’s unlikely that either party will want to make major changes, with the technology becoming key to the country’s terrorism and cyber expertise. In addition, the campaigns will probably try and swing this issue as a national security matter, which polling as shown makes many Americans less likely to consider it a major issue. No doubt it will die down in the years running up to the election.

Of course, when looking in detail it seems that these issues won’t really become major factors when it comes to the next election. The economy will be recovering; gun control will likely become more divided and the NSA affair will likely die down. However, this means that instead of one economic or political factor becoming important at the next election, we could instead see the emergence of likeability and demographics as the most significant factors. Voters will want vote on recognition, for somebody like Hillary Clinton, or to candidates such as Marco Rubio, who is favoured amongst Hispanics. Either way, the 2016 campaign should be a great one.