Betting on Horses Not Yet in the Race

Everybody loves to think, talk and write about the presidential horse race. I don’t like being left out, so here are my top three — to win, place and show: Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, and Paul Ryan.

Yes, I know none of them are currently on the track, but it’s still early, and I think any of them would be better than the nags out there right now. Or maybe I’ve been chasing the good story for so long that anything less than the best — story, not candidate — no longer satisfies.

If kittens could spin their own yarn before playing with it, they’d be just like columnists, only cuter.

Hillary Clinton remains the prohibitive favorite for this year’s Democratic nomination. Current prediction markets — for entertainment purposes only — give her a 61 percent chance of winning in November, unless something unplanned occurs. An indictment over her email security would scramble her chances.

Hillary may be surprised to learn that not all surprises are bad. Obama could bring her an unexpected gift, bundling a presidential pardon with a Supreme Court nomination, where she could spend her last years fighting her battles without losing her privacy.

If Hillary got coaxed back to the stables, that would make running room for Bernie Sanders, unless Biden jumped in right away, promising to serve only one term before handing the reins to his running mate, Elizabeth Warren.

Bernie gets his revolution, Obama gets his legacy, voters get a woman who inspires them, and Hillary gets what should be her dream job. Everybody leaning left wins.

If the progressives can’t reshuffle their deck, Michael Bloomberg may do it for them. The former mayor of New York City reportedly sees an opening for his candidacy if the choices offered this fall include Trump, Cruz or Sanders.

Trump and Sanders both can claim loose ties to their political labels, but neither can claim to have been officially a Democrat, a Republican, and an independent. When the mood of the electorate is to throw out both parties and start over, Bloomberg would be an attractive choice.

On many significant fronts, that’s exactly what Bloomberg would do. His technocratic appreciation for competence would be similar to Obama’s, but without having to also protect his political party’s electoral fortunes.

Bloomberg would be more like a neighbor or uncle when dealing with legislators from both parties. His allegiance could never be assumed. He’s not living in the same house, so there’s only so much he’d be willing to put up with. Results would matter to Bloomberg. Party patronage would not.

Finally, there’s Paul Ryan, who has figured out by now that his caucus doesn’t share his desire to Get Things Done. He’s not a candidate and insists he has no plan to become one. But plans don’t always beget destiny, as he learned in 2012. He could get drafted into the White House — twice.

Republicans seem unlikely to rally around a single candidate by summer. The ideological divisions in the party may become mathematical by July, denying any candidate the majority of delegates for the first ballot in Cleveland. The second round of balloting could begin a free-for-all, with each surviving candidate refusing to yield to any of the others.

Fearing embarrassment, but especially exhaustion, a compromise candidate will be sought. Fate’s finger will point toward Ryan again, as the only Republican sufficiently conservative for a some and sufficiently pragmatic for the rest.

Or that moment for Ryan could come in November. If three (or four) candidates divide the nation’s electoral votes, no one would have the requisite 270 to become president. This deadlock would throw the decision to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for the first time since 1876.

Again, Ryan could attempt to widen the consensus within his party to include those outside it, insisting that the campaign had already produced enough shenanigans to last the country for four years.

Would any of these non-candidates make a better president than any of the candidates currently racing? Who knows? I do know this. You don’t go to the track to make money. You do it to have fun.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.