For Democrats, 2016 jockeying begins over breakfast
September 5th, 2012
11:53 AM ET
10 years ago

For Democrats, 2016 jockeying begins over breakfast

Charlotte, North Carolina (CNN) – For just a couple of hours on Wednesday morning, the center of gravity in Democratic politics was a steamy Marriott parking lot in New South suburbia, many miles from the security-enclosed commotion of the Democratic National Convention in uptown Charlotte.

And there were muffins.

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Three Democrats who may or may not be thinking about possibly making a decision about seeking the presidency in 2016 - Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley - visited a breakfast meeting here hosted by Iowa's convention delegation.

The television cameras in attendance signaled, however, that this wasn't just breakfast.

In a series of brief speeches to the small crowd, none of three politicians stated what was obvious to everyone sipping their coffee: That they were pondering a White House bid in 2016 and wanted a head start on making inroads with some key Democratic activists who hold sway in Iowa's pivotal caucuses. Respect must be paid.

To acknowledge such a thing would be crass, after all, since Democrats are here in the Charlotte area to re-nominate the guy who actually is president: Barack Obama. And indeed, the president's re-election fight was the main focus of their remarks to the breakfast crowd.

But the hyperactive reality of modern-day politics dictates that the 2016 presidential campaign will begin in earnest - in ways visible and not - on the morning after Election Day this November.

The potential presidential candidates and the almost two dozen national and Iowa reporters who showed up to cover them were all in on the joke.

Here's how the delicate dance worked on Wednesday:

Reporter 1: "Senator, are you thinking about it?"

Warner: "I'm not thinking about anything other than getting Barack Obama re-elected and then dealing with this debt and deficit."

Reporter 2: "So why come to the Iowa breakfast? Why not South Dakota?"

Warner: "Because they invited me."

And so on.

Warner smiled coyly throughout the whole exchange, as did Klobuchar, and then O'Malley after her. All of them were simply invited to this routine, nothing-to-see-here breakfast, they explained, and were excited to help Obama defeat Mitt Romney this fall.

While they demurred about their own ambitions, their speeches to the delegation were peppered with shameless nods to Iowa – the livestock, the quirky landmarks, and, of course, the cherished tradition of the caucuses.

"I can see Iowa from my porch!" Klobuchar, the Minnesotan, exclaimed in her speech (a speech, it should be noted, that brought more than a few audience-members to their feet in applause).

Each of the Democrats lingered with reporters before heading back into uptown Charlotte, happy to indulge in the obvious line of questioning.

Their aides, normally type-A political staffers conditioned to hustle their bosses away from the media, nonchalantly looked on as reporters asked them question after question about Iowa.

O'Malley fondly remembered his younger days working as a volunteer on the campaigns of Gary Hart and visiting places like "Keokuk and Muscatine and Davenport."

"In Iowa, one of the things I learned is just how tightly knit rural communities are," said the former big-city mayor who learned his politics in the bowels of Baltimore. "Iowa is a great state with really good people."

O'Malley, who recently launched a political action committee and appears to be the most serious of the 2016 bunch about running, stayed in the parking lot for almost half an hour after the breakfast to chat with the delegates. His nationally televised convention speech the previous night, it seemed, had earned him some picture-hungry fans.

At one point, the handsome and perfectly appointed governor - green tie, white shirt, dark suit – was immersed in conversation with a scraggly-haired man wearing white tube socks with his Birkenstock sandals.

Warner, a denizen of the Washington suburbs who made a fortune investing in tech companies like Nextel, was asked if his business executive shtick would play well in the Midwest. He went out of his way to point out that he won his first statewide race in 2001, in part, by reaching out to voters in Appalachia.

"Where I won the governorship was actually not so much in northern Virginia, it was in rural Virginia," Warner noted.

A few moments later, Warner was tapped on the shoulder by Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register, who prefaced her own 2016 question with four words that should be catnip to any ambitious politician: "Sir, we're Iowa reporters."

He was happy to engage.

And it's likely that two more notable Democrats scheduled to join the Iowa breakfast tomorrow morning - New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer – will be eager to play the game as well.

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. hangar13

    CNN readers won't know about Wasserman-Shultz's remarks "quoting" the Israeli diplomat were called out as categorically false by the supposed source. Wise up, look at other sources (only Fox will tell you anything that isn't approved by the DNC).

    September 5, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |

    I've got nothing against none of these Democrats. I would choose my former governor and current senator Mark Warner if I had to choose from these three. However, after watching last night's speeches, the playing field has changed. Here's my list of democrat contenders for 2016:

    -Gov. Patrick
    -SecStat Clinton
    -Gov. Cuomo
    -Sen. Warner
    -Mayor Castro

    September 5, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  3. mike electrician

    Hillary in 16!, 20!, Booker/Castro in 24 and 28

    September 5, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  4. Fair is Fair

    Since he's going to be beaten this year, maybe Obama can try to pull a Grover Cleveland and run again in 2016.

    September 5, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  5. BlkPwr817

    Clint Eastwoods chair will probably get the nod for the GOP in 2016. It was obvious that the "chair" was the best thing going in last weeks convention. Whoever the Dems elect would be as much of a cake walk as the 2008 & current election will be. Ultimately I believe Hilary will take the thrown when that time comes...

    September 5, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. Woman In California

    I really enjoyed the convention last night and looking out in the audience, I really saw America as it IS and not as some want it to be. Having said that, Michelle Obama is the republicans worst nightmare, because not only is she beautiful, tough and smart, she's also EFFECTIVE and they can't stand it.

    If this country is actually willing to vote for a man who won't reveal his tax returns, whose family avoids all military service (while promoting war), ships jobs overseas and stands for absolutely nothing – have at it and when this country is HIT again (due to poor foreign policy), SUCK IT UP and remember you had your chance and you blew it.

    September 5, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  7. Joe Biden's Bumper Sticker.......

    "Bin Laden is Dead, GM is alive"...Oh Yeah !..Lets see how alive GM really is...when we see GM-Dealerships advertising the big three "OOO's"......O1-zero down-paymnet....O2-no payment for 90-days....O3- 0% financing for 84 months or=
    7 Years and from all this a new Dealership was born called "REPO"–when a buyer walks into a dealership taking advantage of the big three "OOO's" and then drive-put without a Cent Down payment and then cannot meet payments after 90 days and thereafter...the now used GM-car without a cent of payment goes to the REPO-dealership....the recovery-result not yet complete...............

    September 5, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. Four and The Door

    In 2016, when Americans see a real economic recovery under the Romney Administration, Democrats will have very little hope of denying Romney a second term. But it's fun to watch them play these little games among themselves.

    September 5, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. cannuck1

    god help america. the RNC wanna have you believe you are voting for a socialist in Obama, let me tell you that Canada underwent its austerity measures under a Liberal goverment back in the 90's. America it is possible to solve your problems if you really want to.

    September 5, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. bb

    More taxpayers money well spent, oviously they think thier losing. How can any one believe the vile crap comming from Oblunders illmoral mouth??? he has been caught in numerous lies, leaks, coverups etc. it is very clear he is a follower and not a leader
    R & R for a better America

    September 5, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. cannuck1

    did i mention that our per capita household wealth now exceeds our American cousins? Our banks were the pillar of strenght during the meltdown. Heavily regulated for a good reason. Our banks wanted to have the ability to merge and get bigger many yrs ago, the Liberal finance minister at that time put an end to those aspirations real quick. Did i mention our real eastate market was not impacted at all. In fact housing prices continue to rise in all major canadian cities.
    So yes, your communist neighbors to the north were able to balance the budget and keep this country afloat....
    America you can do it as well. There is a wealth of experience that our situation could bring you, is there anyone really listening?

    September 5, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  12. julie

    @fair is fair in your dream.....................your man mitt the twit is going to be beat like a drum SORRY you lose
    hey since your man roms is making a career out of running for president he can try again in 2024 (after Madam Clinton does her 8 years)

    Obama 2012....................for forward thinking American.......everyone else just move outa the way

    September 5, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  13. v_mag

    Repugnants keep telling us that President Obama has somehow lowered the status that the U.S. has in the rest of the world. Really?

    They would rather us go back to Bush's clone? George W. Bush, whom Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner and internationally known humanitarian says should be tried for war crimes? Do we want another person as leader of the free world whose legacy is torture, lying, invasion, and war crimes? Is that the type of thing that Repugnants want our country to be known for?

    Romney = Bush = disaster.

    September 5, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  14. Machismo

    "The military services haven't created offices on all overseas bases to help soldiers cast their ballots, citing money shortages"
    The Government has no money shortages when it comes to giving it away to Unions, Banks, Mortgage companies, Insurance companies Auto companies and foreign countries....... . But when it comes to the American people....forget it

    September 5, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. chill

    Not that I want to suffer through four years of Romney to see what would happen. But don't overlook the possibility that if Obama loses this year that he might not run again in 2016. The split terms have happened before and I Told You So after four years could work.

    September 5, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  16. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    First Lady Michelle Obama, so eloquent and beautiful, gave the greatest speech in history period! And no, the GOT didn't write that and neither did some fake seals in a bogus web video!

    Obama/biden 2012 by a LANDSLIDE!

    September 5, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  17. RealityBites

    The Democrats only hope for 2016 is a 2012 loss..

    September 5, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  18. marjee123

    I'm from MN and a DFL'er and I don't think Amy has what it takes to be president ..I'd go for Al Franken over her any day. But my pick would be Maryland's O'Malley. Mark Warner is a Blue Dog.

    September 5, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  19. America

    For The Woman in California:

    How many years of Tax returns did Obama release when he first ran for President?
    What branch of the military did Obama serve in?
    How many jobs did Obama create before he was elected President?

    Yes you saw America as it is, people who believe in not what they can do for their country but what can their country do for them.

    September 5, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |