Jon Rauch, now at The Atlantic, discusses the 14-Year Rule that he's been known for and how it applies to the 2016 presidential campaign.
At the time of this year’s second Republican debate, five Democrats and 16 Republicans were running for president. But if you ruled out people who had zero elective experience and therefore were too fresh (goodbye, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Donald Trump), and if you ruled out people who were more than 14 years from their first election as governor or senator and therefore were stale (goodbye, Jeb Bush, Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki, and Rick Santorum), the field diminished to three Democrats and eight Republicans.
Yes, both Bush (elected governor of Florida in 1998) and Clinton (elected to the Senate in 2000) have passed their sell-by dates, a fact reflected in the palpable boredom that has greeted their campaigns. Nonetheless, conventional wisdom regards them as the most likely nominees. If that wisdom turns out to be right, we will have an election pitting two stale political dynasts against each other—something we have reason to hope will be rare in American political life. In this scenario, one of the stale political dynasts will win the general election, and the 14-Year Rule will fail at last.
Indeed, the 14-Year Rule has held up astonishingly well over the years, and while it would indicate that Hillary and Jeb won't be President (and neither would Joe Biden) it does lead to a Bernie Sanders (he's only been a Senator for eight years) versus Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz (four years each) matchup.
In the past two open presidential elections (that is, elections in which no incumbent was running), freshness has ruled the day. The voters, not satisfied with a merely moderate level of inexperience, chose the least experienced governor or senator in the field: George W. Bush (only six years of experience) in 2000, and Barack Obama (a shockingly skimpy four) in 2008. If voters were to stay true to form in 2016, the next president would be—drum roll—Senator Ted Cruz. Elected to the Senate in 2012, having previously attained the speed-bump-high office of Texas solicitor general, Cruz is the only politician in the race who can match Obama’s exalted standard of unpreparedness.
It's an interesting theory, and if both sides of it hold up, Cruz would be the winner. It would also be a complete disaster for the country, so I'm hoping that the 14-Year Rule is broken and decisively so. Of course, a Trump/Carson/Fiorina win would certainly do that too...