David Bender
David Bender

If You Go

What: Conference on World Affairs: The Political Crystal Ball

When: 9:30 to 10:50 a.m.

Where: University Memorial Center Room 235

Info: For more information, visit colorado.edu/cwa/schedule

Three little words already dominate the discourse centered on the looming 2016 presidential race, and as political junkies know, it's never too soon to be talking about a race that's two years away.

Will Hillary run?

One of the many panels on today's Conference on World Affairs schedule is labeled "The Political Crystal Ball," and it's likely inevitable that it will include a discussion of the "inevitability" of a Hillary Clinton nomination for president on the Democratic side — providing, of course, that she runs.

Panelist David Bender isn't completely buying it — yet.

"Inevitability is really a fool's errand, even a year out, even six months out from the first votes in Iowa," said Bender, an author, broadcaster and activist, whose career spans four decades of work in the film, television and music industries, as well as a lifelong involvement in electoral politics.

"My view is that so many things can happen between now and late 2015, which is when we'll really get a reading on this. There are so many world events that will have an impact."

Fellow panelist Daniel Odescalchi agreed the crystal ball's picture is often "fuzzy." He pointed out that former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was surging in the Republican Party in 2007, his law and order credentials impeccable in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and was also seen as a strong fiscal conservative.

"But in the end, he came in fourth, if I remember correctly," in contesting the Republican presidential primaries. "It's very difficult to have a crystal ball that is all that accurate, this far out.," said Odescalchi, president of Strategic Advantage International, a political consulting and public opinion management firm in New York City.

But, he shared more of what his own crystal ball is telling him.

Daniel Odescalchi
Daniel Odescalchi

"I think one of the big factors for her (Clinton's) decision is going to be, who surfaces as far as challengers. I think today, it does seem inevitable for her," said Odescalchi, who believes he has taken part in at least eight previous World Affairs Conferences. "I know Joe Biden is thinking about it, but I think he is better at stand-up — unintentional standup. ... There is that interesting phenomenon, if you look closely, more often than not, the early front-runner does eventually clutch the nomination."

Panelist Mary Hughes, president of Hughes & Company, a political strategy and communications firm based in Palo Alto, Calif., sees a Clinton candidacy as "highly likely." But how will it play out?

Mary Hughes
Mary Hughes

"It will trigger some interesting debates, she said.

"I think Mrs. Bush senior put it well when she said there are more families in this country than the Bushes and the Clintons that can run this country," said Hughes. "There is an interesting question, there. What is it about our politics that allows for the ascension and creation of dynasties, or long periods of holding the public stage?

"I think that's a wonderful inquiry. I'm not sure at this moment what I think about it, but I think it's important."

Hughes is the architect of Close the Gap CA, a four-year (2013-2016) campaign to recruit talented, progressive women to run for the California legislature. And her crystal ball also sees a stronger feminine accent coming to the forefront elsewhere on the political landscape.

Ana Navarro
Ana Navarro

"There are only five women governors in the country currently, and there is a very strong crop of women running for governor," Hughes said. "So where we have had a surge in numbers, in particular in the U.S. Senate, I think we are on the threshold of seeing the resurgence of the strong woman governor."

Stepping away from the discussion of individual candidates, Bender said his political forecast includes strong political ramifications stemming from the Affordable Care Act, which saw its open enrollment period just wrap up with more than 7 million people signing up for coverage.

"This means people who are benefitting from the law and having health coverage no longer have to watch a 30- or 40-second spot to find out what they think," he said.

"They get to talk to their family members about how their lives have changed, and six months from now, I think with the ripple effect of real life changes, that is much more important than any political campaign. People don't trust what politicians tell them, and they don't trust what the media tells them, but they do trust their brother-in-law, who is suddenly getting health coverage and didn't have it before."

Completing the Political Crystal Ball panel is Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist with expertise in Latin American, Floridian and Hispanic issues, who has served with Republican party headliners including John McCain and John Huntsman.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or brennanc@dailycamera.com