2016 Republican Candidates: Early Take

It’s early; many political lifetimes will come and go before the campaign is engaged in earnest. So here is my early, in brief, take on the Republican field, moderately but not completely devoid of some manner of objectivity.

Emerging themes seem to center on disquiet with the same old, same old, the economy, the presence in the field of energetic young talent and a fierce desire to retake the White House. Additionally, it does not require stroke of genius to see that foreign policy will take center stage. There is nothing on the horizon today that would indicate that things abroad will get better, there are, however, many dynamics that indicate that things could well get much worse.

The eventual Republican candidate does not have to score overwhelming victories in minority communities; they do, however, have to reduce the margins that have prevailed in the prior two election cycles in combination with getting grumpy Republicans to the polls regardless of their view of the final candidate. Hard core Conservatives dissatisfied with Romney’s middle ground and Evangelical Christians convinced he was part of a cult elected Barack Obama in 2012. They could elect Hillary in 2016! Wake up people!

Top Tier:

Scott Walker:
In Wisconsin, Walker did something rare for a politician, he actually did what he said he would do, won three elections in four years and has faced down union and progressive pressures the like of which we hadn’t seen in a while. Walker has demonstrated his ability to hold up and hold on under intense pressure. He has upped his game in terms of delivering his message and has addressed his changes of view directly and forthrightly. He needs to take his speaking skills up another notch or two and look to add a bit of inspiring rhetoric to his tool box. He needs to get some measure of foreign policy credibility, and to do so carefully to insure that he has supportable positions. Walker has demonstrated significant self-confidence and done so without appearing to be arrogant. The early attacks from the left would indicate that the Left is concerned about a Walker candidacy, with good reason. Walker needs early strong showings to cement momentum.

Marco Rubio:
If foreign policy is going to be critical Rubio is well ahead of the other aspirants in terms of well evolved positions and the ability to communicate them. He’s young, energetic and capable of delivering the Conservative message without seeming scary. His Hispanic background is a plus in delivering a Conservative message to an inherently conservative and potentially critical general election voting bloc. The polling numbers for Rubio aren’t there yet, but I predict they will be. I would also give odds he’ll be on the ticket one way or another and that may, in fact, be what he’s after.

Jeb Bush:
By way of name recognition and the ability to raise money you have to put Bush in the top tier. He is, however, part of that same old, same old equation. He was a good governor in Florida but may be operating under a flawed strategy, albeit refreshing. He has no intention of running to the right during the primaries and shift in the general. He will rely on his ability to bring people to his point of view and apply a strategy that would motivate low motivation Republican voters to make a statement in favor of Bush in the critical early primary states. Positions on Common Core and Immigration will hurt in the early going unless he can find a way to communicate those positions in a more effective way than he has so far. He will have to fight his way through a lot of noise to do so; difficult to see Bush taking Iowa or New Hampshire in the early going but the N.Y. primary occurs seven days later and could be what Bush needs to hang on.

Second Tier:

Rick Perry:
Perhaps the best Conservative credentials based on his time as Texas Governor, the growth of the Texas economy, a rational regulatory environment and confronting Obama on immigration are a critical part of his record. Perry, however, has an annoying tendency to reel from sounding strong and confident to sounding a bit out of touch or clueless. His intellectual chops will be in question as will his ability to speak to voters in the middle of the political spectrum.

Ted Cruz:
Personally I’d love to see a President Cruz. Clearly Democrats are fearful of Sen. Cruz based on the vitriol directed to him so far and the, already, highly edited reporting of his comments and activities. He may also benefit from the push back he’s gotten from his Republican brethren, no establishment type he. He’s likely the smartest guy in the room, nearly any room, but that won’t necessarily get it done. Cruz has the ability to speak without notes allowing him greater engagement with his audience. When engaged directly by the media he can be impressive. Ted, just don’t try too hard to be charming, the voice change is annoying.

Rand Paul:
Paul’s brand of Libertarian thinking on domestic issues is appealing to hard core Conservatives as well as his Libertarian base. His views on foreign policy will create a wide range of questions in terms of whether or not he is the right man for this moment in time, they are entirely valid questions and to answer them effectively in the present he will have to move off prior positions. There is also the question of whether or not he can get his Dad to sit down and shut up. Paul claims he’s not an isolationist; maybe. If not he’s awfully damn close to it. Isolationism has had its appeal over American history reappearing on a semi regular basis. Isolationist tendencies in the world as it is today represent significant dangers.

Mike Huckabee:
Love Mike, but I’ll be President before he will. Huckabee brings a unique sense of humor to what he has to say and is an unabashed Conservative who will refuse to separate himself from Conservative social issues; it will help in Iowa but not so much in the immediately following primaries. He has a way with words and could take Iowa again in the early going based on his coalition of Christian churches and groups in Iowa. Even if that is the case, he will likely be out of the running by South Carolina. Other candidates would be well advised to avoid the potential of being skewered by the Huckabee humor.

Chris Christie:
Highly unlikely that yet another Northeast moderate will catch fire. Sure we all like to see an occasional smack down of stupid questions and bad behavior but smack downs aren’t enough to build an effective campaign; they also get tiresome. Christie will likely end up running for a place in a Republican administration. Don’t see him getting through the early primaries and don’t see him having to money to continue on after the first three contests.

Long Shots and Dark Horses

George Pataki:
While out of the limelight for some time his recent media appearances would indicate that Pataki has prepared himself to get into the fight. His positions on the issues appear to be well thought out, clear and they are, without question, Conservative.

Lindsey Graham:
The “McCain influence” will hurt Graham. He is maddening to Conservatives; sometime he is and sometimes he isn’t so very Conservative. However, if he can win South Carolina as its favorite son he could generate some momentum. Simple question, do we want McCain V.2?

Ben Carson:
Love Dr. Ben. But….he’s already making too many mistakes. Gay love in prison being the most recent but he’s also stumbled on foreign policy questions. But…. I want him in the field and I want him to hang in there awhile. A Republican field with Blacks and Hispanics won’t demotivate vindictive attacks from the far left but we’re not talking to the far left.

Bobby Jindal:
Perhaps no one has the policy chops of Governor Jindal. He is a dark horse with a chance to make a splash especially if the Southern states organize for a sort of Southern Super Tuesday. He’ll have to edit his policy expertise in a way that is easily communicable. The Gov. knows his stuff and could elevate himself Vis a Vis his opponents on the basis of that. Jindal, like Walker, appears unafraid of climbing into the ring and making his case.

Carly Fiorina:
Love Carly! She is smart, capable and so far; unafraid. She has been pillaging Hillary and she may be the only one in the field capable of doing so without being labeled a reactionary sexist. As with Dr. Ben she’s a long shot but I want her to hang in there as long as possible.

John Kasich:
Kasich’s trade mark is straight talk. He also has a good record as Governor of Ohio. Kasich Knows the numbers like nearly no one else and, as Governor, has demonstrated the ability to bridge the divide between government services and Conservative principles as applied.

Rick Santorum:
Oh please, not again!

From the sublime to the ridiculous:

Donald Trump:
The exploratory committee has been announced. So, we replace one narcissist with another? Hard to know what Trump is, in reality, after? Keeping in mind he didn’t run last time because of “his TV show!” Trump can be amusing but I am continually left with the impression that in reality he’s an arrogant ass.

9 Guys:
You may or may not know this but there are already 9 guys you’ve likely never heard of that are declared Republican candidates. There are another 38 mentioned as possible candidates (after eliminating those mentioned who are NOT interested).