My initial impressions of the 2016 GOP presidential candidates (part 1)

I wasn’t able to watch all of the speeches at the Iowa Freedom Summit this weekend, but I watched most of em.  I was very impressed by many of the candidates who spoke, and I must say that this is the most impressive and most well-rounded field of candidates in the Republican Party in my lifetime, and it’s not even close.

In 2008 we had Fred Thompson, Huckabee, Giuliani, Romney, and Santorum for the most part.  In 2012 we had Newt, and Santorum and Romney again.  That was it.

This time around we have a much bigger and better selection, and I hope we as primary voters make the best of it, and choose wisely.  Personally, I haven’t even come close to making up my mind yet, which is expected at such an early stage, and I haven’t completely ruled out voting for any candidates except Jeb and Romney.

So that being said, after watching the various candidates talk, my immediate take away was this:   I saw three potential presidents on that stage, and all of them were governors.  Yes, that means I don’t think [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] is ready to be president right now.  I’m sure I’ll get a lot of flak for that from any Cruz fans reading this, which is ironic because I’m one of his biggest fans, but as a senator, not as a presidential candidate.  You don’t have to tell me all the reasons Cruz is a great conservative because I already agree with you that he represents a constitutional conservative as well as anyone possibly could.  But that doesn’t mean he’d make a good president, and I’ll explain why I believe this is the case later on.

The three candidates I watched who gave me the thought, “I can envision him making decisions in the Oval Office” are Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and Rick Perry.  I can anticipate even more people criticizing me for including Christie in that list, so let me explain why I did.  It’s certainly not because he’s the most conservative of all the candidates.  Nor is it because I’m a fan of his, because I never have been.  What I’m talking about here are the necessary traits I believe a candidate must have in order to handle all the ups and downs that come with being president.  I believe that Christie has some of these necessary traits, as do Perry and Walker, that’s why they’ve all been successful governors and all have gotten re-elected multiple times in blue states, with the exception of Perry.

I’ve always been of the mindset that the candidate who will be the best possible nominee will be a governor because I view a governor as a kind of mini president, with the state he or she governs being their version of a country.  In the case of a huge state like Texas, it really is like it’s own country, being bigger than many countries around the world both in terms of size and economically.  If they’ve proven that they can create a winning coalition of voters from a variety of backgrounds and win elections multiple times, and then create and implement policies that bring prosperity and peace to their state, then they’ve already proven that they have the necessary intellect, skills, will, electability, and vision to be a successful chief executive.

But even that’s not enough to prove that a candidate has the ability to be at least a moderately successful president in my eyes.  It takes a certain set of personality traits, such as the following:   one must be calm, courageous, politically savvy, have experience leading something, be able to handle conflicts, be able to handle criticism, have overcome adversity, have the ability to work with people who disagree with you, have passion and a willingness to fight for your principles and beliefs, and more.  I believe the three candidates I mentioned have most or all of these traits, and the rest of the field doesn’t.

I would also like to give an overview of the framework I use to evaluate and analyze all politicians at every level of government:
I believe there are three main categories of presidential candidates:

1)   Candidates who are ideologically driven-    these candidates have a specific ideological agenda and got into politics because they believe that agenda needs to be implemented for the country to prosper.   They put that agenda above everything else, including people at times.  I believe Ted Cruz falls into this category.  These candidates got into politics because of their ideological beliefs rather than something that affected them personally or for some specific cause they’re passionate about.   They tend to see things in black and white and have a hard time seeing or explaining both sides of complicated issues.   They’re great at firing up their ideological base but have a hard time connecting with the average voter.  They don’t explain their policies in terms of how they’ll help people in specific ways, but rather, how they’ll make the country great and return it to a certain set of ideals.  They tend to talk in abstract and philosophical terms rather than telling stories and getting into the details and nuances of particular subjects.

2)   Candidates who are driven by a genuine desire to serve their fellow americans-   these candidates can also be ideological, but it’s not what drives them, it’s secondary to their main motivator, which is improving the lives of the voters they serve, especially the less fortunate or disadvantaged.   Often these candidates got into politics for personal or very specific reasons, to right a wrong, or to stand up for a person or group of people that were being taken advantage of or weren’t being represented by our politicians.

For example, Sarah Palin got into politics in Alaska because “she was concerned that revenue from a new Wasilla sales tax would not be spent wisely”.  [mc_name name=’Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B001256′ ] started on the local level of politics because she was against a state-mandated set of educational standards that were being forced on her children, and there are many more examples of such candidates.  I believe Scott Walker falls into this category, it’s evident in his speeches and the way he defends his policies, often using the personal stories of the people he’s gotten to know in Wisconsin from campaigning over the years.

3)   Finally, the last category is candidates who run out of pure ambition and the belief that they are uniquely qualified to be a good president. Romney and Jon Huntsman would fall into this category, among many others.   Obviously most candidates fall into some combination of all three categories, but I believe we need a candidate who falls mostly into the 2nd category, and I think Walker does.

Those are my general thoughts on the 2016 field, and here are my first impressions of each candidate I watched at the Iowa Freedom Summit, in no particular order:


Scott Walker-    It was obvious to me that he was really trying to work the crowd with his speech, and he basically gave a stump speech about why he was qualified to be president.  I believe he wasn’t just giving that speech for the crowd, but for all conservatives he knew would be watching at home, and for potential donors.  This was his way of saying, “I’m here, I’m serious about running for president, and I’m a force to be reckoned with”.  He clearly has a great ability to give a speech and connect with his audience, cause he didn’t need to use notes or teleprompters at all.  He’s a naturally gifted speaker, which isn’t surprising given the fact that he’s the son of a Baptist preacher.

As of right now, he’s the candidate I would vote for in the primary.  I don’t agree with him on everything, but he’s more than conservative enough for me, and is right on the most basic issues such as Obamacare, taxes, and abortion.  He’s been through the fire and has come out unscathed, which is really more than almost any other candidate can say.  He didn’t fight fire with fire and do the things a political hack does, which is the way Obama operates.  Rather, he calmly and clearly explained his agenda for Wisconsin and ignored the personal attacks of his opponents.  This is a formula that can win at the national level.  You don’t focus your entire campaign on your opponent, you focus it on YOUR agenda, YOUR policies, and YOUR record, on YOUR terms.  This is what Walker did in Wisconsin and is the opposite of what Romney did in 2012.

Walker knows how to win because he’s done it so many times before, and all in a blue state.  He knows how to handle personal attacks and to debate too.  I encourage everyone to watch his debate performance against what can only be described as a really angry guy, it was masterful.  He was in the same situation as [mc_name name=’Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000570′ ] when he got mauled by Joe Biden, but he handled the attacks with confidence and never got flustered.  In every debate I’ve seen with him, he’s been well prepared and always gives details of his decisions and policies and explains exactly why he did what he did.  He never engages in personal attacks on his opponents, in fact he basically pretends like they aren’t there and it’s just him talking to the voters at home.  I would describe it as a form of political Jiu-Jitsu, where he takes the worst punches his opponent can throw and uses them as an opportunity to defend his positions and explain to the voters why he made the right decision.

Now, whether this honest, matter of fact, humble, and Midwestern style of politics will work with the rest of the nation remains to be seen.  But I believe it’s the kind of politics our nation needs regardless, which is why I think we should give Walker a chance.

The more I watch Governor Walker the more I’m convinced he should be our nominee.  This is a perfect example of why:  he’s dealing with a very biased liberal host who constantly interrupts him and tries to trip him up on a number of issues, and he literally doesn’t flinch, lose his composure, or get defensive at all.  That’s the kind of temperament good presidents have.  They’re leaders, and leaders don’t get bothered by criticism or hard questions, they take the questions and answer them with authority, and engage the host on their terms, not his or hers.

Also, after what Walker’s been through in Wisconsin, not only with the protesters and death threats, but with the verbal assaults he’s taken in his debates with rabid democrats, questions from liberal DC media types must seem like a cakewalk.  Sure, he’s not perfect when it comes to his positions on various subjects, but we’re never gonna have a perfect candidate who we agree with on all the issues.  Therefore, we have to pick the one who we agree with the most who also can win and actually has the courage to implement his policies once he gets into office.  I believe that man is Scott Walker.

Finally, he knows how to connect with an audience, which is what he did in Iowa when he told the story about how his wife shops at Kohl’s and he makes sure he gets all the coupons he can when shopping there to save money.  He’s a smart politician, which can’t be said about our last two nominees.  He’s passionate about his policies and ideas and is willing to fight for them, which is why he’s known as a great campaigner.  I do think he could have some trouble  attracting minorities and women, which is why the VP pick is so crucial this time around.  I’ll expand on that later.  But overall, I think Walker has all the qualities we need in a nominee, and combined with his experience and his conservative agenda, that makes him the best choice for me in 2016.


Rick Perry-      He’s a much improved candidate from his 2012 campaign.  He’s older, wiser, and more prepared this time around.  He has a great temperament, he can be passionate at times while being calm and reasonable when discussing nuanced issues.  We’ll never have to worry about him caving to democrats or the media if he’s in the White House, he’s a fighter, and that’s exactly what we need right now.  It’s what Romney never was.  He has a ton of experience and an amazing record of achievement as governor of Texas, which will help him a lot in debates.

The one thing I worry about him is whether he’ll be able to overcome his 2012 debate performances, especially his infamous “oops” moment.  I never placed too much emphasis on debates myself, but the majority of voters clearly do, especially if a candidate has a really strong or weak performance.  They really can make or break you, and they broke Perry.  Whether we like it or not, GOP primary voters, many of whom are older men and women, base a lot of their vote on electability, that’s why we’ve had Romney and McCain as our last two nominees.  It’s why Perry’s gonna have to have flawless debate performances this time around.  That’s not fair to him, but that’s how the game is played these days.  He has everything it takes to be a great president, my only question with him is if he can get there.

I split this up into two parts since it was getting long, part 2 is here.