The 2016 GOP Field: The Vegas Odds Edition

Determining the GOP Presidential nominee is 2016 is certainly more difficult than doing so with the Democrats which revolves around one person- Hillary Clinton.  As she makes moves which indicate she will make a run, the pressure grows on the Republican Party to make sure they put forth a candidate in stark contrast to the old, tired ways of Clinton.  The reason is simple: Hillary starts as the prohibitive front runner in 2016.  It will be her race to lose.

First, let’s dispense with some names being mentioned on the Republican side as possibilities.  Dr. Ben Carson is a great voice for conservative values, but not as President.  Usually a potential candidate will release a book in anticipation of a run, but when your publisher has to pull a book due to possible plagiarism, you are in a little trouble.  Rick Snyder, the Michigan governor, won reelection in a blue state, but so did other possible names on this list and he just does not make the cut.  Some have mentioned Bobby Jindal and one needs to watch his moves as this year progresses as it will be his last as Louisiana Governor.  Maybe not President, but possibly some role in a Republican administration.  And there are others on this list, but they are just fleeting names in the night.

Vegas recently released some preliminary odds, so working in reverse order:

At 100:1 is former Pennsylvania Senator and 2012 candidate Rick Santorum.  He stuck in there the longest against Romney in 2012 and suspended his campaign for family reasons before slinking back to Pennsylvania.  While he certainly has appeal to the social conservatives, the 2016 race will likely revolve around the economy and national security.  In some speeches and appearances, he is positioning himself as a conservative populist trying to address the concerns of the middle class by bringing back manufacturing jobs to America.  But, social conservatives are likely to abandon him as there are better options out there this time out (like Cruz).  He may enter the race, but if so, expect him to drop out a lot earlier than 2012 because this potential field is just that much stronger.

At 50:1 is former Texas Governor Rick Perry.  My guess is that he will enter the race.  Last time, he appeared pushed into the race given the fact no clear front runner was emerging.  While there will be the inevitable references to his sub-par debate performances in 2012, that is a thing of the past.  No one can deny his executive experience and residing over an economic boom in Texas.  While the Left will play those debate performances over and over again and make silly insults about his glasses, Perry seems poised to be a possible force to be reckoned with this time out.

At 40:1, I cannot believe that fellow Texan [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] ranks so low.  If anything, this is one candidate who is willing to stand on principle and take his blows.  Perhaps the low ranking is attributable, unfortunately, to fellow Republicans undermining him.  He is not well-liked within the Senate by members of either party.  He certainly is a dynamic speaker and would create some highlight moments on the campaign trail.  The question is whether those highlights would be a distraction or not.  Cognizant of the fact that many here are strong supporters, I realistically do not see him winning the nomination although he would make the nominating process a hell of a lot more exciting.

Bobby Jindal comes in at 33:1.  The biggest advantage for Jindal is that he would break the perception that the GOP is a collection of old white males.  But, it goes deeper than that.  His public speaking performances have certainly become better since that stiff, awkward response to the State of the Union address that had everyone cringing.  And when it comes to policy, he is well-versed in many areas.  His response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill also earned him deserved praise.  But, Jindal’s star has burned brighter in the past.  Like many names here, I can see him with some role in a Republican administration, even Vice President, but not at the top.

Mike Huckabee is listed at 25:1 by Vegas.  He looks like he will enter the race having quit his lucrative job at Fox.  No one can debate his socially conservative credentials, but like Santorum there are more palatable options out there this time.  He does have some blue collar appeal, but his economic populism is what may cause many to question his candidacy.  And one has to consider his donor base which is basically non-existent.  If he is going to enter the race, it better be soon.  Personally, although he has the executive experience, I believe he is old news and he had better chances in the past.

Vegas puts Indiana Governor Mike Pence at 20:1 and he would make an intriguing possibility.  Unless you are a Republican or conservative, most people cannot likely identify this guy.  But, he has quietly and efficiently run Indiana for the past few years.  Before becoming Governor, he was in the US House, so he has federal experience also.  The question is whether he would give up the Governor’s office to pursue a run at President?  I don’t think so.  This is a man who spent 10 years in Washington and resigned to return to Indiana.  Perhaps, a run in 2020 is in the stars- he is only 55 years old, but not this year.

I cannot believe they put Mitt Romney at 14:1.  The field this time out is a lot stronger than 2012 and Romney knows that.  He has been making some noise and big money still likes him.  But my educated guess is that he will float his name and be there in the wings waiting in case no front runner emerges later in the year.  Personally, the GOP should be looking forward, not backwards and there is no guarantee he will perform any better against Clinton than he did against Obama.  In short, please, God, no!

There has been much speculation that now that Jeb Bush has apparently entered the fray semi-officially, fellow Floridian [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] (at 12:1) will withdraw his name from consideration.  What is the problem with two candidates from Florida?  Rubio is a Republican face of the future.  He is young enough to seek another term in the Senate and still consider a presidential run somewhere down the line.  The one thing in the craw of conservatives is that Rubio appeared to veer left on immigration and he has since backtracked somewhat.  But, the damage has been done.  However, if we are to discount Rubio over one issue, then we need to reconsider our commitment to winning the White House.

Yikes! Las Vegas puts New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at 10:1.  Well, he would make the race interesting to say the least.  Leaving aside his propensity to hug football team owners and presidents, his size and his bombastic style, he has provided just too much fodder for any opponent to exploit- Democratic or Republican.  As a resident of New Jersey, his actions do not match his rhetoric.  Besides his style, his economic “achievements” leave much to be desired.  Two years later, my home which was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, remains abandoned and not rebuilt thanks to the Jersey bureaucracy.  I cannot see Christie making it out of the early primaries.  In a way, I wish he would run so that the Lt. Governor could step up and establish a record to run on in 2017.  As I have said in the past, Christie may be the best Republican for New Jersey (just because Democratic options are so bad), but definitely not for the country.  Like Romney, please, God, NO!

[mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] is listed at 8:1.  Here is the thing about Paul I have heard from some Democrats in my home state- they are actually most wary of a Paul candidacy than they are about anyone else mentioned by the Republicans.  He has ventured into policy areas and arenas where Republicans or conservatives have failed to tread.  As a result, he has gained their begrudging respect.  In fact, several staunch Democrats I know have stated they would give Paul a very serious look against Clinton.  There is something there that exudes “commonsense,” an attribute I believe many in the electorate are seeking.  What holds Paul back is the Republican establishment who views him as somewhat quirky.  He likely has the backing of most Tea Party Republicans and the libertarians.  The problem for Paul is if national security emerges as a major theme in 2016.  His somewhat dovish policy positions may hold him back.  However, things often change on the campaign trail and one will have to wait to see how this issue and his positions shake out.  Given his moves, he is a likely candidate who can tap into an extensive fundraising network.  Other than Bush, he may be the best well-positioned non-official candidate right now.

These next two are tied at 11:2.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has all but declared his candidacy.  He has been furthering the theme that if the GOP is serious about winning the White House, they must look ahead, not back- a veiled slight against Jeb Bush and, at the same time, Hillary Clinton.  In fact, he has also dissed Clinton’s age.  The good thing about Walker is that he is viewed as an heroic conservative warrior having won three tough elections in short order and being the only Governor in history to survive a recall election.  Ironically, some on the Left have begun the attacks by noting his lack of a college degree although one cannot find that as being a necessary criteria for being President.  What makes Walker a palatable candidate is that he appeals to the many factions in the GOP.  He is almost the perfect candidate to unite the party behind a single candidate.  However, he is not viewed as a dynamic speaker (again, I fail to see why that should be a criteria).  As a result, he comes off as this cycle’s Tim Pawlenty.  He also meets the criteria of having executive experience with some accomplishments in his resume.  I am aware that some conservatives have reservations here given his recent backing off of making Wisconsin a right-to-work state which the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature seems poised to do.  My guess is that although he wants to avoid that situation at this point in time, principle will prevail and he would sign it into law.  That should quell any reservations on the Right.  While the Left will portray this in terms of class warfare, he can rebut those arguments if it has a tangible effect in Wisconsin and attracts businesses and jobs.  For various reasons, he is my personal choice.

Of course, he is tied with Jeb Bush at 11:2.  The former Florida Governor surprised no one with his announcement of an exploratory committee that has fundraising implications, if nothing else.  Personally, I hope that exploratory committee does its true job and determines that he has a small chance of actually winning the Presidency.  Yes, he is not George W. Bush, but there is a lot in his resume and policy positions that would make you think he was a Northeastern Republican Governor rather than one from Florida.  I am also a little tired of the comments that he would appeal to Hispanics as if Hispanics alone will decide the presidency in 2016. If the GOP wants to advance the perception that they are forward looking rather than looking to the past- a stark contrast to the Democrats with Clinton- then Bush should not be the choice.  If it came down to Bush versus Clinton come November 2016, we may as well concede the White House to the Democrats.  It would likely have me looking seriously at a third party candidate in protest.