We have Senators and Governors and ex-Senators and ex-Governors, business leaders and CEOs, and a bona fide legitimate medical doctor (in fact, two) to choose from for the GOP presidential candidate to take on Hillary in 2016. With the field set and many debates to go before we get to Iowa or New Hampshire this winter, let’s take a breath and take stock of the candidates. The following are listed alphabetically along with their Vegas odds, position in the polls and which tier they are listed in according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball. (Note: I am including John Kasich who is expected to enter the race next week)
1. Jeb Bush- former Governor of Florida (poll position-1; Tier 1; Vegas odds 2-1): Currently considered the “front runner,” enthusiasm is not where it should be. One poll showed 40% of registered Republicans having reservations about him. I constantly keep hearing the words of Barbara Bush: “In a country of over 300 million, are you telling me we can only come up with a Bush and Clinton?” Personal note: With Bush as the candidate, the GOP would lose a great strategy against Clinton, namely Clinton is old news.
2. Ben Carson- former head of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins Medical School- (poll position-3; Tier 4; Vegas odds 20-1): There is “something” there since he is high in the polls and will be on stage for the first debate. There have been mistakes along the way with some gaffes, but that is to be expected from a political neophyte. Maybe that is the attraction. Personal note: He would be a true long shot for the top job, but I can definitely see him in a Republican administration (HHS or Surgeon General).
3. Chris Christie- Governor of New Jersey (poll position-10, Tier-3, Vegas odds 19-1): He would sneak into the first debate which may liven it up if he is classic Christie. As far as I know (and I may be wrong), he is the only candidate to address entitlements thus far. But, the fact that he is only slightly more favored than a Ben Carson shows how far his star has fallen among the GOP faithful. Personal note: It will not be the Obama hug or “Bridgegate” that will sink Christie; it will be the state of New Jersey’s economy.
4. [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]- Senator from Texas (poll position- 8; Tier- 2, Vegas odds 24-1): Love him or hate him, one thing is certain- the man is principled. It is hard to believe that he would barely sneak into the first debate, but look out when he does. Personal note: For whatever reason, people are not taking Cruz too seriously at this point. That would be a mistake and I think he will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming months. A good debate performance will push him up the charts.
5. Carly Fiorina- former CEO of Hewlett-Packard (poll position- 12; Tier- 5; Vegas odds 47-1): Like Ben Carson, an outsider, but she did run and lose an election before. She is quietly out there on the stump with a consistent message and has perhaps the most pointed attacks on Clinton thus far. Unlike Clinton, she is answering and explaining the tough questions. Personal note: It is a shame she would not be on stage for the first debate as she has a message that should resonate.
6. [mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ]- Senator from South Carolina (poll position- tied for 14; Tier- 5; Vegas odds 40-1): I do not know why Vegas would consider Graham’s chances better than Fiorina’s. From a political standpoint, he will have a job to go back to after he withdraws. I think that he is hanging in there until the South Carolina primary when he will be dealt a dose of reality. Personal note: I have no idea what he adds to the mix.
7. Mike Huckabee- former Governor of Arkansas (poll position- 5; Tier- 4; Vegas odds 19-1): I was surprised to see him at #5 in the average of polls. We know what we will get with him and he certainly appeals to the evangelical wing of the Party, but (1) there are other options for that wing this year and (2) that wing, although still influential, is less so than in the past. Personal note: After Super Tuesday, this field will dwindle considerably and Huckabee may lead the parade.
8. Bobby Jindal- Governor and soon-to-be ex-Governor of Louisiana (poll position- tied for 14; Tier- 3; Vegas odds 47-1): His public performances have certainly improved of late. Jindal should not be discounted because he is experienced and is up on most policy debates. Personal note: Perhaps in any other year, I would give him a closer look, but I really do not think he is going too far this year.
9. John Kasich- Governor of Ohio (poll position- 13; Tier- 3; Vegas odds 30-1): He needs to explain some decisions as Governor that may draw the ire of conservatives. But, some pundits are high on him and I have to see why. Personal note: Keep a close eye on this one. Kasich may be the sleeper candidate of 2016 who may garner support across GOP factions with a principled message.
10. George Pataki- former Governor of New York (poll position- 16; Tier- 5; Vegas odds 63-1). Realistically, he has no chance, but let him have his say. Personal note: On second thought, naaaaah…
11. [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ]- Senator from Kentucky (poll position- 6; Tier-2; Vegas odds 9-1). At least he is willing to go into the belly of the beast and address issues near and dear to the liberals like poverty, prison reform and civil liberties. But, his hybrid foreign policy positions which he seems to be formulating on the fly is what may ultimately doom him. Personal note: I think it is wrong to lump him in with his moonbat father and how he performs on August 6th will help me better analyze this one.
12. Rick Perry- former Governor of Texas (poll position- 9; Tier- 3; Vegas odds 30-1): Can we please forget about 2012? Perry’s first goal was to get into the debate. He’s there but on the cusp. I would count this as a victory at this point. You can’t argue with his record as Governor of Texas. Personal note: Obviously, 2012 was not his year, but he seems more at ease now.
13. [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]- Senator from Florida (poll position- 4; Tier- 1; Vegas odds 3-1): He’s young, articulate and intelligent. Some say his star rose too suddenly. That may be his reason for the ill-fated immigration reform initiative that he backed in the Senate. Maybe he should get a mulligan. Personal note: He is on my short list of possibilities. This is a high stakes move for him because there is no going back to the Senate.
14. Rick Santorum- former Senator from Pennsylvania (poll position- 11; Tier- 4; Vegas odds 52-1): Santorum is a favorite of the evangelical base, but he has competition in that area this year. He has tried to make himself the hero of the middle class worker by attaching himself to some populist causes. He may surprise (I doubt it), but this is 2016, not 2012. Personal note: He will not hang in as long this year as he did in 2012.
15. Donald Trump- businessman and real estate developer (poll position- 7; Tier-5; Vegas odds 27-1): He’s a flame thrower and this is classic Trump- get yourself in the limelight because if there is one thing Trump likes more than money (and using the bankruptcy laws) it is attention. He may say what people are thinking, but I’m not buying that line just yet. Personal note: I have written previous articles about Mr. Trump. I personally believe he is the best weapon against the Republican Party that Hillary Clinton has.
16. Scott Walker- Governor of Wisconsin (poll position- 2; Tier-1; Vegas odds 4-1): He has been quiet for a while, but remains a viable choice. At some point, he will have to get more specific and stop the “I took on the unions and won” theme. A key to see who the Democrats most fear is who they most attack. They would love to take on Bush so they have been leaving him alone. Trump is a Democratic mole so they will leave him alone. Instead, their greatest attacks have been against Rubio and Walker. Personal note: Walker is the enigma to the Democratic Party- they cannot quite make him out. Maybe that is Walker’s strategy. As I said, at some point he will have to be more specific with his vision of a Walker administration. Although it may displease some detractors, he is positioning himself to play to win.