As I’ve made clear as I have talked about the debates before, I am one of your few vocally undecided front page posters here at Race42016. But, why am I undecided? We have a seemingly nice field of candidates. Many who are polished and refined with some great experience. Yea, we also have Trump, but he’s the anomaly, not the norm. Well, I’ll tell you why I’m undecided – it’s all about specific concerns which I’ll go through.
No Executive Experience – We have a number of United States Senators in the race. That’s fine, the more the merrier – to a certain degree. That said, what experience does Marco Rubio have actually serving as an executive in any capacity? Or Rand Paul? Or Ted Cruz? Or Rick Santorum? Or Lindsey Graham? Their skill set would make them fine Vice Presidential candidates, even cabinet members, but for President? I would prefer a nominee with executive experience. Does that mean I’d vote against them in the general? No, but it makes me wary to jump onto a bandwagon for a candidate who has never served in an executive capacity – either in business or in a governing role.
No Political Experience – Trump, Carson, and Fiorina have one major thing in common – none of them have served in public office before. The last President who went from private citizen to President was Eisenhower. It was different, though, with Eisenhower as Eisenhower had vast military experience which directly correlated to the position of Commander in Chief. He also had experience in the Federal Government as the Chief of Staff of the Army as well as serving as the overseeing Governor of American occupied Germany immediately after World War II. Carson has absolutely no experience relevant to the position of President. Fiorina and Trump at least are businesspersons who have experience serving as executives, but running a business and running the nation are not exactly the same. Also, their lack of political experience means they will make mistakes on the campaign trail most rookies make which could turn tragic against the Clinton machine in the general. Would I vote against them in the general? Apart from Trump, no, but again – it will make it more difficult for them.
Not Fiscally Conservative Enough – Let’s be real about John Kasich, George Pataki, and Mike Huckabee – their governing experiences in their respective states are not fiscally conservative. They are centrists at best, and at times center left when you look at their full records in office. Increased government spending, taxes, fees – that’s what you saw in their respective states. And Kasich’s continued defense of embracing Obamacare in Ohio should be disqualifying enough for any Republican voter, in my opinion. Christie has a…mixed history on the state level including some expansion and some cutting, making him in the mushy middle. And while Jeb was mostly great on the state level, his stances lately on federal issues and some of the decisions he made toward the end of his tenure in Florida are enough to give me pause. This doesn’t even begin to mention Trump’s vast history of proposing increasing the size and scope of government (socialized healthcare, increased taxes) and his personal abuse of eminent domain. Again, in the general it becomes a different beast entirely and I’ll most likely come back to support the nominee; but when I review their views now, I have concerns.
Not Socially Conservative Enough – I will not vote for a pro-choice candidate. Period. That eliminates George Pataki, but the fact that I lived in New York during all 12 years of Pataki’s reign and his center-left fiscal record were enough to disqualify him already. Kasich likes to talk about having a “truce” on social issues and is unwilling to fight the good fight federally on Planned Parenthood, only coming reluctantly on the state level after it became a major campaign issue. Paul rarely talks social issues, to my disappointment. I want someone ready to fight, especially for the right to life. Being able to talk on this issue and being firmly pro-life is a must for me. I will not vote for a pro-choice Republican who I can’t trust to appoint justice to SCOTUS who are ready to fight against Roe vs Wade. This, again, doesn’t begin to mention Trump who has been on all sides of the issue of life, still stands behind the “good” Planned Parenthood can do, and has a history of supporting restrictions on gun rights. A pro-choice nominee is one I won’t vote for unless I can be adequately convinced we’ll get pro-life judges on SCOTUS. I have yet to meet a pro-choice candidate capable of doing that, Giuliani came the closest in 2008.
I Despise the Fair Tax – Between the fact that the government can vote to give people more money through the poorly thought out prebate to the fact that a national sales tax will get abuses to no end, I despise the Fair Tax. This alone, for me, disqualifies Huckabee. I can’t vote for someone who supports the Fair Tax for President.
Foreign Policy Disagreements – I do not trust Rand Paul on foreign policy. There, I said it. I disagree with his seemingly naive view that we can withdraw inward. In the second debate he sounded more pragmatic, but in terms of national security – he concerns me. Bush and Kasich seem to have unrealistic expectations out of what Iran will do. And Fiorina sounds bold and capable, but are her plans she proposed in the debate realistic or too big? Carson – he just isn’t well versed enough in foreign policy to give answers and we don’t need a President who’s still training on the issues; we need them ready and having a plan in place for Day 1.
Now, I get – there are no perfect candidates. If I wanted a perfect candidate who I agree with 100%, I should run myself. I don’t and being I’m 32, I’m not qualified to be President. That said, these are my personal concerns. It’s okay to have concerns. And from them taken together I’m unsure about who I’ll vote for in the primary. Gun to my head? No idea. Still. There are things I love about each of the candidates. I love Fiorina and Rubio’s ability to connect with voters on a personal level. I love the humility of Carson. I love the willingness to stand firm on personal liberty of Paul and Cruz, even at their own personal career’s expense. I love Rubio, Bush, Fiorina, and (oddly enough) Christie’s ability and willingness to boldly defend the unborn on life issues. I love fact that we’re discussing reforming the tax code from a conservative perspective. That said, their pluses so far have not outweighed my current concerns. I will wait as the campaign continues, watching the impressive field and see if any of them have great pluses as I see them campaign and debate which outweigh my concerns. Until that day, I remain on Team Undecided. Feel free to join me here. It’s not the worst place to be…
At this point, it certainly looks like Governor Jindal’s sole reason for remaining in the GOP race is to take out Donald Trump. He released this new web ad today, in which even Charlie Sheen, after being subjected to Trump’s whining, declares himself bored with the whole thing:
For someone who’s supposedly so tough and such a fighter, this latest line of attack – “he’s whiny” combined with “we’re bored” – might just be… what was the term? A linguistic kill shot?
"Trump is a whiny loser" seems more likely to undermine his support than "Trump is not a True Conservative ™" ever could have.
— Kristen S Anderson (@KSoltisAnderson) September 23, 2015
Also more likely to get under his skin and produce more reasons for calling him that. https://t.co/g7m9nPfdnc
— Jim Antle (@jimantle) September 23, 2015
1. Marco Rubio U.S. Senator from Florida
Sen. Rubio holds the top spot in the rankings for his continued performance and potential, outshining his main rivals among the establishment. Rubio’s steady campaign has remained under the radar and disciplined while his main rivals, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, have seen their favorability and electability numbers tank. The addition of Lanhee Chen to the senator’s foreign policy team is just the latest indication that the major influence leaders in the party are shifting towards Rubio. His favorability, debate performances, fundraising, and organization combine to make Rubio the best and most complete package the establishment could ask for.
2. Donald Trump Chairman and President of The Trump Organization
Trump’s campaign appears to have hit a ceiling this month, struggling to find more low-information voters to add to his carnival show. Trump stumbled badly when confronted on Foreign Policy 101 by radio host Hugh Hewitt, and added to his image as a misogynist with a misguided attack on Carly Fiorina’s looks. Trump’s bad month culminated in a humiliating defeat in the second GOP debate, where his incoherent policy ideas and childish personal attacks left him the clear loser with nowhere to go but down.
3. Jeb Bush former Governor of Florida
Gov. Bush slips further in the rankings, held up only by the strength of his financial advantage. Bush got the worse of a number of ill-advised exchanges with Trump, seeing his favorability and electability numbers crash. Rumors of the establishment abandoning Bush for a new candidate continue to grow, with even calls to draft former Gov. Mitt Romney once again rising among the donor class. Bush failed to reassure his supporters with another halting, awkward debate performance, though he handled himself better than in his first debate loss. Still, Bush continues to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, an establishment scion running in the most anti-establishment climate in a generation.
4. Ted Cruz U.S. Senator from Texas
Like Rubio, Cruz continues to move methodically, aiming to be the last conservative alternative standing. He’s built strong ties with evangelical and Tea Party leaders and could be the candidate who benefits the most from Donald Trump’s continued humiliation. His anti-Washington crusade has been strong in both the debates and on the stump, and the longer he flies under the radar, the more likely he is to be one of the last candidates standing.
5. Carly Fiorina former CEO of Hewlett-Packard
After dominating the first “Kid’s Table” debate, Fiorina went on to dominate the second main debate. With a better grasp of the issues than fellow outsiders Ben Carson and Donald Trump, and a more polished style, the former CEO will continue to rise, and will likely end up in the first tier by the time of the next debate.
6. John Kasich Governor of Ohio
Kasich’s small surge in New Hampshire has cooled off some as other candidates have begun going up on the air. The Ohio governor has added more establishment endorsements, continuing to chip away at Jeb Bush’s only strength. However, Gov. Kasich had a bad night in the second debate, and his answers on Iran will likely come back to hurt him throughout the primaries.
7. Ben Carson former Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital
Dr. Carson’s personable style has quietly earned him a large following on the right, but his weakness on foreign affairs will continue to weigh him down and leave him unable to capitalize on his surprising poll strength. His apology to Donald Trump after their brief exchange over religion doesn’t help his case as a strong leader.
8. Scott Walker Governor of Wisconsin
Walker’s slide turned into a nose-dive this month, with his flip-flopping and uneven performances continuing to dog him. He is fast becoming 2016’s Rick Perry; a good-on-paper conservative governor who flopped on the national stage.
9. Chris Christie Governor of New Jersey
The New Jersey governor is on the brink of falling out of the main stage debates, and he has launched a national advertising push in order to stave off elimination. His strong debate performance will likely give him a lifeline as will the continued implosion of Jeb Bush’s candidacy.
10. Rand Paul U.S. Senator from Kentucky
Paul has fast become an asterisk in the race, and could very well be bumped to the “Kid’s Table” debate next month. His confrontations with Trump have done nothing to move his numbers, and his fundraising has all but dried up. He may follow Perry out of the race rather than being relegated to the lower tier.
Drop Out Watch: Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore
The CNN Kid’s Table Debate begins at 6:00 pm eastern this evening. On the stage will be Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, and George Pataki — an all-star lineup if ever there was one. This is the place for all your thoughts, discussion, and analysis regarding the event and the candidates who are trying desperately to convince Americans they still matter.
Bobby Jindal is going nowhere. He has very little cash, very little support, and no clear path to victory in the GOP primary. So today, he decided launch a full assault on Donald Trump and excoriate him at the National Press Club — and it was pretty great. Here are some snippets (and here is the link to read/watch the whole thing):
“The idea of the Donald Trump act is great. The reality of Donald Trump, however, is absurd. He’s a carnival act.”
“He has told us over and over that he has no problem with big, top-down style government. The only problem he has with D.C. today is he’s not the one running it.”
“Like all narcissists, Donald Trump is insecure and weak. That’s why he tells us all the time how big and strong and wealthy he is. Only a weak and small person needs to continue telling us how powerful they are.”
“You may have recently seen that Donald Trump said the Bible was his favorite book, yet when asked, he couldn’t even name a single Bible verse that was important to him. It’s clear Donald Trump has never read the Bible – and the reason he’s never read the Bible is he isn’t in it.”
“The Democrats have gift-wrapped this election for us, and we are flirting with nominating a non-serious, unstable, substance free narcissist… We can win right now, or we can be the biggest fools of all time and put our faith not in our principles, but in an egomaniacal madman who has no principles.”
“Making America great again starts with firing Donald Trump.”
Bobby Jindal will more than likely be out of the race soon, but he’s trying his best to bring down Donald Trump on his way out. For that, the GOP owes him their gratitude and respect.
1. Marco Rubio U.S. Senator from Florida
Sen. Rubio at number one? How? Trump is leading! Breitbart News says Trump is the frontrunner! Well, August horse race polls are not the best indicator of how the race shakes out, as President Giuliani should remind you. Favorability and overall acceptability combined with organization and fundraising are better indicators of long term success. With Bush and Walker stumbling, Marco Rubio stands to benefit the most. Rubio was considered by many to be the big winner in the first debate, and he is trending up across the early states, leading Bush in both Iowa and Nevada. With the other establishment candidates faltering, the likable and charismatic Rubio is gaining, with a surge in fundraising added to his leading campaign haul. Soon, the establishment will need to decide to double down on the increasingly unfavorable Jeb Bush or, as the Democrats did in 2008, move their support to the young rising star.
2. Jeb Bush former Governor of Florida
Gov. Bush slips from the top spot after a month of dreadful news for the dynastic presidential hopeful. Despite early leads in fundraising and organization, Bush’s numbers have continued to slide, partly due to the rise of Donald Trump, but also due to the lingering concern of a third Bush candidacy. The upward trends of Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. John Kasich leave Bush with little room for error, as he trails Rubio in Iowa and is staring down a Kasich surge in the Bush firewall of New Hampshire. With his unfavorable numbers topping both Trump’s and Clinton’s, Bush’s argument of electability is now largely without merit. His Right to Rise super PAC is now hoping a massive media blitz will help stop the bleeding.
3. John Kasich Governor of Ohio
Kasich’s late start hasn’t stopped him from making big inroads in New Hampshire, a state his campaign has focused heavily on. Kasich added the support of Tom Rath, who joined former Sen. Sununu in backing the Ohio governor, in a direct blow to Jeb Bush’s New Hampshire effort. Rath and the Sununu family have long standing ties to the Bush family, and this could be an indicator of more defections to come. Kasich also received the endorsement of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a longtime Mike Huckabee supporter who has clearly sensed that the tanking former Arkansas governor is finished.
4. Donald Trump Chairman and President of The Trump Organization
Xenophobic billionaire and prominent Democratic donor Donald Trump continues to lead with a small plurality in the fractured GOP field. Despite any conservative credentials, gravitas, or substance, Trump has proven resilient due to his bombast and star power combined with a saturation of press coverage from Democratic allies in the media. Still, the Planned Parenthood supporter has awful favorable/unfavorable numbers and still lacks a professional campaign organization. Also, unlike other wealthy self-funded candidates like Perot, Forbes, or Bloomberg, Trump has not yet committed substantial money to his campaign.
5. Ted Cruz U.S. Senator from Texas
Cruz continues to be steady as he goes. With Trump filling the role of blowhard, Cruz seems almost substantive by comparison. He has stayed out of the fray, performed well in the first debate, and has watched as the numbers of his top social conservative opposition (Huckabee, Jindal, Perry, Walker) tank. As it stands, Cruz will benefit the most from the inevitable end of Trump and the fall of others such as Perry and Huckabee.
6. Scott Walker Governor of Wisconsin
Walker was damaged the most in the first debate, with his numbers in free fall ever since. It seems that the Pawlenty comparisons he tried to shake have proven resilient. To make matters worse, Walker has flip-flopped on a number of issues in a desperate bid to chase headlines with Donald Trump. His trends don’t look good.
7. Ben Carson former Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital
Dr. Carson benefitted the most from the first debate, seeing a surge into to second place in multiple polls behind only Donald Trump. The former surgeon also has very high favorable numbers across the party spectrum, and has raised enough money to be a credible candidate. However, his organization has thus far been underwhelming, and his grasp of foreign policy is still a glaring weakness going forward.
8. Carly Fiorina former CEO of Hewlett-Packard
The clear winner of the “kid’s table” debate, Fiorina has used her debating talents and media savvy to launch herself into the top ten and will likely make the main debate next month. Her consistent and substantive attacks on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton have earned her a devoted fan following, but her lack of funding will keep her from the top tier.
9. Rand Paul U.S. Senator from Kentucky
Paul’s numbers have tanked in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationally. He, along with Scott Walker, seem to have taken the most damage from the first debate. Things have gotten so bad that Rand has now trotted out Ron Paul on the trail in a desperate final bid for attention.
10. Chris Christie Governor of New Jersey
The New Jersey governor has slipped out of the top ten nationally and is in danger of missing the next debate. To add insult to injury, his friend John Kasich has stolen the role of “straight talking governor” in New Hampshire. Christie is going for one final media push, but rumors are swirling that his campaign could end soon.
Drop Out Watch: Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore
Now that the first debate is in the books and we are hitting the tail portion of the summer, the Race 4 2016 is beginning to really take some shape. I decided to put my analyst hat on for a bit here and try to game out the race the rest of the way. This is probably an exercise in futility and things could look very different six weeks from now, let alone six months. However, I think this will be a fun exercise.
First, here are some quick and, best as I can, impartial thoughts on the candidates, their performance thus far and their viability.
Governor Jeb Bush – Make no mistake, Jeb Bush remains the front runner. Still. Barely. His grasp on that position is tenuous, at best. All the money in the world will not be able to overcome what appear to be very real deficiencies in Bush as a candidate, especially against a field this strong. What was obvious last night was that even Bush’s best niche as a candidate – the serious, focused, “adult in the room” – was usurped by more talented candidates.
Dr. Ben Carson – Dr. Carson’s appeal, which I never really understood, was on display last night, at least at times. He is likable, genuine and he fills a nice niche as an outsider which will appeal to a segment of the party. Yet, as things begin to get closer to voting I see Carson’s support, and money, drying up.
Governor Chris Christie – Governor Christie was one of the stronger candidates on stage in last night’s debate and showed at least some of why he was once thought of as a front-runner. He is beginning to carve out a place as the tough guy in the race and his exchange with Rand Paul will at least win him a second look from mainstream conservatives, but he will remain strongly disliked by the far-right. He has work to do, a lot of it in fact, but it appears he will have some staying power.
Senator Ted Cruz – Senator Cruz is who we thought he was – the hardcore, far-right conservative. And that is a formidable position to hold in a GOP primary. Cruz’s appeal is largely with middle-aged, working-class white men in the rural and exurban South and Heartland who listen to talk radio, drink Bud Light and drive pickup trucks. His goal as the race moves into its next phase will be to consolidate his support among that group and, as I will explain in my next column, he is probably the candidate best positioned to do that.
Mrs. Carly Fiorina – Mrs. Fiorina demonstrated, forcefully, why she belongs on the main stage with the serious candidates. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was sharp, articulate, quick on her feet and extraordinarily presidential. More importantly, as a woman, it is going to be hard for other candidates to attack her. That, coupled with her very obvious and real talents as a candidate, she appears poised to be in the race for the long haul if she can raise the necessary money.
Governor Jim Gilmore – A lot folks were not aware that Governor Gilmore was even in the race. After a largely forgettable performance in the afternoon debate yesterday, I am not sure many more know he is in the race now and I doubt he will be in the race much longer.
Senator Lindsey Graham – Senator Graham was largely disappointing in the afternoon debate yesterday. I found that somewhat surprising as Graham is a good communicator and his folksy demeanor plays well. Yet, as someone who was largely an afterthought going into yesterday he had to do more. He will not last much longer.
Governor Mike Huckabee – The former Arkansas Governor did well, as expected, yesterday. An excellent communicator with a loyal following, Huckabee has staying power in the race. His problem, however, is two-fold; one he not that strong of a conservative on issues beyond the social and he never has been much of a fundraiser. He needs to do a lot of work on both those areas if he is going to make it to the final round.
Governor Bobby Jindal – Governor Jindal performed strongly in yesterday’s debate, demonstrating a strong grasp on policy and a top-tier intellect. Problem is, in a field this large it is going to hard for a candidate like Jindal, with little name recognition and even less money, to stand out. Sans finding some kind of silver bullet, and firing it soon, Jindal will be an early exit. He will, however, make an excellent cabinet secretary in a Republican administration.
Governor John Kasich – Governor Kasich was very strong yesterday. As a late entrant into the race there were concerns Kasich had waited too long, that does not appear to be the case. His very strong debate performance figures to bring a major boost both his name recognition and fund-raising ability. Being from Ohio and having a long resume of successful governmental experience will help too. Barring a major gaffe, which is a possibility given his penchant for speaking off the cuff, Kasich is a good bet to remain in this race for the long haul.
Governor George Pataki – The former Governor of the Empire State, who performed well in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and can boast being a three-term governor of a dark, dark blue state, did not perform badly in the afternoon debate. He was not great, either. And for a candidate that is near the very bottom of the barrel, that will prove highly problematic and Pataki will likely be forced to exit the race sooner rather than later.
Senator Rand Paul – Perhaps no candidate’s performance both in yesterday’s debate and the race at large has been more polarizing than Paul’s. He has a sizable and vocal base of support from libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives but his challenge has always been if he can expand upon that. Truth be told, I do not think we have a definitive answer on that yet. Even if the answer turns out to be no, and it the estimation of yours truly it is trending that way, Paul will have staying power, because of his base, as his father demonstrated. With his re-election to the Senate a virtual guarantee, Paul will likely remain in the race long-term to highlight the issues about which he and his base are passionate, even when it becomes clear he has no chance in hell to win the nomination.
Governor Rick Perry – On paper, Governor Perry looks like a very formidable candidate. He is a multi-term, widely successful governor of the nation’s second-largest state, a “checks all the boxes” conservative with charisma, a southern base of support and is one of only two veterans in the Republican race. Yet none of that has translated into support. It’s puzzling. And Perry and his team will have to solve that puzzle soon if he is to remain in the race much longer.
Senator Marco Rubio – Those of us who follow politics closely are all keenly aware of the very formidable strengths Senator Rubio brings to the table. Last night, the rest of the country got to see it as well. Rubio was good. Very good. He can sell conservatism in a way that appeals to such a broad segment of the electorate. Recent talk about the “Rubio summer slide” should be silenced after last night’s performance. As his supporters (which, full disclosure, yours truly is one) have been saying his slow-and-steady wins the race approach looks like a good grand strategy. He is going to be able to raise plenty of money, he is excellent on the stump, in interviews and, as we saw yesterday, in debates as well. Rubio will be in the race for the very long haul.
Senator Rick Santorum – Senator Santorum’s second run at the presidency looks like it will end a lot sooner than his first. It is hard to find a niche to which he appeals; others are better-equipped to go after blue-collar voters and hardcore social conservatives. However, he is a tenacious politician and he will not give up easily, quickly or without a fight. It is plainly obvious to everyone now that he is not going to win, or even get close, to the nomination, but it will take Santorum a lot longer to get out of the race than another candidate who found themselves in a similar position.
Mr. Donald Trump – Trump was nothing short of awful yesterday; he was the very definition of un-presidential. Many political observers, most especially yours truly, have struggled mightily to understand his appeal. So it is possible that Trump’s supporters – the ones who voted him the debate’s runaway winner in yesterday’s Drudge poll – liked what they saw last night and will continue to support him. However, it is hard to imagine that yesterday’s embarrassing performance did not hurt him at least somewhat. Trump’s death as a candidate will likely, unfortunately, be a long and slow one. There is a segment of voters who do genuinely like him, passionately, and the media cannot get enough Trump talk. To make a sports analogy, Trump is the Tim Tebow of the 2016 race.
Governor Scott Walker – Governor Walker had a steady performance last night. He really did not do anything to distinguish himself but he certainly did not make any gaffes or do anything damaging. He has been doing the ground work in Iowa where his natural appeal makes him an ideal fit for first in the nation caucus state. Yet, Walker is going to need to start doing more lest his charisma gap – which is very real – does not lead voters to at least start looking at other candidates.
Part Two of this piece, which is coming very soon, will make an attempt to game out the next eight months of the race. Stay tuned!
1. Jeb Bush former Governor of Florida
Gov. Bush returns as the default frontrunner, in part due to his historic fundraising strength, but more so due to the effects of the “Summer of Trump”. With the left-wing billionaire dominating media coverage of the race, lesser known candidates have been deprived of much needed air time. Bush, with his dynastic name, is somewhat immune to this effect, leaving him relatively unscathed in national polls. However, Trump does pose a bigger threat to Bush than other candidates running, mostly due to the unpredictable, anti-establishment history of the New Hampshire electorate. Unlike Scott Walker, Bush has been unable to maintain his early state lead, falling far behind Trump in the first primary state. The longer Bush stays behind a buffoon like Trump, the weaker he looks and the less likely a third Bush presidency becomes.
2. Scott Walker Governor of Wisconsin
Walker has finally entered the race and immediately added to his commanding lead in Iowa. Walker’s early state strength is more impressive when you consider other candidates have seen their numbers crumble in the wake of the Trump media frenzy. Walker’s aligned super PACs have over $20 million in the bank, more than enough to build on and sustain his Iowa lead. However, Walker has become the new favorite target of the left-wing billionaire, and he must be careful how far into the weeds he wants to go in responding to the erratic and unelectable Clinton donor.
3. Marco Rubio U.S. Senator from Florida
Sen. Rubio has seen some of his poll numbers fall as the Florida republican has receded from media attention, focusing more on fundraising and organization during the summer. His efforts have paid some off some, as his campaign raised the most money of any candidate, and his super PACs brought in the third most. Rubio has also avoided some of the more embarrassing elements of this summer’s campaign, namely getting dragged too deep in the muck by realty TV show character Donald Trump. Rubio has managed to retain his stunningly high favorability ratings, making him the most liked candidate in the field, something that bolsters his electability argument against the more unfavorable Jeb Bush and the rapidly declining Hillary Clinton.
4. John Kasich Governor of Ohio
Kasich’s late start hasn’t stopped him from making big inroads in New Hampshire, a state his campaign has focused heavily on. With a team that knows New Hampshire well, a local boost from the Sununu family, and solid PAC fundraising, Kasich may still become a top challenger to Bush on the establishment side. Now that it looks like he’ll make the debates, his momentum may continue to build. With the bursting of the Trump bubble looming, attention will turn to candidates who are not insane or a blight on party, and Kasich will be a top choice when that occurs.
5. Ted Cruz U.S. Senator from Texas
With the “bomb-throwing loudmouth” slot being filled by Trump, Cruz finds himself largely without his natural niche. He lame attacks on Sen. Mitch McConnell won’t win him back his status as Cruz is the only candidate in the field who hasn’t stood up to Trump’s more outlandish statements, leaving the Texas senator open to criticism for weakness and gutlessness. However, Cruz’s fundraising has put him in a position to capitalize on the collapse of other candidates in the far-right bracket of the primary process, making him the most likely of the fringe candidates to survive a longer campaign.
6. Chris Christie Governor of New Jersey
Christie’s comeback has been very slow, but a few polls released since his announcement have him doing slightly better than expected. His unfavorables still need major work, and his New Hampshire-or-bust campaign needs strengthening, but he’s done enough to make the debates, where his talents can be most effective.
7. Rand Paul U.S. Senator from Kentucky
Paul’s numbers continue to slide, a fact that was made more alarming but his horrible fundraising quarter, both by his campaign and aligned PACs. Paul’s “libertarian moment” seems to have passed him by. With so many candidates soaking up the media spotlight, Paul was supposed to have the money and an organization to give him an edge in the early states. It just hasn’t materialized.
8. Rick Perry former Governor of Texas
Gov. Perry has been the strongest voice for conservatism in the face of the media-created Trump bubble, taking the liberal billionaire to task for a number of his leftist positions and idiotic statements. Perry, one of only two veterans running for the nomination, has earned a true second look for his courage in the face of media hysteria.
9. Donald Trump Chairman and President of The Trump Organization
It is with great embarrassment and tremendous shame in my party that I have to include this buffoon in these rankings. Unfortunately, Trump’s numbers cannot be ignored. However, polls alone are not the decisive factor in primary elections, with money and organization at this early stage carrying greater weight. Trump has yet to put serious money into his campaign the way Ross Perot did, and his lack of a real ground game will show over time. The fact that the Koch brothers have cut him off to their database and research puts him in greater need of his own “yuuuge” financial resources.
10. Mike Huckabee former Governor of Arkansas
Gov. Huckabee followed his disturbing defense of Josh Duggar last month with an outlandish attack on the President this month, comparing him to the SS officers who committed mass genocide against the Jews during World War II. This pattern of nonsensical rhetoric was coupled with a disastrous fundraising quarter for the TV host-turned-also ran. On top of it all, Huckabee’s numbers in Iowa are tanking, leaving his chances of being the nominee on life support.
Honorable Mention: Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Ben Carson
No Chance: Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore