Handicapping the 2016 Republican presidential field



No, I don’t know who the Republican candidate for president will be. I don’t even profess to know who the Democrat will be, either, though all my fellow commentariats clearly think there is no alternative to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

So, if we don’t know who the Republican candidate will be 15 months before the Republican National Convention next year, it is fair to opine as to who will NOT be the nominee. Fox News sometimes shows a montage of 24 possible Republican candidates.

There always are a lot of wannabes and “never-weres” at the beginning of any campaign. On the Democratic side, most of those have been flushed out of the race by Mrs. Clinton’s overwhelming fund-raising advantage, not to mention her even more overwhelming name-recognition advantage.

So, who are the Republican candidates with a chance? Here’s a list, albeit a bit short list of the 24: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz,

Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Mike Pence, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker.

Reid K. Beveridge Reid K. Beveridge

First, the candidates who won’t be the nominee — no way.

• Dr. Ben Carson. A lot of true conservatives like Carson, the only African-American in the group. However, he won’t be the nominee mostly because he has never held elective office before. He has zero experience. Great surgeon, I’m sure.

• Carly Fiorina. Former CEO of Hewlett Packard, no way. Never held office. Failed to be elected a few years ago in California.

• Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey. Logically, Christie should be a strong candidate, and perhaps he will prove to be. However, he is brash and brusque to the extreme, which to some is an asset. But it gets him pilloried in the mainstream media. And even though every investigation in the world has cleared him of any personal involvement in the bridge scandal, nonetheless it continues to get mentioned way too much for Christie’s good.

• Ted Cruz is a U.S. senator from Texas. Cruz will not have the support of any of his Republican colleagues in the Congress. He’s a bomb-thrower rather than a team player. Cruz is a very bright man, with a couple of Harvard degrees. He might be the best debater of the bunch. But he’s way, way too conservative to gain anything but hostility for whatever is left of the Republican establishment.

• Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas. Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses four years ago and has since had a show on Fox News. However, he won’t be the nominee even though he may be the choice of some evangelical Christians. Too shrill.

• Rand Paul, first-term senator from Tennessee. He won’t be the nominee because Americans won’t, in the end, vote for a Libertarian. Further, his foreign policy views are rather quirky, though admittedly not as weird as his father’s, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., who ran for president a couple of times.

• Mitt Romney says he’s not running. He’s done. Stick a fork in him.

• Rick Santorum. Never have understood why he thinks he has any chance at all. He served one term as a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, then was defeated for re-election by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. He apparently enjoys campaigning and has enough money to mush around the country making speeches.

• Mike Pence is governor of neighboring Indiana. Another former congressman (as is John Kasich), he, too, is doing a good job, but in a far safer Republican state. However, the contretemps over the so-called Religious Freedom Law passed by the Indiana legislature and then quickly revised probably sank any chances he had.

And further on the “no” category, I don’t think Jeb Bush will be the nominee, either. As I noted on Dec. 28, I think this is just one too many Bushes for the electorate to chew. George’s and Jeb’s father, president 1989-93, was and is a fine man and did not acquire the baggage that George W. did.

Unfairly, perhaps, but baggage nonetheless.

Beyond that, Jeb Bush will be perceived to be the least conservative of the group mentioned here. Republicans have nominated the moderate candidate nearly every time since World War II other than Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. For this, Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.

So, who will be the nominee? No idea, but here are a few comments.

• Kasich is governor of Ohio, one of those swing states that is essential for either Democrats or Republicans to win the presidency. By all odds, he’s doing a good job. Not much charisma, though.

• Marco Rubio is a U.S. senator from Florida, another key swing state.

Oddly, or perhaps not oddly, Rubio is a protégé of Jeb Bush and served as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives during Bush’s governorship. He is by far the best versed and spoken on foreign affairs of the current candidates. Ordinarily, presidential elections aren’t decided on international relations. But this time, President Obama — and his secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton — having made such hash of America’s standing in the world, foreign relations may matter a lot more.

• Scott Walker is governor of Wisconsin, having just won a second term. He’s a highly unusual governor in that he’s had to win three statewide elections in order to serve two terms. Union labor’s efforts to recall him failed, just as their all-out zeal to defeat him last year failed — miserably. He won handily. Actually, won all three elections fairly handily. Walker may well be the choice of the conservative wing. As Walker put it, he went “big” and he got ’er done. Results count sometimes.

It’s only 10 months until the Iowa caucuses. You can expect to see a picture of nearly every one of Iowa’s 99 county seats between now and then. You can expect to see dozens of views of the gold-domed Iowa statehouse over some talking head’s shoulder between now and then. You might also see the dome of the Old Capitol, which is the University of Iowa’s administration building in Iowa City these days.

Every one of these guys will be at the Iowa State Fair next August. You surely will see them posing with Iowa’s new political superstar, Sen. Joni Ernst, she being the combat veteran of the Iraq war and the one who boasted of castrating pigs on her Western Iowa farm. The notion of a farm girl castrating pigs was way too much for the New York and Washington opiners, but they forgot that she was running in Iowa, not New York City or Boston.

There are a lot of pigs in Iowa. There also are caucuses in Iowa next January.

Editor’s note: Reid K. Beveridge has covered state politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He is now retired at Broadkill Beach.

elections, politics
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