DYCHE | Handicapping 2016 Republican presidential field
News: John David Dyche Opinion Graphic
By John David Dyche WDRB Contributor
Republicans ask each other two questions these days. "Who will be the GOP presidential nominee in 2016?" and "Who are you for?"
My response to both has been, "I don't know." But opinion writers are supposed to have opinions, so here is an attempt to come up with answers of a sort.
There are 16 credible potential candidates. The list omits long shots like former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, former business executive Carly Fiorina, or former New York governor George Pataki, each of whom is being mentioned, but seems outside the realm of real possibility.
The contenders are, in alphabetical order: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush; surgeon Ben Carson; New Jersey governor Chris Christie; Texas senator Ted Cruz, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee; Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal; Ohio governor John Kasich; Kentucky senator Rand Paul; Indiana governor Mike Pence; Texas governor Rick Perry; Ohio senator Rob Portman; former Massachusetts governor and 2012 nominee Mitt Romney; Florida senator Marco Rubio; Wisconsin congressman and 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan; former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum; and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.
There are eight characteristics that are both desirable in a post-Obama candidate and important to being a successful president. Other Republicans will have their own hierarchy of such traits, of course, but mine are as follows.
He (they are all male) is not a lawyer; has executive experience; has legislative experience; served in the military; can win a state Republicans might otherwise lose; is authentic and likeable; is electable, especially against Hillary Clinton if she is the Democratic nominee; and represents a fresh face for the party.
The first five of these categories are objective. The last three are subjective. There is an argument for weighting these criteria, but for purposes of this exercise they are assigned equal value.
Here is how they totaled: 7 – Kasich, Perry, and Walker; 6 – Bush and Jindal; 5 – Christie, Huckabee, Paul, Pence, Portman, Rubio, and Ryan; 4 – Carson; 2 – Cruz and Romney; and 1 – Santorum.
The top three candidates are successful multi-term governors. Kasich and Walker have everything going for them but military service and each could carry their battleground home states.
Perry is the only one of the entire 16 with military service. He is still a fresh face despite his short-lived 2012 bid (“Oops!”) and has everything else GOP voters could want, but Republicans should win his state of Texas regardless of whether he is the candidate.
Bush has neither legislative nor military experience, but he could carry critical Florida. Even though his family name is familiar, his face and persona would still be fresh to most Americans.
Jindal, who would be the first Indian-American president, neither has military experience nor puts a new state in play. But he, too, is a smart and successful multi-term governor.
Christie is a lawyer without legislative or military experience, but is very authentic. Huckabee lacks those same experiences and no longer qualifies as a fresh face after a prior presidential bid and a television show on Fox News. Pence, another successful governor, is a lawyer without military experience and his state is safely red.
Paul has no executive or military experience and may not be electable given his libertarian leanings, especially at a time of global turmoil. He puts a state in play for the GOP only if one considers Kentucky at risk to Clinton based on her husband Bill's having carried it in 1992 and 1996.
Portman and Rubio are also lawyers without military service, but they also lack executive experience. Both are authentic and likeable, but Portman can be bland or boring. The brainy, real guy Ryan lacks executive and military experience and is no longer a fresh political face.
Ben Carson is a doctor, not a lawyer, could conceivably put Democratic Maryland in play, is authentic and likeable, and a fresh face. But after Obama will America elect another African-American president possessing no executive or military experience?
Cruz gets points only for legislative experience and being a fresh face, but unfortunately that face often seems angry and bears an unsettling resemblance to the disgraced and demagogic former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy.
Romney was a bad candidate in 2012. He could benefit from buyer's remorse, but that is about all he would have going for him this time that he did not have last time.
Santorum has legislative experience, but nothing else. His admirable passion for working class Republicans is available in a much more pleasing package with Kasich, among others.
There are obviously lots of other relevant considerations. For example, the nominating calendar appears favorable to Paul, who also has as formidable a fundraising apparatus as any of the contenders. However, the Kentucky law purporting to forbid him from being on the state ballot for president and senator at the same time presents a problem.
Like the futures pool for wagering on the Kentucky Derby, the odds on this political horse race will change with time. But if I had to place a bet today, I would eliminate those scoring less than 5, make the trio scoring 7 my early co-favorites, and watch how the others handle the paddock (organization and roll out) and post parade (debates).
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.