GOP 2016 nomination race: best and worst-case field of candidates

In 2011-2012, the Republican candidates for President were rather weak, leading to a feeling of dissatisfaction among many Republicans as they surveyed the field. Mitt Romney had his ardent supporters, but many people who ended up supporting him recognized his weaknesses but simply felt he was better than his opponents in the race. The list of GOP candidates who may run looks quite a bit better than the list of candidates who ran in 2012, but what if a lot of them decide not to run? Will a lot of people be underwhelmed again next year as they try to decide who to support? For me personally, here are some groups of candidates that I’d love, and others that I’d be underwhelmed with.

Worst case first. If these are the candidates, I’d feel pretty underwhelmed:

Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Peter King, Rick Santorum.

Unfortunately, the above scenario is entirely possible. The establishment would probably coalesce around Chris Christie, who probably doesn’t have as many flaws as Romney did, but like Romney, will have trouble uniting the base and the establishment. The conservative grassroots could split 4 ways between Paul, Perry, Cruz, and maybe Carson, depending on how much they value experience in government. It’s not clear to me which one would be the biggest threat to Christie. But all of these guys are flawed – some (or maybe all) with electability issues, some with various scandals or investigations into their conduct that they could be tarred with (particularly Perry and Christie), some with peculiar/kooky views and statements (particularly Carson, but also Paul); none of them look very likely to unite the base and establishment better than Romney did, except maybe Perry.

I’m expecting Christie, Paul, Cruz, and Santorum to run for sure. Probably also King, but that’s inconsequential; he has no shot.

Here are the candidates that I would love to see in the contest:

Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Nikki Haley, Kelly Ayotte, Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence.

It’s highly unlikely that all of them would run, especially with Christie and the others already in the race. But if two or three of them would run, I would be quite delighted with the choices. I really hope at least one of them runs.

Here are some names that I am not sure how I feel about:

Mike Huckabee (I like him, but can he raise money and can he unite the party, outside of just social conservatives?); Jeb Bush (Impressive record, but can the base forgive him for supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants and Common Core? Plus, is the public ready for another Bush?) John Kasich (on his way to an easy reelection, but can he distinguish himself other than that? I don’t really have a feel on how well he connects with voters or how good his record is); Scott Walker (is he too polarizing to be very electable on a national level?)

 

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