Matt McDaniel

13 minute read

POWER RANKINGS 2016

30 Weeks out of the Iowa Caucus

70 Weeks out of Election Day 2016

There are currently 13 national GOP candidates declared.

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First Class Candidates, GOP

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Scott WaFile:Scott Walker by Gage Skidmore.jpglker:  Governor Walker looks set to declare his candidacy on July 13. With this entry, Walker makes the top-card fight official. We will now be able to see what Walker has put together behind the scenes in order to kick his Presidential ambitions into gear. Walker’s entry will also bring him rocketing back to the front of media criticism and put him squarely in the spotlight for news outlets. Walker was able to deflect most criticism when he jumped in the debate with both feet earlier this year. However, Walker’s unpolished responses, and refusal to engage with important questions, left many wondering if Walker would be able to get beyond early media inquiries. It now remains to be seen if Walker can prevent voter and message fatigue. It will also be interesting to see what kind of money that the Walker campaign will be able to bring to the table to counter Jeb Bush’s likely sizable coffers. However, Walker is at the top of the list this week because of his apparent early broad appeal to a spectrum of Republican interests. While his stance on marriage equality is on the wrong side of history, Walker is obviously courting as many potential voters as possible.

Current Rating: Up 2 spots to 1

Political Stock: BUY

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Jehttp://media.oregonlive.com/opinion_impact/photo/jeb-bush-20119761jpg-a137a6bdd738a087.jpgb Bush: The early poll numbers on Jeb Bush keep him near the top of the rankings. It remains clear that Bush’s money has yet to be put totally in play to help to boost his image. However, with the entry of Chris Christie into the fray and the likely run by John Kasich, Bush’s claim to the establishment mantle is no longer a foregone conclusion. While it is obvious that neither Christie nor Kasich has the political juice to unseat Bush at the top of the establishment side, their small percentages are mostly drawn from voters who would otherwise be supporting Jeb. For this reason, candidates like Christie and Kasich will be boons for the likes of Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz who don’t intend to draw as deeply from the establishment voter pool as Bush. Much of Bush’s future will be contingent on his performance in debates (don’t pull a Perry and come off at least mildly competent to prevent your supporters running for Christie or Kasich) and in the New Hampshire primary.

Current Rating: Down 1 spot to 2nd

Political Stock: HOLD

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Rand http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1360018/thumbs/o-RAND-PAUL-facebook.jpgPaul: Senator Paul’s campaign is a bit of an enigma. At this point, Paul’s status will clarify after he releases his Q2 fundraising numbers. Folks are downplaying expectations and, in all likelihood, they will be far weaker than any of the other “top tier” Republican candidates. Part of this goes to the fact that Senator Paul is not his father. Dr. Ron Paul drew huge fundraising numbers because of his intellectual and political clarity. Like him or hate him, you knew where Ron Paul stood on the issues and his supporters knew it (the libertarian Bernie Sanders, as it were). The lack of enthusiasm from donors to Rand Paul may stem from this lack of clarity about his political positions. Paul, seeming to get this message, has, in recent weeks, begun to reassert an unapologetic libertarianism. Whether this is simply politics or the true Paul reasserting himself is probably irrelevant, it should lead to more donations. The bigger, more systemic, problem for Paul’s campaign is the lack of a major financier. This is not a big problem now, but once spending starts to kick into high gear, Paul’s (and his allies’) coffers will dry up quickly. However, the reason Paul is back in the top tier this week is because he has been the target of the most Democrat criticism online. Obviously, when the other side is spending to attack you, you know that they are taking you seriously. To that end, I wouldn’t count the Paul campaign out of being at the top quite yet.

Current Ranking: Up 1 to 3rd

Political Stock: BUY

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http://d35brb9zkkbdsd.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Marco-Rubio-Big-Smile-600x399.jpgMarco Rubio: Senator Rubio had a rocky week in some early polls. While polls must, at this point, be taken with a grain of salt, it does make you take notice as to where that support is going. Certainly Jeb Bush is getting more of his momentum back after entering the race, but most of that support was support that had left him and is just returning now. The largest shift, and what has caused a blip to the Rubio numbers, is the entry of Donald Trump into the race. Trump, obviously, is more of a protest candidate than an actual contender. There is nothing wrong with this, as maybe he will make Republicans sit up and take notice of voter dissatisfaction. There are two bigger concerns for Rubio than the brief decline in early polls: first, that the Jeb Bush machine is putting Rubio in its sights, and second, what Rubio’s fundraising numbers will look like. Rubio will need to at least out-raise Rand Paul and the other candidates lower on the rankings in order to keep himself in the top tier. As we have discussed here before, of all the candidates running, Rubio and Bush must be the first to fight it out (we cannot have two Floridians on the ticket). Consequently, watch for the Bush campaign to make Marco its first fight.

Current Rating: Down 2 to 4th

Political Stock: BUY

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Second Class Candidates, GOP

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Ted Cruz: Against popular wisdom, we are keeping Ted Cruz at 5th. Cruz is consistently polling lower than some of his other hard-right rivals, but the best predictions seem to show that Cruz will announce impressive Q2 fundraising numbers. One the one hand, this is the product of Cruz being in the race for the longest of any candidate. However, on the other hand, it does show that he is drawing support even from voters who may think of him as a second choice. While pundits have claimed that Cruz’s chief early opponent is Senator Rand Paul, the real concern for the Cruz campaign will be Governor Walker’s entry into the race and his consolidating his base. Cruz’s path to the nomination relies on stellar debate performances that draw away support from the hard-right candidates, a win in Iowa, and getting the other hard-right candidates to drop out after South Carolina and endorse Cruz. A win in Texas as well as a few other strongly Red states will put Cruz on an even footing with Walker.

Current Rating: Unchanged at 5th

Political Stock: HOLD

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File:Chris Christie 2011 Shankbone.JPGChris Christie: The “will he or won’t he” question was finally answered when Chris Christie entered the race for the White House. With candidates like Donald Trump in the race, the idea that Christie would sit the race out became more and more remote. While attacking Rand Paul was generally easy fodder for a large-ish government moderate-ish like Christie, he is now in a race that is constantly changing and shifting. As we predicted before, Christie was quick to get endorsements from GOP candidates he helped get elected in 2014 when his political star was at its height. Expect Christie to call in more of these political favors as the race moves along. Christie obviously benefits from a decline in Jeb Bush’s numbers. Expect Christie, whenever possible, to start to draw support and (hopefully for Christie) donors away from Bush.

Current Ranking: Unchanged 6th

Political Stock: HOLD

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John KFile:Governor John Kasich.jpgasich: Governor John Kasich is set to announce his bid for the White House on July 21. As with Chris Christie, above, with the barrier to entry in this race set so low, there is nothing that is preventing Kasich from making a run. Again, like Christie, Kasich is a staunchly establishment candidate who will benefit from any decline in Jeb Bush’s prominence. For a while now, Kasich has been our pick for the dark horse of the GOP presidential race. The fact that he is governor of an almost-must-win for the GOP in the general election makes Kasich’s importance in the field not something to be overstated. While Kasich’s fundraising and active base of support will likely not propel him into the top of the ticket overnight, Kasich has the credentials to make a significant impact on the “late game” of the Republican nomination process.

Current Rating: Unchanged 7th

Political Stock: HOLD

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Third Class Candidates, GOP

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http://fitsnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/graham.jpgLindsey Graham: Lindsey Graham continues to make his case to voters that Islamic terrorism is the greatest threat to America today. Embracing the security state image as his mantle, Graham is certainly making his positions on the matter clear. Otherwise a moderate, Graham is banking on foreign policy concerns driving the future Republican nomination fight. In a way, Graham may be correct. While it is up for debate the degree to which ISIS and other affiliated terrorist organizations actually pose any real, coordinated, threat to the United States or its interests (beyond lone wolf-style attacks), the “man on the street” of the GOP sees the Obama Administration’s failures abroad as destabilizing and leading to a lack of security.

Current Ranking: Unchanged at 8th

Political Stock:  HOLD

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Fourth Class Speculative Candidates, GOP

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File:Bobby Jindal by Gage Skidmore.jpgBobby Jindal: Governor Jindal entered the race for the White House to generally small fanfare. Coming down squarely on the wrong side of the marriage equality debate (and insinuating that Congress should disband the Supreme Court because of it), Jindal is attempting to get noticed in a race full of conservative positions. However, outside of the far-right religious candidates like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, Jindal has taken hard stances in favor of Christian fundamentalism. This calculation is meant to get him press attention, but to the vast majority of Americans, this makes him completely unelectable. Moreover, appearing once with groups that blamed severe weather on homosexuality, Jindal needs to reevalute his image if he wants any chance of moving up in any rankings.

Current Ranking: Up 4 spots to 9th

Political Stock: SELL

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http://www.texaswatchdog.org/files/rickperry_5.jpgRick Perry: Rick Perry remains on the campaign trail touting Texas’ impressive economic and job creation numbers. This is, overwhelmingly, the rhetoric Americans want to hear from Perry. While, as with any Governor, the economic prosperity of a state is not solely in one man’s hands, Perry’s message about economic growth resonates with the GOP base. Perry, seeming to take a shadow of an opinion from Rand Paul, has also addressed the fact that GOP economic policies would do better for minority communities than decades of Democrats. Moreover, Perry has condemned the rhetoric of Donald Trump with regard to immigration from Mexico.

Current Ranking:Unchanged 10th

Political Stock: SELL

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george_patakiGeorge Pataki: The former NY Governor has declared his candidacy for the presidency. It remains unclear what Pataki’s true motives are in making a run at an ultra-long-shot bid, but there really is no discernible downside. Perhaps the reason for the run stems from the faltering Jeb Bush campaign and the potential undecided moderates and establishment voters who may be interested in supporting another former Governor. Like Giuliani before him, Pataki will likely run on a “remember 9/11” motif which, after 14 years, is patronizing, if stale.

Current Ranking: Unchanged 11th

Political Stock: SELL

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/Ben_Carson_by_Gage_Skidmore_2.jpgDr. Ben Carson: After his announcement, Ben Carson has generally faded from the public’s spotlight. His time in Baltimore after the riots was generally well- received. Carson remains a niche candidate with some supporters. It remains unclear what kind of money the Carson campaign is raising at this point. Much of his political future rests on campaign finance filings and performance in future debates. The most interesting thing about the Carson campaign is that Carson continues to garner about 8-10% in national and regional polls. While it is still early in the campaign, it does appear that Dr. Carson will be among the “top 10” in the Republican debates.

Current Ranking: Unchanged 12th

**Political Stock: HOLD

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Carly Fiorina: Carly Fiorina remains on the war path against Hillary Clinton. This is her campaign schtick and she is certainly running with it. It remains unclear to what degree Fiorina will go after other Republicans in the race. In a way, she may have the ability to come across as the adult/peacemaker between certain factions once debates get underway. Expect Fiorina to have a good fiscal showing because of her connections and friends. It remains unclear about subsequent quarters, however.

Current Ranking: Unchanged 13th

Political Stock: HOLD

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http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/files/2014/04/mike-huckabee-deborah-feingold-1.jpgMike Huckabee: Mike Huckabee’s candidacy for President is baffling. Now, I understand that there is large appeal for a boisterous evangelical warning that sin is causing America’s decline, but the reality that someone who holds himself out as a pastor yet mocks transgendered people can poll so high is stomach-turning. The GOP is short-sighted if it thinks that the optics of a Huckabee candidacy will help attract voters to the Party. Rather, the decline in support for the GOP is genuinely linked to the rise of people like Huckabee who stand on moral high horses and alienate large segments of the young population. Additionally, with the decline of religious fervor in America, the hypocrisy of Huckabee embracing confessed pedophile Josh Duggar while condemning Caitlyn Jenner undermines his holier-than-thou stance on the issues. With the Supreme Court likely to declare marriage equality the law of the land, Huckabee will likely gain supporters who appreciate his anti-gay rhetoric. Regardless, the wheel of history has turned on the issue and Republicans embracing Huckabee will quickly find themselves well-outside of the mainstream. Republicans must understand that embracing the message that Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum push will alienate millennials and marginalize the Party.

Current Ranking: TEMPORARY REINSTATEMENT

Political Stock: JUNK

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FARCE CANDIDATES

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maar02-donald-trump-portraitDonald Trump: Let’s just get this over with. Yes, Donald Trump is running for President. He is “Constitutionally qualified” to hold the office. Therefore, under the law there is no bar to his running. While common decency and care about the Party would be bars to regular candidates, the barrier to entry in the 2016 race is so low that it is attracting all comers. the best thing about Donald Trump, in complete honesty, is that he really has no reason to lie or play politics. The interesting thing will be when some voters find this a refreshing change of pace from politics as usual. Though Trump may not come near the Presidency, there is a real possibility that he will make the Republican debates’ cutoff.

Current Ranking: FARCE

Political Stock: JUNK

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DELISTED CANDIDATES

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http://c1355372.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/4d77c29a-b959-4be9-8730-f88f56a2297a/RJSportrait.jpgRick Santorum: Rick Santorum is running for President. While Mike Huckabee’s relatively strong poll numbers forced me to raise him from the oblivion of delisting, Santorum’s do not. Santorum’s candidacy and his political positions are what’s wrong with the GOP today.

Current Ranking: DELISTED

**Political Stock: JUNK

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c9/Mike_Pence%2C_official_portrait%2C_112th_Congress.jpgMike Pence: Mike Pence was delisted weeks ago but he remains on the list as a lesson to others. His drop from fourth place in the rankings to the dustbin reflect poor politics and even poorer message control. While he was successful at raising his national profile, Pence both angered large numbers of moderates and opinion-shapers. However, this could still work for him if he had made himself a counter-cultural conservative avenger. Rather than embrace that image, he folded his tent, gave in to the wind of public disfavor and changed his mind. Thus, his brand was tainted because he looks both like an anti-progress hater and like he has no spine on issues of culture. There is a chance that Pence can rehabilitate his image and run in 2020. As of now, he will have no business running for the presidency in 2016.

Current Ranking: DELISTED

Political Stock: JUNK

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Unranked Speculative Candidates

Sarah Palin, Bob Ehrlich, John Bolton, Rob Portman, Asa Hutchinson, Nikki Haley

If any of these potential candidates make moves towards running, they will get a ranking.