Matt McDaniel

12 minute read

POWER RANKINGS 2016

25 Weeks out of the Iowa Caucus

65 Weeks out of Election Day 2016

There are currently 17 national GOP candidates declared.

Disclaimer: Matt McDaniel, the author of this piece is a candidate for the First District City Council Seat in Baltimore City. While this rankings list does not touch or concern Mr. McDaniel’s race, in the interest of disclosure, Mr. McDaniel has made no endorsements of any candidates and has received no money or funding from any of the candidates on this list.

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First Class Candidates, GOP

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maar02-donald-trump-portraitDonald Trump: Love him or hate him, Donald Trump, “Teflon Don,” remains at the top of the rankings this week. Most early polls after last Thursday’s FoxNews Republican debate show Trump holding onto sizable leads over the next closest contenders. Some polls are even showing increases. Trump doubled-down (at this point we can effectively say Trump is quadrupling-down) on comments made about FoxNews anchor Megyn Kelly that were, at best, in poor taste, and at worst, wildly misogynistic. However, as Trump’s supporters have proved, they see any media attack on Trump as being just another attempt to smear the man who would bring real reforms to Washington.

Mr. Trump is absolutely correct from one perspective: his presence at a debate or in an interview boosts viewership. In the 24-hour media world, Trump’s star-power and draw is bringing in huge numbers. It is unclear if this is symbiotic (Trump rises in the polls and news media gets viewers) or parasitic (news media will use Trump for viewers until it’s time to get serious). Either way, at the moment, Trump is leading in a big way.

It’s important to note that the departure of Roger Stone from Trump’s campaign team was a big blow, but could show one of two things: first, that Trump is starting to lose a grip on reality as the frontrunner, or, second, that Trump is actually putting together a team that wants to actually make him President. While the two options aren’t entirely mutually exclusive, the departure of Stone indicates a consolidation of message. I wouldn’t believe the gossip coming out of the letting go of Stone. Both Trump’s team and Stone know how to spin a story to get it picked up by the media. My guess is that Trump’s people are restructuring in order to get a better foothold for the elections.

Current Ranking: 1st

Political Stock: PRIVATE

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Second Class Candidates, GOP

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Scott WaFile:Scott Walker by Gage Skidmore.jpglker: Scott Walker was generally unaffected by the debates. Governor Walker stuck to his guns on social issues and really had no break out moment on foreign policy. Walker will eventually need to systematically address foreign policy issues (in order to avoid cringe-worthy moments like comparing union thugs to the Islamic State). Though Donald Trump threw a few light punches at Walker earlier in the campaign, Walker and Trump have seemed to avoid one another in campaign rhetoric. While Bush needs to engage Trump to look like an establishment champion, Walker and Trump really have no need to spar. Though polls do indicate that Trump is drawing support away from Walker (PPP Poll released today shows Trump over Walker by 7 in Iowa), the Walker campaign has decided to focus on the issues rather than go after the businessman. This strategy indicates that Walker wants to be able to welcome back supporters who went over to Trump once the inevitable (?) Trump collapse occurs. This strategy, however, is looking more and more like a gamble by the day.

Current Rating: Up one spot to 2nd

Political Stock: BUY

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John KFile:Governor John Kasich.jpgasich: A lot of folks might disagree with this one. Kasich is above Bush in this week’s rankings. Are we crazy? Potentially. However, Bush’s lackluster debate performance and his seeming inability to land a hit on Donald Trump is hurting his brand. His polling nationally is even with Scott Walker and a little more than half of Trump. Bush is vulnerable. Enter John Kasich. The Ohio Governor luckily made the stage last week at the Republican debate and played well to a home crowd. His views on gays and lesbians played well to a mainstream audience and he came across genuine and likeable. Kasich certainly has conservative detractors, but he has long been waiting in the wings as the establishment alternative to Jeb Bush. An interesting idea was floated recently of Kasich-Rubio which has a “race to 270” feel to it. That being said, Kasich’s numbers are still relatively low. This ranking is based on momentum and predictions. As Bush falls, Kasich will rise.

Current Rating: Up 1 spot to 3rd

Political Stock: STRONG BUY

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Jehttp://media.oregonlive.com/opinion_impact/photo/jeb-bush-20119761jpg-a137a6bdd738a087.jpgb Bush: Jeb Bush can’t seem to land a punch on Donald Trump. It’s starting to infuriate his supporters and embolden his detractors. Bush has spent the past few days focusing on Hillary Clinton as is he were the presumptive nominee. The polls do not show that and Bush knows it. Knowing that some of his people are very good at communications and fundraising, it’s staggering that they have no strategy for making Bush either (a) likeable or (b) appear strong. Many on the moderate and establishment sides are no longer seeing Jeb as the establishment vehicle to the White House. If Bush can’t control his sliding in the polls and Kasich begins to overtake him in New Hampshire, you can expect to see the national narrative shift.

Current Rating: Down 2 spots to 4th

Political Stock: SELL

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Third Class Candidates, GOP

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http://d35brb9zkkbdsd.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Marco-Rubio-Big-Smile-600x399.jpgMarco Rubio: Marco Rubio was the most effective communicator on the stage at last Thursday’s Republican debate. It still seems that Rubio is running for Vice President. At this point, Rubio is right in the middle of the “third place pack.” It still seems murky exactly what Rubio’s strategy is for getting delegates. Rubio’s fielding of social issue questions, while drawing the ire of Democrats, were just conservative enough to make his point that he is a social conservative and placate the base.

Current Ranking: 5th

Political Stock: BUY

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Ted Cruz: Ted Cruz’s Donald Trump gamble continues. The Texas Senator is playing nice with the billionaire. This seems to be in order for Cruz to bring back his supporters in the event there is a catastrophic failure of the Trump campaign. Since Trump got in the race, Cruz has actually seen a mild uptick in his polling. While this is not terribly significant, it is in the opposite direction of almost any other GOP candidate. Cruz’s play at this point may be to take Scott Walker’s presumptive “conservative alternative” mantle for himself. Regardless of your opinion about Cruz, he is an engaging and effective speaker. However, this ability was not on display at the Republican debate where Cruz seemed to be going on talking points. When he got personal about his father and his childhood, he was very good. However, on issues about governing, he seemed to be reciting his campaign website. If he wants to take Walker’s supporters, Cruz needs a better debate performance next month.

Current Rating: Up 1 spot to 6th

Political Stock: HOLD (if you are a gambler)

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Rand http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1360018/thumbs/o-RAND-PAUL-facebook.jpgPaul: There are two schools of thought on Rand Paul this week. The first is that his campaign is washed up, unfunded, and doomed. The second is that Paul is about to pick up a second wind, start pushing a libertarian message, and spike back to a place atop the leaderboard. Both are probably wrong, at least for now. Paul’s campaign is a mess, but it’s actually getting better. Despite indictments of campaign staff for incidents that happened in 2012, Paul has been able to secure some additional funding. This will not be enough to get him to stay in the race until Iowa, but it is a temporary fix while he retools his campaign. This retooling will be very difficult. Paul’s shift to establishment talking points has cut the legs out from under a very unforgiving libertarian base (that was already skeptical of the junior Senator from Kentucky). Sticking with privacy issues, tax reform, and criminal justice reform will bring people back, but the damage may have already been done. It’s unclear what will happen with Paul’s campaign.

Paul is still beating Hillary Clinton in several state polls, so there is hope that Paul could be a viable candidate.  However, it’s not entirely clear why Paul is going after Donald Trump as hard as he is. Obviously, the intent is to raise Paul’s standing and give him media attention, but this strategy is the same one used by candidates much farther down on this list. Some people may like the belligerence, but Paul’s base wants to hear his ideas.

Current Ranking: Down 1 spot to 7th

Political Stock: HOLD

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File:Chris Christie 2011 Shankbone.JPGChris Christie: Governor Christie wants to be the establishment alternative to the faltering Jeb Bush. It’s unclear if that will ever be a reality. Christie’s performance in the debate was about as-expected and he reminded his supporters why they liked him: unwavering commitment to his positions and not letting anyone forget about him. If Christie wants to prove his worth, he needs to go after Trump. It’s what the people want to see out of the loud and intimidating New Jersey governor. If he can’t take on the loudest man in the room, Christie undermines his brand. The major ceilings to Christie’s path anywhere above 5% in the polls are his embrace of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy and the dogging suspicion that Christie is past his prime and is one election too late.

Current Ranking: 8th

**Political Stock: HOLD

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Carly Fiorina: It’s very unlikely that Carly Fiorina will be the next President of the United States, but she presents very well to the Republican base. The word on Fiorina is that she is a very well-liked “second or third choice.” Without experience in government and with a tenure at HP that was generally poor, Fiorina’s campaign’s saving grace is a large amount of money to fall back on. It’s likely that Fiorina could bump someone out of the Top 10 for the next debate. It remains to be seen where her campaign can go beyond that.

Current Ranking: Up 3 spots to 9th

Political Stock: BUY

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Fourth Class Candidates, GOP

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/Ben_Carson_by_Gage_Skidmore_2.jpgDr. Ben Carson: Dr. Carson’s debate performance could have used a few shots of espresso, but generally did not hurt his campaign. He needs better answers on foreign policy issues. Carson’s poll numbers have fallen since Donald Trump got into the race. This shows that much of Dr. Carson’s support comes from “fed up” voters who are opposed to the Washington establishment. If there is a Trump implosion, these voters could come back to Carson, but it remains to be seen if Carson will be able to stay in the race and fundraise long enough for that to come to pass.

Current Ranking: Down 1 spot to 10th

Political Stock: SELL

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http://fitsnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/graham.jpgLindsey Graham: After Donald Trump raised Lindsey Graham to the national media’s attention a few weeks ago, Graham has struggled to resist slipping back to obscurity. The “happy hour” debate last week was the Carly Fiorina show and Graham’s performance was generally ignored. It’s difficult to imagine positive fundraising numbers from Graham at this stage.

Current Ranking: Down one spot to 11th

Political Stock: STRONG SELL

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http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/files/2014/04/mike-huckabee-deborah-feingold-1.jpgMike Huckabee: Mike Huckabee’s polling remains right in the middle of the pack. Huckabee’s numbers have been muted since Trump entered the race, but the former Arkansas Governor has not seen the declines like other contenders. In the debate, Huckabee again took on a role of an angry preacher rather than a jovial television host. Whoever is giving Huckabee advice on this issue does not understand that the GOP base would much rather support a genuine Huckabee than one telling them about the moral decay around them.

Current Ranking: Down 1 spot to 12th

Political Stock: SELL

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Fifth Class Candidates, GOP

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File:Bobby Jindal by Gage Skidmore.jpgBobby Jindal: Bobby Jindal is trying hard to get the “Trump Bump” by repeatedly criticizing the businessman. To this point, Trump hasn’t decided the Louisiana Governor is worth his time. It’s unclear where Jindal’s funding is coming from and how long he will be able to stay in the race.

Current Ranking: Down 1 spot to 13th

Political Stock: STRONG SELL- DELIST WARNING

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george_patakiGeorge Pataki: Governor Pataki’s campaign, by all accounts, is circling the drain. Attempts to criticize Donald Trump to gain some mention in the national press has been met with silence. If there is a funding source for Pataki, perhaps he can stick it out for a few more chances at debates, but, otherwise, expect a dropout.

Current Ranking: Up 1 spot to 14th

**Political Stock: STRONG SELL- DELIST WARNING

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http://www.texaswatchdog.org/files/rickperry_5.jpgRick Perry: Rick Perry has run out of money and is no longer paying his staffers. Campaign sources have said that they are still trying to get the former Texas Governor elected, but those words are entirely hollow. Perry might be able to stay in the race for another month, but it looks like the campaign will need to suspend without an immediate injection of capital.

Current Ranking: Down 2 spots to 15th

Political Stock: PINK SLIPS/OTC- DELIST WARNING

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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 well-outside of the American mainstream.

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.