Matt McDaniel

12 minute read

POWER RANKINGS 2016

10 Weeks out of the Iowa Caucus

50 Weeks out of Election Day 2016

There are currently 14 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. His campaign website can be found here.

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STATE OF THE RACE

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As the year draws to a close and the nation rushes into the Holiday Season, expect to see the race for the White House generally freeze over until January. Barring an economic catastrophe or a foreign policy crisis, voters will generally be content with putting up politics and polling for a while until the new year.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, national polls have seen Ben Carson drop most significantly. Donald Trump is up to 30% from a plateau where he had been staying for the past month around 25%. Large declines are noted by Jeb Bush, who, despite his attempts to rehabilitate his image, it seems to be a national consensus that Jeb!’s campaign is on life support.

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First Class Candidates, GOP

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maar02-donald-trump-portraitDonald Trump: For good or for ill, whether you like him or hate him, Donald Trump remains the driving force in the GOP’s presidential dialogue. Some of you may think that this is symptomatic of a mass-loss-of-sanity while others just soberly shrug off fascist overtones as “what Americans want right now.” Either way, looking purely at the numbers, Trump continues to resonate. Not too long ago, I thought we had hit “peak Trump” at around 25%. It now looks like the billionaire mogul will be able to touch and sustain 30%. That said, 1-in-3 is not a mandate. If he wants to be the nominee without a floor fight at the Convention, Trump will have to make a strong play at 40%+. Because “Teflon Don” seems to be able to defy the laws of political gravity, I won’t predict that he can’t make a run at a higher plurality, but if we assume that this race will eventually boil down to Trump-Rubio-Cruz, then we have to imagine there being a significant problem for further upward momentum for the Trump campaign.

With Carson fading and Cruz rising, Trump will be entering into the most perilous part of his campaign for President. On the one hand, John Kasich will be running the “test phase” of establishment attacks on Trump while Cruz will, out of necessity, have to move away from bring a Trump supporter. As we saw with the rise of Carson in Iowa after the strategic ad buys by the Club for Growth, Trump may be immune to most political realities, but he has yet to develop a vaccine for smart media buys. The RNC (“the establishment”), through proxy Kasich, will be charting the path forward against Trump.

If Trump weathers this storm, you can expect the RNC to go into a bit of a panic. The best hope, in that scenario, is that Trump and Cruz split the anti-establishment votes and that Rubio can slip between them and win a fight at the Convention. Again, a lot of things can happen in ten weeks, but I don’t foresee a scenario without Donald Trump being a major player in the primaries.

Current Ranking: 1st

Political Stock: PRIVATE

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Second 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 is polling in fourth nationally but still occupies the second place position in the rankings. The reason for this is that he has become the de facto last chance of the “establishment” to put together a candidate who could take on either Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. Jeb Bush’s hemorrhaging money and John Kasich’s tanking favorability  have effectively doomed both mens’ campaigns. Could I be wrong? Sure. Does any indicators point to that being the case? No.

Rubio’s path to the nomination is pure discipline. The Senator needs to remain the “smart guy” on foreign policy. He needs to win every debate. He needs to have a budget plan that can appease the middle class. Added to this, Rubio needs to avoid talking about anything related to immigration so as to avoid giving red meat to the wolves surrounding him.

It’s unclear exactly where Rubio can have his first win in the primaries. Realistically, it may be until Super Tuesday that Rubio is able to pull off wins in important states. From there, and with the hopeful exit of Bush and Kasich, Rubio can cobble together the 25-33% he will need to make a race of the nomination fight.

Current Ranking: 2nd

Political Stock: STRONG BUY

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http://media.salon.com/2013/05/ted_cruz2.jpg

Ted Cruz: Ted Cruz, as we have noted all along, is running one of the smartest campaigns in recent memory. Does that mean Cruz is going to win? Not by a long shot. However, does that mean that Cruz has potentially put himself in the position to be the ultimate power broker at the GOP convention. Cruz has amassed an enormous amount of money and has had a limited burn rate when compared to his other GOP rivals. There’s no doubt that the Texas Senator is looking to siphon up evangelical support from the inevitable deflation of Ben Carson’s campaign. Having positioned himself as a friend to the evangelical right and as a DC outsider, Cruz is looking for a win in Iowa, South Carolina, and then a major delegate haul on Super Tuesday. While it’s unclear at this point if he will be leading in Iowa by the time votes are cast, given the past Iowa results from 2008 (Huckabee) and 2012 (Santorum), and Cruz’s endorsement by Steve King (R-IA), it looks like it may be Cruz picking up the first-in-the-nation caucus.

Current Rating: Up 2 to 3rd

Political Stock: HOLD

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Third Class Candidates, GOP

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/Ben_Carson_by_Gage_Skidmore_2.jpgDr. Ben Carson: It seems that most people agree: Dr. Ben Carson is a really nice guy. We’d love to hang out with Ben, but he’s just not going to be the nominee. This reality has crystallized for GOP voters after the Paris attacks. Whether or not Ben Carson knows foreign policy is generally irrelevant. What matters to voters is that Ben Carson would not make them feel safe after an attack. I understand Carson’s defenders will jump up to say that he will have great advisers. Fine. He doesn’t now and the President should not be learning on the job (see: Obama, Barack). I can still see a “place or show” in Iowa if Ben sticks around, but I can’t imagine money is going to be holding out much longer than that.

Current Ranking: Down 1 to 4th

Political Stock: HOLD

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Jehttp://media.oregonlive.com/opinion_impact/photo/jeb-bush-20119761jpg-a137a6bdd738a087.jpgb Bush: Jeb can’t fix it. The reason we’ve kept Bush near the top of the rankings week-after-week is because he has been sitting on over $100M. A problem has arisen for Jeb that he did not intend: new money is drying up and he has to spend heavily in the primary. As much as we’d all love to have $100M, Jeb is looking like a man who will eventually run out of cash. Beyond that, most of the money is sitting in Jeb’s Super PAC. This matters because, while candidates can buy ad time relatively cheaply, Super PACs cannot. America Rising will spend millions on what it will cost other candidates’ committees several thousand. This will be the death knell of Jeb!’s campaign unless something totally unforeseen happens.

Current Rating: Down 1 to 5th

Political Stock: STRONG SELL

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John KFile:Governor John Kasich.jpgasich: John Kasich has decided to be the “establishment hound”to test fire the explosive ordinance that the RNC and other groups will want brought to bear against Donald Trump to sabotage his potential nomination. If we’re being cynical, we realize that this is a great opportunity for Kasich to redeem himself in the eyes of the Party and get on the short list to be Marco Rubio’s Vice President. We also need to remember that Kasich is a very popular governor in an extremely important swing state where a sitting Republican senator is also up for re-election.

Current Rating: 6th

Political Stock: SELL

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Fourth Class Candidates, GOP

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Rand http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1360018/thumbs/o-RAND-PAUL-facebook.jpgPaul: Senator Rand Paul cam into his own in the last debate. Unfortunately for him, it was both too little and too late. Likewise, the resurgence of Islamic Terrorism as a major threat in the minds of the primary electorate douses any of Paul’s honest attempts to rein-in government spending on military ventures abroad. Paul’s campaign will likely be remembered as “good message, bad time, wrong messenger” in the years to come.

Current Ranking:  7th

Political Stock: DELIST WARNING

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File:Chris Christie 2011 Shankbone.JPGChris Christie: Chris Christie remains on the rankings and wasn’t delisted this week for the sole purpose that he has taken a strong anti-terrorism stance. Obviously, all of the candidates want to root out and destroy terrorism, but the former Federal prosecutor and current Governor of New Jersey has taken a more hawkish stance on foreign affairs and a more dismissive tone on civil liberties than the others on stage. While this sounds like an indictment, in times of significant concern among primary voters about their safety, Christie’s messaging could give him a slight boost. It’s unlikely he can bounce back to relevance, but there’s enough of a chance to keep him on the list.

Current Ranking: Up 1 to 8th

Political Stock: DELIST WARNING

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Fifth Class Candidates, GOP

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Carly Fiorina: Carly Fiorina remains on the list because she will likely continue to have significant debate performances. The shooting down of a Russian fighter by Turkey underscores the reality that Ms. Fiorina’s foreign policy objectives would lead to the Third World War, but she has adherents and is polling above 2%. At this point, she will likely be delisted and has very little traction to get back to relevance.

Current Ranking: Down 1 to 9th

Political Stock: DELIST WARNING

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DELISTED CANDIDATES

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http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/files/2014/04/mike-huckabee-deborah-feingold-1.jpgMike Huckabee: Former Arkansas Mike Huckabee has been delisted for the second time this cycle. The first time he was resurrected because of decent polling. This is likely not going to be repeated. Striking a tone of interventionist-Christianity that noted America has a “sin problem” may have been an effective message from the pulpit, but the former Baptist preacher never caught traction. The national debate has largely put his ideas on a shelf and has moved away from them. There are parts of the nation where Huckabee’s message still is appealing, but none of those areas are the ones that control the national dialogue.

Current Ranking: DELISTED

Political Stock: DELISTED

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http://fitsnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/graham.jpgLindsey Graham: Senator Graham’s polling is right around 0% nationally. There is no real path to the nomination, or even to a win in South Carolina for the Senator. Graham’s ultra-hawk rhetoric has not seemed to catch on with the GOP base and there has, thankfully, not been a foreign policy catastrophe upon which Graham could build an interventionist message.

Current Ranking: DELISTED

Political Stock: DELISTED

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george_patakiGeorge Pataki: Governor Pataki is the next most likely candidate to exit the Presidential race. With basically 0% support in any national poll, Pataki’s run would have been far better in 2008 than in 2016. Though he is likely not spending very much money and could linger in the campaign, it seems unlikely that there is any future here. Expect his departure after calls from the RNC to clear the field.

Current Ranking: DELISTED

Political Stock: DELISTED

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File:Bobby Jindal by Gage Skidmore.jpgBobby Jindal: Governor Jindal suspended his presidential campaign after spending all of his money and getting very little traction. Expect to see him get a Secretary position if Ted Cruz win the White House. Aside from that, expect to see him make a challenge at the Louisiana Senate.

Current Ranking: DELISTED

Political Stock: DELISTED

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Scott WaFile:Scott Walker by Gage Skidmore.jpglker: Governor Walker suspended his campaign after it became clear that the polls and finances had both turned against him. Touted as the early frontrunner, Walker was unable to overcome the hurdles of the actual race for the White House. The thrice-elected Governor of Wisconsin tried to push policy proposals that would get him attention over the Donald Trump cacophony. but wound up without having a solid base of support and very little rhetorical skill to fall back on.

Current Rating: DELISTED

Political Stock: Delisted

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http://www.texaswatchdog.org/files/rickperry_5.jpgRick Perry: Governor Perry was the first of many casualties of the 2016 race. After a bungled run in 2012, Perry tried a rebrand/reboot, but it was met with failure. The 2016 field is best described as either strong or simply large (depending on your political views). It was difficult for Perry to get his message out and connect with voters. Certainly, when many of the politicians running are trying to make a first impression, Perry was already running behind because he had to overcome many voters’ first impressions of him. A competent Governor of Texas, Perry will be remembered as a textbook lesson in how voters are unforgiving.

Current Ranking: DELISTED

Political Stock: Delisted

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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: Delisted

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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.