Saturday, July 11, 2015

16 in '16: My thoughts on the GOP field so far

16 in '16 -- the GOP candidates

The presidential race is starting to heat up, and it's definitely going to be interesting to watch. Here are some thoughts on how I'm leaning at this stage of the race.

We've got 16 major candidates on the GOP side of things. I'll try to list them in order of my preference:

  • Scott Walker
  • Ted Cruz
  • Bobby Jindal
  • Rand Paul

  • Marco Rubio
  • Rick Perry
  • Mike Huckabee
  • Ben Carson
  • Rick Santorum

  • Carly Fiorina
  • Donald Trump
  • Chris Christie
  • John Kasich
  • George Pataki
  • Lindsey Graham
  • Jeb Bush

This is roughly the order of my current preference. It's not how I view the candidate rankings in order of their chance at the nomination (that list would look quite different).

The further down the list, the more reservations I have about the candidates. As you can see, I've already marked off about half of the field. Fiorina ran for Senate in California as a more moderate candidate than she currently is presenting herself as. Christie, Kasich and Pataki are on the more moderate end of the GOP spectrum, Trump has been all over the place politically speaking (past Democrat and Clinton donor, left-leaning policy positions, etc), Graham has been on the wrong side of far too many issues in the Senate, and Bush... too many problems there to go into, least of which is his last name.

That takes care of the "ruled out" category. Now moving to Tier 2, working from the bottom on up.

Although he wasn't my first choice, I voted for Santorum in 2012. Santorum became the "conservative champion" by default, even though his record in the Senate was not the most conservative. He simply was the last man standing who had a shot at beating Romney. The only way he gets my vote again is if by some miracle/catastrophe he becomes the last option other than, say, Jeb Bush.

Ben Carson has a fantastic personal story to tell, and I think he would play very well in a general election. However, I am concerned with his inexperience with governing, as well as some of his public positions on issues like the 2nd Amendment.

The first vote I ever cast was for Mike Huckabee in 2008. His was the first presidential campaign I really got involved in. I donated, I made phone calls to several different states, and I waved signs, among other things. I still have a soft spot for Mike, but he's made some missteps since 2008, and there are so many good options this year.

Rick Perry had, for the most part, a great record as governor of Texas. He has an advantage over Huckabee and some of the others on this list due to how recently he was in office (left in January of 2015, as opposed to 2007 or earlier). Most candidates would kill for a record like his, but there's a gap between Perry on paper and Perry on the campaign trail.

I appreciate Marco Rubio's dedication in running for president. Some candidates, both now and in the past, have run for president while simultaneously seeking the office they currently hold. Rubio doesn't think that's right, and neither do I. He has a generally good record in the Senate, and would be a great, forward-looking face for the GOP. More than anyone else, Rubio almost makes it in my top tier.

Now for the ones I'm most seriously considering.

Rand Paul appeals to me primarily on a fiscal front. I'm not as sold on some of his foreign and social policies, though much more comfortable with his than with his dad's. Nobody running for president would be as good on fiscal issues as Rand. However, there are a few others that are more well-rounded for my taste. That being said, I think Rand can appeal to some new audiences for the GOP, and I would generally be very happy with a Rand Paul presidency.

Bobby Jindal is an under-appreciated governor. I don't know how his campaign will play out, or if he will gain traction, but he definitely deserves a look. From a policy standpoint, he's extremely intelligent and reform-minded (he's the biggest policy wonk in the field). He's got a great record at that. He's just plagued with a state (Louisiana) that hasn't appreciated that.

Ted Cruz hits all the right buttons. He says the right things, votes the right way, rubs the DC establishment the wrong (or rather, right) way, is articulate and quick on his feet when faced with a hostile media (in other words, every interview he gets). However, I've not heard or read much about his authoring major legislation. Rand Paul has offered alternate budgets, Marco Rubio a tax plan, Coburn had "Back in Black", Bobby Jindal has a healthcare plan, but I don't recall Ted Cruz having offered something like that (other than repealing ObamaCare). Derailing bad legislation is needed, but we also need good alternatives.

Scott Walker is probably in the lead (narrowly) for me right now. He's got a good record as governor, in a very difficult state for a conservative Republican. He beat the Democratic/union machine three times in four years -- a remarkable feat, given that Wisconsin hasn't voted for a Republican presidential nominee since 1984. As Governor, he's led on tough reforms, and won. He has executive experience that a Senator simply doesn't have, and that would be helpful as President.

That's where I'm at right now. You have to admit, we have some fantastic choices this election. Out of 16 candidates, there are nine I'd be happy with, and four or five I'd be thrilled at. The debates begin on August 6th, and voting starts in less than seven months. Buckle up, the ride is about to start!


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