The count is up to sixteen. That many GOP candidates are officially running in the 2016 race to determine the next President of the United States. Those included in that number are the well-known of the Republican Party. The number includes several former and current governors, former and current senators, a former CEO, a current CEO, and a neurosurgeon. They come pre-packaged with different backgrounds, strengths, weaknesses, admiration or strong dislike from the public, and different styles of communicating.
But one question looms over them all: “Who can beat the Democratic nominee?” Despite the excitement for geriatric socialists like Bernie Sanders, who has recently been surging in the polls, it still seems as if Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the Left’s presumptive choice.
Immediately, I have an answer to that question as it relates to several of the GOP candidates. And that answer is “No”. For a select few, I am undecided as to how a final showdown with them on one side, and Mrs Clinton on the other, would turn out. Regardless, it is an absolute must that the Republican nominee beat her in the general election. We’ve had almost eight years of a disaster presidency, and a Hillary Clinton presidency would not just be as bad, but in many ways, much worse. The Republican Party has become excellent at losing presidential elections. Mid-term success, like what we saw in the fall of 2014, is not enough to change the tide in Washington.
Some of the players who aren’t new to a presidential race, and who were candidates in 2008 and 2012, would not be a serious threat to Hillary. Former Senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, and Former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, are firmly in my “No” category. Each made a mark in their own way on the political spectrum, but on the national stage, they are polarising, even among conservatives. I’m just as concerned about social issues as the next conservative, but statements made by both of these candidates have made them appear socially extreme. This isn’t to say they necessarily are extreme. But in politics, once you’re branded a certain way, it’s difficult to change perception regardless of truth.
Also in the “No” list are those such as Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, former Governor of New York, George Pataki, Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, and Governor of Ohio, John Kasich. Either their personalities don’t put them anywhere near the top of the GOP list, or their politics don’t. Sometimes both. Frankly, their campaigns are forgettable. They’ll be considered “former presidential candidates” after the election, but not too many will be able to recall their contributions.
Other contenders, like former CEO Carly Fiorina and neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, add a different aspect to the race. They may not be considered a real threat to Hillary, but time will tell. Some may view them as token Republican candidates and the GOP’s “answer” to Hillary or Obama, which is unfair. Neither has been in elected office, though. While that by itself doesn’t mean they couldn’t be successful with a team of politically-seasoned advisers around them, it does make some voters question what they bring to the table. Of the two, Carly Fiorina has shown herself to be the more fiery candidate, is quite vocal, and is unafraid to answer questions. Furthermore, she is the polar opposite of Hillary, one who considers being a woman as a “merit” on which to base a vote. Fiorina, on the other hand, does not use gender as a crutch.
As we’ve seen, businessman Donald Trump likes to make a splash. He is scene-stealing, but not in a positive way, and clearly reverts to insults over substance. His sideshow antics are distracting from the real issues at hand. Conservatives cannot believe him to be either a real candidate or a real threat to any Democratic contender. I believe he is just in this for entertainment value. He comes off as a loudmouth bored billionaire, which, if he is unaware, doesn’t qualify him for elected office. As Jonah Goldberg of the National Review wrote, “…too many of Trump’s GOP primary competitors, afraid of angering his fans, stand mute or mumbling. Republicans are fielding the best candidates in a generation, but Trump is poised to make them chumps by association. He has no chance of becoming president, but he has the huge potential to deny his alleged party a White House victory in 2016.”
Rumours circulate that Trump might consider a run as a third-party candidate, if he doesn’t feel welcomed by the GOP or is its the nominee. He is at the top of the polls in some states, besting names like Bush and Walker. If a third-party run occurs, he will, like Ross Perot in 1992, pull votes away from the GOP and cost us the election. And that would be a disaster.
Speaking of the candidates in 1992, one was the father of a 2016 candidate. Former Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, is the third from his family to run for the Oval Office. Fulfilling a political dynasty doesn’t encourage me to vote for anyone. You must present yourself individually as being worthy of my vote. Last names do nothing to propel me into your political fan club. With a lacklustre persona and questionable statements on immigration and common core education, Jeb Bush comes across as milquetoast. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was just checking off “presidential run” on his life’s to-do list. All that being said, many say he still might be the GOP nominee. If that’s the case, and if Clinton is the Democrat’s choice, this will look like 1992 all over again, and that is unfortunate.
There are some who I cannot decide how their influence in this election cycle will play out. I consider them top contenders for President or Vice President. This isn’t to say each of them would be my personal choice, but the strong influence of each is undeniable. These are Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, former Governor of Texas, Rick Perry. Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, and Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul.
The three senators have exploded onto the political scene for various reasons. Senator Rubio is the youngest candidate in the GOP field. As a Cuban-American with strong conservative positions and a top voice in the Senate, he is one to watch. Senator Cruz is also a Hispanic and frequent voice from the Senate floor. His outspoken conservatism has created a large following among Republicans. Senator Paul, son of former US Representative and presidential candidate Ron Paul, is unique in that he is frequently described as a libertarian. He has plenty of support from the Tea Party wing, and holds views on issues such as military intervention that differ greatly from other candidates.
Former Governor Rick Perry was elected to three gubernatorial terms in Texas, and was a presidential candidate in 2012. He can list many successes as head of Texas, a huge state that is an economic powerhouse. Perry has not been shy to call out Trump, and even branded him a “cancer on conservatism” recently. He is often discounted after an unsuccessful 2012 campaign, one which he gaffed his way through at times. But this turn may be different. One of the biggest names to watch is Governor Scott Walker. He was elected in 2010, survived a recall in 2012 (which garnered more votes than his previous win), and was re-elected in 2014. He attended college but did not graduate, an issue which is still brought up today. In Wisconsin, Walker has successfully battled against bully unions, worked to fixed the state budget by making tough, but necessary, cuts, and recently signed a 20-week abortion ban. He has a history of making difficult choices that are needed for the health of his state and its people. He is frequently near the top of the polls, and is a favourite among many, including myself.
With an incredibly diverse, sixteen-person field, Republicans have quite a spread of options in front of them. Although the election isn’t until November of 2016, this season has already shown candidates quick to attack, defend, raise unprecedented amounts of money, and fearlessly call out those among them. The first debate, one of many, will take place on August 6. The current, almost circus-like atmosphere will continue to that time and beyond. But conservatives aren’t looking for a show. We’re looking for an actual conservative to lead the charge against the liberals, and whomever is their chosen candidate. The sixteen GOP candidates must begin to focus on the issues at hand, streamline their message, and make a case for why they deserve our vote. This is imperative, because we must take back the White House.