In this post I'm going to briefly handicap potential 2016 presidential hopefuls. I'm going to rank them according to first-tier, second-tier, and third-tier candidates.
I'm not ranking them on the merits. For the most part, I'm ranking them on electability. The fact that I put some hopefuls in the top tier and others in lower tiers isn't a statement of approval or disapproval. An intrinsically better candidate may be less electable while an intrinsically worse candidate may be more electable. That's not fair, but politics isn't fair. My distinction between second and third-tier candidates is admittedly somewhat arbitrary.
There are several criteria:
i) The electability of a GOP candidate may depend in part on their Democrat opponent.
ii) A stronger candidate in GOP primaries might be a weaker candidate in the general election.
iii) Each candidate typically has strengths and weaknesses.
On the Democrat side, the presumptive nominee is HIllary Clinton. She would be a fairly weak candidate. Zero charisma. Has more baggage than DFW airport.
However, that doesn't mean she can't win. There are lots of voters who will rubber-stamp the Democrat agenda–whoever the standard-bearer is.
A stronger candidate would be Jim Webb. He's probably the most formidable candidate the Dems can run against whoever the GOP will nominate.
Pluses. Was a successful governor of a major state. Generally conservative. Might carry Florida, which is nearly key to winning the general election. Smarter and more articulate than his brother. More at ease in front of a camera. More commanding stage presence than his brother.
He will be the establishment Republican candidate. Will have the backing of the GOP establishment. Raise heaps of money.
Minuses. Not a charmer. Favors amnesty, which is anathema to the base. Favors Common Core, which is anathema to the base. Makes no effort to cultivate the base. Uneven on social issues.
Pluses: Appealing to libertarians and independents. After 8 years of Obama, many voters will desire a radical scale-back.
Minuses: Hawks hate him. Having withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, his anti-war credentials lack urgency.
Not a terribly fluent public speaker. Not as smart as his dad.
His libertarianism limits his social conservativism.
Will have passionate supporters and passionate opponents in the primaries.
Pluses: A folk hero for defeating public sector unions. Successful governor. Battle-hardened.
Minuses: Sketchy on social issues. Untested on the national stage.
Pluses: Winsome, articulate, eloquent. Culture warrior. Natural standard-bearer for social conservatives. His TV show has given him a continued following. Devoted supporters. Finished second in the GOP primaries. A good debater.
Minuses: His support has depth without breadth. Libertarians hate him. Independents will be put off by a Baptist minister. Like Rand Paul, he's a polarizing figure, with passionate supporters and opponents.
Hard to see how a Baptist minister can win the general election.
Presumably he will be better prepared this time around. Rugged charm. Strong record as major state governor. Weak on immigration.
His primary problem is that he lacks the distinctive advantages of the top-tier candidates.
A natural ideological leader for conservative voters. Smart. Articulate. However, he has to vie with Jeb for "moderate" voters and vie with Huckabee for value voters.
Moreover, he doesn't seem to be a very savvy political tactician. A number of his congressional maneuvers have backfired. He may be like Gingrich: a better talker than doer.
Super-smart. Hands-on governor. Catholic social conservative. Outspoken opponent of Common Core. Would make it harder for Dems to play the race card.
However, he's not photogenic. And Huckabee tends to co-opt the social conservative base, which Jindal needs to build on.
Smooth, articulate, photogenic. Generally conservative. Might be a drawing card for Latino voters. Might carry Florida.
However, he's damaged himself on "comprehensive immigration reform." Also, hard to see how he can elbow his way into a field with other candidates who co-opt key voting blocks. Between Jeb, Rand, Walker, and Huckabee, all the niches are taken.
He's vetted. Really for prime time. Can raise big bucks. But time has passed him by, and there's a deep field of rival candidates.
Articulate. Feisty. A natural establishment Republican. A pick for country-club Republicans.
Too liberal to appeal to the base. Too chummy with Obama. Perceived to be a Quisling. Too much competition.
He should be very interesting in the primary debates. But I don't see him rising to the top of the pack in a crowded field.
A natural establishment candidate. Successful governor. Good on economics.
But I think Jeb presently owns the establishment slot. And Kasich is too lackluster to rise above the crowd.
A worthy contender, but for whatever reason he rubs too many voters the wrong way.
Hawkish foreign policy wonk. Would make interesting secretary of state. Libertarians hate him. Too obscure to be a successful candidate.