Let the Races Begin
Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, said this weekend that for about the next eight months the media will talk, and then the people will begin voting in the primaries in early 2016. To be clear, he said this to minimize snap-shot polling, and flavor of the week candidates, highlighting that what really matters is voters voting slightly less than a year from now. It’s comical, however, that the Speaker is both correct in what he says, and also a former candidate who may be described as having been a “flavor of the week” presidential candidate when he ran in 2012 in the Republican primary.
With that caveat, lets take a top-sheet look at the possible and presumptive field. Before we do that, let me opine that we have the best slate of candidates from which to choose in a generation. “Best” meaning: electable (general election), qualified, experienced, accomplished, politically-skillful, and conservative. This will not be an exhaustive list as possibly 20 potential candidates are said to be getting into the race. In alphabetical order they are as follows:
Jeb Bush – Bush is a very popular governor from swing-state Florida. He is known in those parts for aggressively pressing for an education voucher program, taking on entrenched education interests. He cut taxes and was understood as one of the most conservative governors in several years there, although the state is moderate at best. Almost no one disputes that Bush was a very conservative governor. And he is a self proclaimed pro-life Catholic, who was seen as taking the pro-life stance during the controversial Terry Schiavo case. His federal campaign, however, has taken a tack towards being less conservative, whatever that means, saying he would campaign to “lose the primary to win the general [election.]” Largely, this was Bush’s way of holding to an immigration policy at odds with some in the party, saying that illegal immigration could be understood as “an act of love” by those who seek a better life for their family. He is seen as representing the “establishment wing” of the party. His wife is Hispanic, and his son George P. Bush, is a popular hispanic Land Commissioner in Texas. There, Land Commissioner is one of the most powerful elected state-wide positions. He has raised more money than any other candidate via his superpack Right to Rise. He also has much of the political machinery and right-leaning media inherited from presidents 41 and 43. Some of Bush’s support has moved to his pupil Marco Rubio leaving some with questions about whether he will remain competitive if other moderates like Lindsey Graham, Carly Fiornia and Chris Christie get into the race. Many of Bush’s advisors are old Bush foreign affairs presidential advisors. Although I have great admiration for George W. Bush, many see Bush’s last name as a liability that could cost Republicans a very winnable election to scandal-ridden Hillary Clinton.
Dr. Ben Carson – Carson is considered to be one of the greatest, most brilliant physicians ever. In fact, the movie “Gifted Hands: The Story of Ben Carson” was made about him, his amazing life, and the success he’s had as a surgeon and as a shining star in the African-American community. Carson became a “tea-party” favorite when he confronted President Obama directly about “Obamacare” with the President sitting almost within arms-length while giving the keynote speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013. He is seen as the kind of outsider many want, as he has been a physician and not a politician. Frequenting the top national talk shows, he is known to be very socially and fiscally conservative. He has made gaffes like saying he neither knew about nor cared about the economy of Europe because he’s concerned about the United States, however. He excites much of the traditional GOP base, many of whom stayed home during 2012, because he is seen as an evangelical conservative untainted as it were by time spent in D.C. Carson, Cruz and Paul, all seem to generally share similar voters. So, Carson has dropped significantly in the last month as Cruz and Paul announced their candidacy. He is expected to announce within days.
Ted Cruz – Cruz is known as an eloquent but uncompromising lightning-rod in the Senate. He has an interesting portfolio. He was born in Canada from Cuban immigrants, and later succeeded greatly in collegiate debate first at Princeton and then at Harvard Law School, leading some of his liberal law professors to say that he is one of the best and smartest debaters they have ever seen. Apparently, Cruz’s father fought to oust Bautista, the Cuban leader preceding Fidel Castro. He worked on Bush v. Gore, then in the Bush Department of Justice, and is a first term Senator from Texas. He is most well-known for advocating for spending cuts during the budget-ceiling debate so vigorously that it would have “shut down” the government (not the whole government, about 1/3 of it). He will likely be effective at reaching out to Hispanic voters given his background. He has surged in polls over the last two months when he announced his candidacy at Liberty University, raising about 31 million dollars within about 3 weeks. His wife has worked at Goldman Sachs, but took leave shortly before he announced he was running for president. And Cruz has orally distanced himself from Wall Street interests. Cruz is seen as having challenges winning over a broader general electorate given his budget shut down filibuster that drew objections from several fellow Republicans in the House and Senate.
Carly Fiorina – Fiorina has said that she has more than a 90% chance of running. She has already released a campaign video trashing Hillary Clinton for incompetence, essentially saying, if you want a woman to be president, Hillary is not the one to pick for that. Many of her views are unknown. For example, she has been described as pro-choice and at other times, pro-life. She was the CEO of Hewlett Packard. She ran for Senate in California but lost, and was attacked for outsourcing jobs overseas, which is a typical democratic attack. She is seen as being strong in the area of fund-raising, bringing women into the GOP, and moving corporate American swing voters into the GOP. She has clearly been setting herself up as one who can attack Hillary without the blowback of being called a misogynist, and silencing the accusation against Republicans that they have a “war on women.”
John Kaisich – Kaisich is the current governor of Ohio. He is wildly popular. He is seen as governing Ohio conservatively, thus facilitating Ohio’s healthy economy. So, he will be leaving Ohio as a healthy, well-run state. He is currently flirting with the idea of running, so less information is known about and/or provided here about him. He spent several years as a conservative but establishment Republican Representative; he hosted a primetime hour show on Fox News, providing right-leaning commentary; and he was one of the managing partners of Lehman Brothers shortly before they went bankrupt and were part of the “great recession.” He has both supported and denied support for the controversial Common Core program. He, unlike governor Deal, took medicare subsidies under Obamacare, and defends his position still as being based on taking care of weak, handicapped, and invalid people in his state. He has been rather aloof as to what his foreign policy positions are. But he speaks positively about everyone running for office at this point, avoiding intra-party foreign policy fights.
Rand Paul – Paul is a physician who describes himself as a “Bill of Rights Conservative” and “Libertarian-ish Republican,” with the campaign slogan, “Defeat the Washington Machine, Unleash the American Dream.” He came to the Senate after having a successful practice as an opthamologist. He has proposed a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget and wants to audit the Federal Reserve. He is seen as less hawkish than many in the Republican Party in foreign policy areas, asserting that war is the last option, and it should be declared by Congress first. Paul argues that his foreign policy is defined by “peace through strength” – the policy of Ronald Reagan – while others have argued that his and his dad’s foreign policy views are indistinguishable. He has been described as to the right of the NRA on the 2nd Amendment. He is very socially conservative, contrary to the beliefs of many, describing himself as “100% pro-life.” Paul argues that many of his ideas involving criminal justice reform are rooted in a strict reading of the Constitution, and will attract many in the African-American community, further arguing that the Bill of Rights protects “the weakest among us.” Many close to Paul are steeped in the “Right to Work” movement, with Paul being a libertarian believer in the freedom to contract, cutting against entrenched union power enclaves. He has vowed to end the Departments of Education and Commerce. Paul has taken a lot of incoming fire from so-called “neo-conservatives” and this will bear-out to either be a positive or negative for him over time with a crowded field of more hawkish candidates.
Marco Rubio – Rubio, as of the last few days, has taken a slight lead in the polls among all possible candidates. He was mentored by Jeb Bush. He is the son of self-described working-class Cuban immigrants. He has long been a “tea party” favorite. But that status declined about a year ago after he asserted an immigration plan seen as lenient on illegal immigrants or to some as “amnesty light.” He abandoned that position, and now sits atop the field. He and Utah Senator Mike Lee have jointly developed a tax plan. And Rubio’s closeness to Lee has “tipped the scales” for some that Rubio is the one to support. For years, Republicans have sought ways to court latinos, who are largely socially conservative, and Rubio is viewed by many as the best candidate to attract new and even Democrat latinos. Being wildly popular in swing-state Florida cannot be understated for his candidacy. And he has been able to raise over 60 million in the month of April alone. On foreign policy, he is known as a GOP hawk. One of the biggest criticisms of him is that he is too young at age 43, and looks even younger, setting him up for being summarily panned by swing-voters.
Scott Walker – Walker is one of the most popular Republican governors alive today. Walker’s father was an evangelical pastor. Walker is touted as “winning a blue state three times.” Perhaps no one has more conservative bona fides in the area of Right to Work or freedom to contract than Walker. He was involved in a multi-year donnybrook with organized labor that involved democrat legislators fleeing the state to prevent a Right to Work vote. In fact, a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice was physically attacked by another justice for supporting Walker’s law rolling back union power. That justice and Walker were subjected to a recall election, that they both won after money flowed in from around the country supporting both sides of this battle. Walker seemed to win every fight with those supporting big labor. He did it without making any gaffes or embarrassing himself, rather remaining cool under intense pressure. He has been described as having some of the best communications strategies, navigating him through ordinarily difficult political situations involving labor fights. Walker is socially conservative; however, he is known for being a favorite of the moderate establishment republicans and a “tea party” favorite. Walker came into office with massive budget deficits, but he cut taxes and spending, and gained budget surpluses that he used to give even more tax cuts to the people of Wisconsin. Walker’s foreign policy is something that has not been fully revealed. One of the criticisms of Walker is that he will be attacked by democrats for not having a college degree (although he was only about a semester shy of gaining his degree.)
Some other potential candidates are: Gov. Bobby Jindal, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rick Santorum, Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Sarah Palin, Gov. Mitt Romney, and Sen. Lindsay Graham.
All of the above candidates have unique qualities they bring into the race. The more candidates there are, the more money will likely be raised to promote the conservative message in a myriad of ways around the country. Each candidate has particular constituencies who are being activated and inspired to take a stake in this election, so I opine that a 10 – 15 candidate race is best for the party so long as the candidates stay away from attacking one another.
Joshua J. Campbell
Savannah Area Young Republicans, Communications Director