Handicapping the GOP Field
Despite what the mainstream media tells you, there are not 17 Republican candidates running for President.
In fact there are over twice that many declared candidates, including such household names as George Bailey, Skip Andrews, and Brian Russell. But George, Skip, and Brian are not what we refer to as top tier candidates, so you’ll never see them participating in a nationally televised, prime time debate. Of course, you didn’t even see the top 17 either. Only the so-called top ten Republican candidates were invited to take part in last week’s FOX News debate, and that was about ten too many for my liking. Nevertheless, I’ll try to be objective, and handicap the field as it stands right now.
Donald Trump (billionaire businessman)
Had last Thursday’s debate been held in New York City, Trump’s bombast would have won him a lot more cheers from the audience. But the Cleveland crowd was pulling for their favorite son, Governor John Kasich, and they were in no mood to put up with the Donald’s nasty jabs, nor his propensity for bankrupting casinos and laying off thousands of people. In short, Trump’s star will continue to dim as he continues to show what a dim bulb he really is. Anger and arrogance may play well on a reality TV show, but not on the Presidential stage. Like many men in power, Trump feels that he is not accountable to anyone but himself, and that act will start to wear thin with potential voters. My prediction is that his poll numbers will fall significantly by December, and he’ll drop out of the primary race if he sees he’s in danger of finishing fourth or lower in New Hampshire.
Jeb Bush (former Governor, Florida)
For all our talk about not liking dynasties, Americans are creatures of habit. That’s why we love to keep up with the Kardashians and the British royalty. And that’s why another Bush or Clinton will likely be our Commander in Chief by January, 2017. But, in all fairness, Jeb Bush has a lot going for him other than his family name. For one thing, he looks more Presidential than any of the other GOP candidates, and he has a calming way about him. He was Governor of a large State with a diverse population, and he successfully grew that State’s economy while improving its education system. He is thoughtful, intelligent, and understands the art of compromise. He has wisely distanced himself from his brother’s ill-advised invasion of Iraq, yet he is no apologist for the war on terror. Bottom line? Jeb is the odds-on favorite to capture the party’s nomination, and he has a good chance of becoming the third Bush to sit in the Oval Office.
Chris Christie (Governor, New Jersey)
When he’s the only guy on stage, or running a press conference, Governor Chris Christie can appear strident and intimidating. But because he shared a stage last week with Donald Trump, Christie actually came off looking Presidential by comparison. But make no mistake, Christie is a dangerous man. He is a bully who angers when challenged by pointed questions from the news media. He escaped possible jail time for the “Bridge Gate” scandal because his underlings let themselves be thrown under the bus. And he continues to run new Jersey like it’s his own private business. A Governor shouldn’t tell people to shut up, or bully and punish people who disagree with him. Neither should a President. Christie has a zero chance of snagging the GOP nomination.
Scott Walker(Governor, Wisconsin)
Here’s a man who made his bones by attacking underpaid, under appreciated teachers, and trying to bust up their union. Like many right wing nuts in a position of power, Walker feels entitled to do whatever he wants, even more so after beating back a recall attempt by his detractors. To his credit, Walker is a radical who knows how to act rational when the cameras are on, and that makes him the biggest threat to Jeb Bush from within the Republican party. If Bush is the nominee, he may be forced to consider Walker as his VP in order to shore up some electoral votes in the North and Midwest.
Mike Huckabee (former Governor, Arkansas)
Mike came off as the most likeable guy in last week’s FOX debate. His home-spun philosophy plays well among all Republicans, and his sense of humor and genteel manner is not threatening to many who might otherwise disagree with his views. By GOP standards, he is imminently qualified to be President, but he doesn’t stand a chance of snagging the party’s nomination unless Bush and Walker split the vote, and supporters of lower tier candidates get behind Mike. In that regard, he would be a formidable VP nominee.
In a year when immigration is a hot button issue, you would think that Canadian born Latino Ted Cruz or first generation Cuban American Marco Rubio, would have an edge in the Presidential sweepstakes. But neither man is ready or qualified to run the country. While guys like Huckabee can think outside the box (proposing a Fair tax for example), Rubio and Cruz only know how to spew the party line. If Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders is the Democratic nominee, then Cruz or Rubio might get the VP nod from Bush or Walker, but with Hillary on the ticket, then Carly Fiorina is the odds on favorite to share the ticket with the Republican nominee. Meanwhile, Dr. Ben Carson is capturing the media’s attention because he is a Black man running as a right wing conservative. Still he doesn’t have the broad support among tea partiers to grab the top spot, and, for reasons just stated, he won’t get the second spot either. And then there’s Rand Paul. Like his father before him, Senator Paul has some great ideas, and I love the fact that he fights against ill-advised invasions of other countries, and invasions of our privacy. I really hate to make this about cosmetics, but Rand Paul just does not look or act Presidential like Bush, Walker or Carson. Too bad.
After the North Carolina and Florida primaries on March 15, Jeb Bush will have all but wrapped up the nomination, and if Hillary is still the presumptive Democrat nominee, Jeb will tap (pardon the expression) Carly Fiorina as his VP. Of course I could be wrong. After all, I also pick the Broncos to win the Super Bowl every year. !
JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).