Hello and welcome to a new and (hopefully) weekly segment at RedState, the Weekly 2016 Presidential Primary Power Rankings. Each week on Tuesday, I will be compiling this list based on a “secret sauce” formula that I made up that factors in polling data, fundraising information, news items of the week, organization/staff readiness, and more subjective things like “momentum” and “buzz,” which don’t really exist in sports but do in politics. Each week I will also seek input from the other RedState contributors as to their sense of the race.
Let’s get to it! Here are the week 1 rankings:
1. Scott Walker (Gov-Wisconsin) (Last week: N/A)
Rationale: Walker opens the power rankings in the catbird’s seat after having taken Iowa by storm at the Iowa Freedom Summit, generating a ton of buzz not only for his record but for his performance in the one area where he has long been criticized: charisma. Walker’s performance was so commanding that he has opened up a lead in the latest Des Moines Register Poll of Iowa voters. If Walker can win Iowa, he stands a good chance of sweeping several of his competitors (Huckabee, [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ]) out of the race early and consolidating the conservative vote. Walker stands the best chance of uniting the conservative vote since Reagan which would ordinarily not be enough to declare him an early favorite, except that the establishment for a change looks divided at least to some degree between Bush and Christie. Obviously, this is tremendously early and tons can happen but at this point Walker has to be viewed as the early (slight) favorite.
In the news this past week: Although a Midwesterner, Walker has some Southern religious roots. (Link) Walker appeared on ABC’s This Week and continued to make liberals foam at the mouth. (Link) Rush Limbaugh isn’t endorsing, but he gave Walker a big publicity boost this week. (Link) Walker also destroyed an online (unscientific) Drudge poll this week and staked out a position against “amnesty.” (Link)
2. Jeb Bush (Former Gov – Florida) (Last week: N/A)
Rationale: Bush is still the presumptive establishment candidate and thus it’s hard to imagine him falling to lower than second unless Christie commandeers that spot. Bush’s largest victory of the cycle thus far came when Romney announced that he would not run last Friday. Bush had been involved in a mad dash to secure the Romney fundraising network. His success in this endeavor may have been what drove Romney out of the race in spite of polls that indicated that Romney headed into 2016 with a slight lead (name recognition is a powerful thing this early in the game). The lurking presence of Christie, who can also claim crossover appeal to conservatives as well as a last name that is not “Bush,” continues to complicate the picture somewhat.
In the news this past week: In anticipation of his run, Jeb this week hired the former ad maker for Ron Paul and [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]. (Link) Allegations of former pot use and “bullying” while at Andover. (Link) Q-Poll shows Jeb and Hillary in a dead heat in Florida. (Link)
3. Rand Paul (Senator – Kentucky) (Last week: N/A)
Rationale: Paul leads the field in doing the elbow work of building a ground team for the early primaries/caucuses. Perhaps more than the other candidates, Paul will require strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire to lend his campaign credibility as a contender rather than a novelty item like his fathers’. He is acting accordingly as he has commandeered the lion’s share of the organization that toppled the Iowa GOP and was subsequently ousted in a bloody internecine fight. Paul remains the “wild card” candidate in the primary and stands to benefit the most from the anticipated lack of a contested Democrat primary.
In the news this past week: Rand trolls Jeb about pot. (Link) Paul wades into the vaccine furor standing strongly on the side of [mc_name name=’Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B001256′ ] and Jenny McCarthy. (Link) Attended a Koch donor event and allegedly rubbed the moneyed class the wrong way by wearing jeans and having a laid back style. (Link)
4. Chris Christie (Governor – New Jersey) (Last week: N/A)
Rationale: Christie, essentially, is laying in wait for a possible implosion on the part of Jeb Bush, or perhaps a mere failure of Jeb Bush to catch on. Christie’s style doesn’t play especially well in either Iowa or South Carolina so he is essentially banking on a strong New Hampshire finish and then a win in Florida to catapult him into Super Tuesday. This is a relatively long shot path to victory at this point as Christie’s star has faded from its high water mark of 2011, but an early slate of television debates may allow him to showcase the brash and fighting style that Republicans are thirsting for and propel him back to the top. From this point down, the contenders do not have obvious paths to victory, only plausible ones.
In the news this past week: Christie kicked off the vaccination debate that embroiled twitter this last week inadvertently with some comments that… really sound pretty much exactly like Obama’s on this issue. (Link) The NY Times outlines the difficult path Christie now faces. (Link) Christie, an avid sports fan, quietly visited London for an Arsenal game, to little fanfare. (Link) Christie’s tendency to shoot off at the mouth may have alienated pro-lifers. (Link)
5. Rick Perry (Former Governor – Texas) (Last week: N/A)
Rationale: Perry’s entry into the 2016 fracas has been the exact opposite of his entry into the 2012 race. In 2012, he was coaxed to enter the fray late. His arrival was greeted by trumpets and fanfare as he was expected to save the party from the inevitable Mitt Romney debacle. After flaming out in some spectacularly bad debate performances, his return to the Presidential fray has been much quieter and more business-like. Polls indicate that Perry has significant voter skepticism to overcome but he has been going about first addressing donor skepticism, to universally positive reviews. Perry’s organization and fundraising ability are a formidable machine and if he can show in debates that his previous performances were truly due exclusively to back pain and medications, he will be vaulted back to the front of the pack probably in short order.
In the news this past week: Perry’s fundraising prowess means he is the only 2012 candidate not still in debt from the campaign. (Link) Perry pressed the flesh in Pennsylvania last week to positive reviews. (Link) States that an official announcement regarding his candidacy should be expected in May/June. (Link) Perry’s legal team asks state judge to toss facially ridiculous indictment. (Link)
6. [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] (Senator – Florida) (Last week: N/A)
Rationale: Rubio laps the rest of the field in charisma and soaring rhetoric, and after running charismatic duds for candidates in every election since 1988, the Republican electorate may yet be starving for the Reaganesque presence that Rubio brings to the stage. However, his path to victory has become excessively complicated given the presence of the Jeb machine. Expect Rubio to keep his guns trained on Jeb if he intends to win, but deferential if he is really angling for a cabinet spot. If Jeb flames out, he will compete with Christie to pick up the Florida pieces. Rubio has provoked conservative anger over the immigration issue, but the past successes of McCain in 2008 and GWB in 2000 show that this is not necessarily fatal to his chances to win at least the Republican nomination.
In the news this past week: Rubio will preside over a hearing today concerning U.S.-Cuba relations, and remind everyone that he is not another old white guy. (Link) A look at the possible implications for Rubio’s Senate seat if he runs for President. (Link)
7. Mike Huckabee (Former Governor – Arkansas) (Last week: N/A)
Rationale: By all accounts Huckabee is currently virtually tied with Scott Walker in Iowa, if not holding a slight lead. Huckabee won there in 2008 and a candidate who can win Iowa cannot be completely dismissed. Huckabee’s strategy thus far seems to be to narrow his appeal from 2008 even further by throwing red meat to the deeply religious conservatives and lock in their vote. Huckabee also stands to do well on Super Tuesday if his campaign is still running given the slate of states up for vote, but ultimately it is hard to see a path to victory for a guy who seems to be angling to increase his profile for some other television/organizational job.
In the news this past week: Huckabee went on the warpath against Beyonce which was met with appropriate puzzlement. (Link) Huckabee also hurt himself among Iowa voters with his remarks on the Obamas’ parenting competency. (Link)
8. Bobby Jindal (Governor – Louisiana) (Last week: N/A)
Rationale: Jindal is one of the most accomplished and brightest candidates in the field, but his efforts have been hurt somewhat by his perceived lack of charisma and also by the looming sense that he does not really intend to run. By all accounts Jindal and Perry have a close personal friendship, and Jindal further faces bitter intra-party division as he attempts to finish his term as governor of Louisiana. If Jindal runs, he could stand to benefit from slips further up the gubernatorial food chain as he projects an air of obvious high-wattage intelligence and rarely if ever stumbles in a serious way on camera (CNN’s attempt to gin up “no go zone” controversy notwithstanding).
9. Ted Cruz (Senator – Texas) (Last Week: N/A)
Rationale: Another candidate who faces uncertainty about whether he will run, albeit with probably more legitimate groundswell calls for him to run than Jindal. However, unlike Jindal, Cruz faces significant active hostility even within the conservative wing of the party. Paradoxically, the quixotic fights that Cruz picks that have elevated his status to folk hero with some have likewise made him a difficult sell to others. Cruz occupies roughly the same spot (albeit with different niches) as Paul; however, he hasn’t done nearly the groundwork that Paul has for his candidacy to be taken seriously as a legitimate wild card as opposed to a publicity play.
In the news this past week: Cruz’s latest crusade – attempting to block the Loretta Lynch nomination until executive amnesty is rescinded. (Link) This is a little awkward. (Link) Ted Cruz loves some Obamacare repeal. (Link)
10. Ben Carson (Physician) (Last week: N/A)
Rationale: What to say about the Ben Carson candidacy? Do I view it as a serious entity? No. Do I believe that he will fold under the pressure of an actual electoral campaign? Yes. Will this implosion be spectacular? Most likely. But, you know, polls are polls, and Carson continues to fare well in them, so that, for now, at least places him ahead of Rick Santorum. So that is at least something, if you are a Ben Carson fan.
In the news this past week: Ben Carson is not even going to have this vaccination debate with you. (Link) Carson has harnessed the power of direct marketing, if nothing else. (Link) For the first time this campaign, Carson has faced some scrutiny on his record, and did not fare well. (Link)