Welcome back to the RedState Presidential Primary Power Rankings! If you missed last week’s installment, you can view it here. If you want to see the whole series thus far, you can view that here. Just by way of reminder, this list is not intended to be a reflection of anyone’s preferred picks, it is just a prediction of who will likely win the 2016 GOP nomination, based on the information available to us now. Without Further adieu, let’s get into the list!
1. Scott Walker (Governor – Wisconsin) (Last week: 1)
Rationale: Walker spent the last week solidifying his hold on the top spot, following up his surprise lead in Iowa with a series of polls that showed him in a dead heat with Jeb Bush in New Hampshire. Perhaps most surprising, Walker seems to have ascended to the top spot without a serious challenge from his natural rivals. This week saw the opening salvos between Rick Perry and [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ], and the ongoing simmer between [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] and Jeb Bush, but still no one shows an inclination to lay a serious glove on Walker or his record. If Walker wins Iowa and New Hampshire this contest may be over before it is fairly begun.
This week in the news: The Limbaugh effect on Walker’s nascient candidacy. (Link) This week Walker is in London on a trade mission attempting to bring jobs to Wisconsin. (Link) Walker continues to cut the budget at the expense of entrenched leftist interests and this year, the UW system is in the crosshairs. (Link) The Washington Post has two interesting charts that show how Walker is dominating the social media battle. (Link) The Wisconsin Secretary of State’s office also in the budget crosshairs. (Link) Also at risk for the axe – state public broadcasting funds. (Link) The zombie John Doe investigation of Walker may have finally been mortally wounded. (Link) Walker’s budget also takes on tenure reform. (Link)
2. Jeb Bush (Fmr Governor – Florida) (Last week: 2)
Rationale: For a moment last week, it looked like the rise of Walker, especially in New Hampshire, might suck the oxygen out of the Bush campaign, but two polls released later in the week showed that stories of Bush’s New Hampshire demise might have been greatly exaggerated. That having been said, Bush’s campaign message strategy thus far leaves much to be desired. A convincing argument could be made that the most important job Bush has during this primary season is to distance himself from his brother; instead he plans to put up a website that highlights his – and I am not joking – “compassionate leadership style.” He also has actively provoked even GOP moderates on immigration. For a guy who governed to the right of his brother, he is running to his brother’s left and also borrowing from stylistic points that will make even establishment voters cringe. With the ascendancy of Walker and others in the field, Bush is not as free to make these sorts of mistakes as he might believe.
This week in the news: Bush hired hipster.com founder Ethan Czahor to run his digital team. The predictable scrubbing of Czahor’s twitter account has begun. (Link) The Democrats continue to attack Bush as though they believe he will be the likely nominee. (Link) Bush invokes Pliny the Elder with respect to American Energy policy. (Link) Almost alone among the frontrunners, Jeb Bush has not yet visited New Hampshire a single time. (Link) If Bush is the nominee, expect the Schiavo incident to play prominently in Democrat attacks. (Link)
3. Rand Paul (Senator – Kentucky) (Last week: 3)
Rationale: This was a bad week for Rand Paul even though he does not drop a spot in the rankings. Last week there was a relatively sizeable gap between Walker/Bush and the rest of the field and during the course of the week, that gap grew wider. The person most directly affected by the meteoric rise of Walker has clearly been Paul who now finds himself struggling to crack double digits in New Hampshire polling. More than the other candidates in the field, Paul absolutely needs to win either Iowa or New Hampshire to have a shot at knocking off the field. Further, his image took a hit with his widely panned “mental disorders” comments on the MMR vaccine which he clumsily tried to fix by staging a photo op of himself getting a vaccine booster. He also purportedly bombed out at a Koch fundraising network event in which he showed up to meet the buttoned-up moneyed class in jeans and and a college professor blazer and rubbed virtually everyone present the wrong way. All that having been said, it’s difficult to see another candidate in the field with a more plausible claim to play spoiler to Walker/Bush than Paul at this point.
This week in the news: Rand Paul’s delicate balancing act: mobilizing his father’s base without being associated publicly with his father. (Link) This delicate act is especially difficult in Iowa, where the network built by his father was powerful enough to stunningly seize control of the GOP, only to find themselves bitterly ousted and ostracized two years later. (Link) Later this week, Paul will speak at a conference with Edward Snowden. (Link) Rand Paul doesn’t math (or finance). (Link) One can argue that Paul did Christie a huge favor in the vaccination debate. (Link)
4. Chris Christie (Governor – New Jersey) (Last week: 4)
Rationale: Another candidate who had a less-than-stellar week but retains his spot largely by default. Q-polls taken in Ohio and Pennsylvania indicate that Christie has the best chance of consolidating the Northeast and Midwest, other than Walker and Bush, of anyone in the field. This gives him a more plausible path to victory than anyone else remaining in the field. It is not, however, a very likely path to victory and Christie’s performance in vaccine-gate shows that, while he has the nuts and bolts of his own state down well enough to confront the media head on, he may get exposed to some degree when the glare of the national media spotlight shines brightest.
This week in the news: World public health agencies would like a word with Christie about parental autonomy versus the public health. (Link) Christie is clearly making a major play for Iowa, as he visited the state again for the second time in two weeks, touting his pension reform. (Link) Christie talks drug policy reform. (Link)
5. Ted Cruz (Senator – Texas) (Last week: 9)
Rationale: Cruz was bolstered by a pretty significant week of polling that showed him running with unexpected strength in New Hampshire and the Midwest. This slot, though, clearly marks the beginning of the “third tier” of candidates whose paths to victory are not plausible but merely possible. Cruz remains a long shot to win the nomination or even to seriously contend, but unlike those below him he does not face significant negative name ID (Perry) or someone who is blocking his most likely path to victory (Rubio). Although he is a Texan he does not have a style that appears to be a liability in the Northeast or Midwest and could at least possibly make some serious noise in the Southern states on Super Tuesday.
This week in the news: Ted Cruz was the recipient of an unprovoked swipe from Rick Perry this week, and refused to respond in kind. (Link) Cruz rightfully pointed out that if DHS shuts down, it will be the fault of the Dems. (Link) Cruz’s main target so far: Jeb Bush. (Link) Cruz’s upcoming itinerary has him in New Hampshire soon. (Link) Last week Cruz was in Germany burnishing his foreign policy credentials. (Link)
6. Bobby Jindal (Governor – Louisiana) (Last week: 8)
Rationale: Jindal was bolstered last week by defending himself from attacks that he has cut the budget of Louisiana too much. He also picked a high profile fight with the Congressional GOP regarding their Obamacare tactics. Jindal still does not register as high on the polls as either Rubio or Huckabee, but unlike Huckabee he does not face a natural ceiling of support and unlike Rubio he is not trailing by 20 points in a state that he absolutely has to win. Unlike Perry, he does not start out with a majority of Republican primary voters having written him off. If the GOP primary were a fantasy draft, Jindal would be a classic flyer pick right now – his floor is lower than some of the other candidates below him on these rankings, but his ceiling is higher.
This week in the news: Jindal forcefully and unequivocally supported mandatory vaccinations for public school admission and rebuked fear-mongering on the issue. (Link) Jindal also spent the last week targeting Jeb Bush, and also has continued to be the highest profile name in the fight against Common Core. (Link) Never one to take empty rhetorical potshots, Jindal released his own education plan. (Link)
7. [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] (Senator – Florida) (Last week: 6)
Rationale: The open question about Rubio’s candidacy was how competitive he could make the Florida race. The initial indications, according to a Q-poll, are: not very. Rubio trails Jeb Bush in Florida by 17 points, barely edging out Mike Huckabee for second place. Rubio absolutely cannot survive a drubbing in his home state, if he cannot manage to vaunt himself into the top tier before then with wins in either Iowa or New Hampshire (states in which he lags in middle single digits). Rubio nationally is higher than this in the polls, but given the current primary calendar, he will struggle to establish a meaningful foothold unless someone essentially knocks Bush out of the race before Florida. Given the amount of sheer money Bush is likely to have on hand, it would take a public meltdown for Rubio’s path to the nomination to clear.
This week in the news: Marco Rubio, doing what he does best. (Link) Rubio makes his Iowa debut later this week and plans to meet with members of a potential campaign team. (Link) Unlike the other candidates in the field, Rubio faces a tough re-election fight for the seat he currently holds if he decides to bow out of the Presidential race – which may encourage him to drop out early if he does not gain traction. (Link)
8. Rick Perry (Fmr Governor – Texas) (Last week: 5)
Rationale: Perry remains the candidate with one of the most impressive resumes in the field, but he also remains the only candidate who starts the cycle essentially “in the hole” with the voters, and the early polling numbers do not show him climbing out of that hole in literally any area of the country. Perry polls behind his fellow Texas candidate Ted Cruz in every poll in every state that has currently been taken. If this were anyone else, his candidacy would not be taken seriously at this point, but if Perry does decide to run, his money machine and savvy raise at least the possibility that he will force himself into contention. The problem that Perry has is that even if he does reasonably well in the debates, this may not be enough in the minds of voters, who will want to see him shine. That may be difficult to do for a guy who will be sharing the stage with Rubio and Christie.
This week in the news: Depending on the metric you use, between one fourth and one third of all jobs created in the United States since Rick Perry became governor are in Texas. (Link) Perry has joined the board of the company attempting to build the Bakken oil pipeline across Iowa, which could have repercussions for the Iowa race. (Link) Perry promises to strike a positive tone in his campaign. (Link) Perry has announced a dozen major donors to his PAC. (Link)
9. Ben Carson (Physician) (Last week: 10)
Rationale: Carson’s solidified his position over the last week as a guy who draws high single digits in polls in virtually every area of the country. From a pure polling perspective, he outpaces several of the contenders above him on the list. However, questions remain about his ability to raise money and I remain summarily unconvinced that he will be able to withstand the scrutiny that he will face in the unlikely event that he appears ready to move to the top tier. It does look, however, that he may be able to increase his national profile in the process.
This week in the news: Carson buffeted by a weekly news cycle that was right in his wheelhouse. (Link) In a truly absurd story, the SPLC put Dr. Carson on its extremist watch list. (Link) Carson eyeing a May announcement of an official Presidential bid. (Link)
10. Mike Huckabee (Fmr Governor – Arkansas) (Last week: 7)
Rationale: Ah, Mike Huckabee. In terms of actual polling numbers, Huckabee is probably third in the field, as he polls at around 10 per cent virtually everywhere in the country. However, you get the pretty unshakable sense that Huckabee has already reached his ceiling in terms of his potential support. Huckabee continues to say and do things that are intended to shore up his support among this ten per cent and also make sure that he never climbs above 15 per cent, pretty much no matter what. I understand that Huckabee fans will criticize me for placing him this low, but if Huckabee wins a single state not named Arkansas, I’ll eat my hat.
This week in the news: Huckabee said that Muslims are the only religious group for which Obama has undying support – which, frankly, might be true. (Link) The Huckabee book tour is, for better or worse, over. (Link)