|The Right’s Rising Stars: Too Much of a Good Thing?|
By Quin Hillyer
Wednesday, February 13 2013
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida probably Jindalled himself in his State of the Union response Tuesday night, meaning he certainly did not help his future presidential prospects, and may have harmed them. Republicans thus remain without a primary spokesman or obvious standard-bearer.
On the other hand, they boast a larger number of talented, potential presidential candidates than has been seen in living memory. By my count, there are at least 30 Republicans who have legitimate reason to consider Oval Office runs in 2016. Yes, 30. Amazing. What follows is my assessment of their chances – not of my own desires, but of their likelihood of winning. (Assumption is made that readers of this site know who each of these is.)
Republicans have a habit of following what my father used to call the “Prince of Wales” rule, whereby the nominee is always the person generally seen as the “next in line” to the nomination – meaning either the former vice president, or the person who finished second the previous time, or whomever else (as in Bob Dole, 1996) is clearly the most prominent or well-known figure in the race. In 2016, though, there isn’t just one Prince of Wales; there are three who might claim that mantle.
Jeb Bush is, of course, the brother and son of prior presidents. That’s as Prince-of-Walesish as one gets. Odds of winning the nomination if he runs: Very high. Odds of winning the general election if nominated: Moderate.
Rick Santorum finished second in the 2012 Republican race. Nomination odds: Moderate. General election odds (if nominated): Moderate.
Paul Ryan was the V-P nominee last year. Nomination odds: Moderate. General election: Good.
Two others might be Prince-like (or Princess-like) if the above three don’t run. Sarah Palin, as a former Veep nominee, would qualify. Odds: Low and very low. Mike Huckabee pretty much tied Mitt Romney for second in 2008, and Romney became the clear Prince only because Huck didn’t run. Huck has maintained a high profile since. Odds: Moderate and moderate.
The rest are listed in alphabetical order. Kelly Ayotte: Low, and moderate. Sam Brownback: Low, and moderately low. Eric Cantor: Low, and slightly-above-moderate. Chris Christie: Moderately low, and moderate. Bob Corker: Low, and good. Ted Cruz: Low, and good. Ken Cuccinelli (if he wins the Virginia governorship this year): Low, and decent.
Mitch Daniels: Moderately low, and very good. Jim DeMint: Moderately low, and moderate. Nikki Haley: Low, and low. Jon Huntsman: Nearly nil, on either count. Bobby Jindal: Above moderate, and very good. Ron Johnson: Low, and good. John Kasich: Moderate, and good. Susana Martinez: Moderate, and very good. Bob McDonnell: Pretty low, and good.
Rand Paul: Moderate, and moderately low. Mike Pence: Moderate, and good. Rick Perry: Low, and low. Rob Portman: Low, and good. Condoleezza Rice: Low, and good. Marco Rubio: Moderate, and decent. John Thune: Moderately low, and moderate. Pat Toomey: Low, and moderate. Scott Walker: Moderately low, and moderate.
There: That’s 30. You’ll note that I’ve rated Bobby Jindal, Mitch Daniels and Susana Martinez as the three potentially strongest general election candidates, should either win the nomination, with Condi Rice, Rob Portman, Mike Pence, John Kasich, Ron Johnson, Ted Cruz, Bob Corker, Bob McDonnell and Paul Ryan also having “good” chances to beat a Democrat in November, 2016. On the other hand, I really consider Jeb Bush an odds-on favorite to win the nomination if he goes for it (with his chances getting stronger the larger the field of candidates is) – for better or worse, both for the fall election (where his name would be a definite drag) and for governance afterwards. The only other potential candidate with better than moderate chances at the nomination, I think, is Jindal, who is positioning himself well for a national campaign.
Now, the question arises as to whether it’s far too early to be talking about the next presidential race, with the prior one only three months behind us. Answer: Yes. Or at least it should be. But just as the current presidency is unlike any we’ve seen before – more radical, more divisive, more dismissive of constitutional limits – so, too, is the emergence of a galvanizing leader on the right a far more pressing necessity than it has been since the 1970s. It’s not that a leader must emerge immediately, but it is that somebody with the ability to effectively clarify the issues must emerge in time to provide a forceful counterweight to Obama’s efforts to consolidate power beyond recover.
With so many talented rising stars, but nobody quite talented enough to rise noticeably above the rest, the right’s message risks being lost in a cacophony of voices that becomes nothing more than background hum to much of the public.
Level of concern: Moderately high. Solution: Unknown. Stay tuned, and wish for luck.
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