Earlier tonight I posted my 1st ranking of the 2016 contenders on Twitter (shown below). There was a lot of disagreement and demands that I explain some choices. While I plan to eventually write full and detailed explanations for each ranking, let me give a brief synopsis for some key choices now.
Why is Rubio first and the only Senator in the top 5?
Rubio is first for several reasons. First, I believe he is the greatest Republican orator since Ronald Reagan and the Obama era proved this is vital for a good candidate. His speeches are absolutely remarkable. Most importantly, he puts things in a way that people can understand. His focus is on restoring the American Dream, something everyone can comprehend. This message resonates with the conservative Democrats that have been lost to the party. The truth is that voters care about things that affect them. They don’t want to hear about the Constitution (unlike myself and many active conservatives), they want to hear about how conservative policies will improve their lives. By framing issues as providing opportunity, Rubio manages to promote conservatism in a way that resonates with the people Republicans must reach in the next election. The fact that he would be the first Hispanic Presidential nominee will not hurt our cause.
In addition, Rubio has proven he has the ability to lead. While no one was looking in the last few years, Rubio has put forward innovative conservative solutions on almost every issue (everything from tax reform to social security reform). These policy proposals haven’t made the news, but they put him in a completely different league. The only Senator that has even come close to Rubio in this area is Mike Lee (they have worked on several plans together). In addition, he has spent the last several years learning every aspect of foreign policy (which is returning to the forefront of Presidential concerns) and is consistently proving to be the most knowledgeable figure in politics in this area. While other Senators are consistently flubbing basic facts and promoting conspiracy theories, Rubio is advocating for concrete and proven ideas that are essentially based on a Reaganesque approach.
The biggest objection to Rubio is immigration. However, what most people don’t realize yet and will during the campaign, almost every Republican candidate has an identical position on this issue. Rand Paul is probably furthest left (ex: oppose e-verify, though he has characteristically given different answers about his position at different times) and Ted Cruz, despite being an immigration adviser to GWB, is probably a little right (mostly due to him supporting legalization without citizenship), but the overall positions aren’t very far apart. Everyone essentially supports strong enforcement at the border and a path to legalization for non-criminal illegals that are already here. The more legitimate objection to Rubio is that his position shifted somewhat during the debate and he worked with Democrats that can’t be trusted on the issue. This is a valid argument. Rubio’s response will be that he tries to compromise to solve a problem and it backfired. I see this as a minor issue, and believe most voters will agree.
Why is Scott Walker second?
Scott Walker is second because he is the most successful conservative Governor in the country. The left has smeared him relentlessly after he took on one of their primary constituencies, the unions. Despite those smears, he has managed to win 3 major elections in four years in a purple state. The guy has proven he can govern and he can withstand serious media scrutiny.
Why is Rick Perry so high after his 2012 performance?
I am giving Perry the benefit of the doubt that his performance in 2012 had a lot to do with medical issues that are now resolved. He has an extremely impressive record in Texas.
Why is Jeb Bush at #9?
I’ve been asked this question by Floridians who think he should be higher and many other conservatives that think that’s way too high (because he’s just an establishment RINO). The truth is that Bush was a solid Governor in Florida. His actual record should make him a top contender, but there are 2 points that significantly counter that: 1) He has voiced questionable views on several issues. 2) His last name is a huge obstacle to overcome. GWB still isn’t very popular and it’s hard to imagine Jeb won’t be hurt by that relationship.
Why is Rand Paul so low?
I knew this one would cause the most controversy because Paul has some very big fans. Paul is probably the best politician on the list, but that doesn’t help under complete scrutiny from a liberal media. I put Paul that low because I believe he would be one of the worst candidates in the modern era due to his baggage and he would be a terrible foreign policy President (at least on par with President Obama).
The truth is that Paul currently gets away with a lot of stuff that no national Republican candidate can get away with. On almost every issue where he has an unpopular position (most foreign policy issues), Paul simply avoids giving specifics or answering direct questions. Paul learned from Barack Obama and often creates a field of straw men to justify his views. Instead of explaining what he would do in Syria, he blames interventionism for causing the problem and tells everyone who will listen that he isn’t an isolationist. Even on his key issue, he avoids the question of whether we should use drones in Yemen, instead focusing on a framing most agree with (don’t drone U.S. citizens without due process). Also, Paul tends to tell different audiences different things based on what he thinks they want to hear (Voter ID is a good example). This is smart politically for someone like Obama who has media support, but the liberal media will never let a Republican nominee get away with it. Once Paul is forced to answer specifics, people will notice that many of his views are just out of the mainstream. None of this even considers his family and other controversial connections or his very long history of spewing conspiracies and factually wrong claims. The number of 9/11 truthers associated with Paul is astounding. Also, the videos before he ran for Senate are just brutal. There is no cure for this with the current media. I truly believe he will be destroyed.
Later on I will delve into the specifics of his history and why I believe his foreign policy views are unacceptable for a Presidential candidate. None of this diminishes his value as a Senator or in expanding the Party to some extent. Although, others have also pointed out that aside from a small percentage of libertarians that will only vote for Paul, there is limited evidence he will go far beyond that. For example, Ramesh Ponnuru has pointed out that Paul hasn’t done any better than most Republicans with young voters. That is mostly because young voters tend to say they like some aspects of his agenda but they still end up voting for the Democrat. Paul has also done impressive outreach to African Americans, although his comments on the Civil Rights Act (while completely distorted) still haunt him with those voters. (Great work on Criminal Justice reform, though I disagree with his proposal to restore voting rights to felons). I believe Paul is an asset to the Party, but not a viable Presidential candidate.
Why is Brian Sandoval so low?
First, he is pro-choice. The country has been moving in the other direction recently and a pro-choice Republican would have a lot to overcome to win the nomination. Sandoval was also the first Republican Governor to embrace Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid. Sandoval also broke a pledge to reduce taxes because he was facing a budget deficit. These are very problematic issues for someone with his experience.
This was written very quickly and late at night so please ignore any errors. I will be updating that chart regularly as we enter into the primary season and will expand on each ranking further.