The 2016 presidential election will be an exciting time in American politics. Unlike the 2012 elections, both parties will be seeking a new nominee, and also unlike the 2012 elections, the Republican Party has a very compelling and diverse field of candidates to pick from.
Due to this large field of Republicans, and the dynamics of the “Clinton inevitability” emerging on the Democratic side, it’s hard to summarize the race in a single article. However, here is my current assessment of the top five candidates to watch on the GOP side. Not all will necessarily run, but these five potential candidates have all been the subjects of speculation for a while now.
Fifth on the list of potential candidates is Mike Pence. The Indiana governor is popular with social conservatives, so he could appeal to the crowds which previously supported Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, even if both of them were to run again. In addition, Pence is a successful governor, who also has previous federal experience as a U.S. Rep. He is competent enough when it comes to economic issues making him acceptable to the so-called “establishment crowd” in the GOP (for example, Mitt Romney voters/donors). Gov. Pence is one of the people who would best be able to unite the party in the general election.
Next on my list in fourth place is Scott Walker. Gov. Walker has been gaining more attention in recent months. He is popular with grassroots organizations, is a proven survivor with his multiple wins in Wisconsin and has made meaningful conservative reforms which satisfy the base of his party. His downsides are potential lingering scandals, not having a college degree and a supposed lack of enthusiasm on the stump.
Coming in third is Rand Paul. Sen. Paul is very sincere, and is doing great work to help the GOP expand its base. He would be the first candidate with libertarian values the Republicans have nominated in quite a while (most comparable to Calvin Coolidge or Barry Goldwater in my view). This is either a pro or a con depending on who you talk to, but he suffers from one large setback that other candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz also suffer from – electability. His father’s beliefs are one thing, but his mix of accused “isolationism,” his equally erratic and interesting set of social beliefs and more right wing view of economics are other hurdles. He could certainly overcome the handicap of being outside the mainstream, but it will be a struggle to get through the nomination process in the first place.
Second on my list is Marco Rubio. Sen. Rubio is underestimated by a lot of people. He has strong oratory skills, and will probably be able to excite the base more than previous nominees like Romney or John McCain. He has several advantages, which range from being fresh and young to speaking fluent Spanish. Like Pence, he would perhaps be able to bridge the two sides of the GOP. Assuming no major mistakes, (and a water bottle on hand at all times) he could give the others a run for their money.
My top potential GOP candidate for the 2016 election is Jeb Bush. Do Republicans have to settle for the
former Florida governor? Maybe. With Romney out of the way, his threats in the primary are much more limited, since Chris Christie is going nowhere fast. Unless that changes, Jeb Bush will be getting a lot of top cash, and might be able to absorb the same voting base that elected Romney as the nominee the last time around. The more the right side of the room gets crowded, (Huckabee, Carson, Santorum, Cruz and others both on and off this list) the easier it is for him to win. He has a lot of advantages, but the one big disadvantage is obviously his last name.
Nick Pappas is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]