16 for '16: The Most Talked-About Potential GOP Presidential Candidates

Friday, 03 Jan 2014 07:02 AM

By Bill Hoffmann

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As 2014 kicks off, it is apparent that a crystal-clear frontrunner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination has yet to emerge.

Not unlike 2010, the Republican stage is crowded with potential candidates boasting different degrees of conservatism, from tea party favorites like Ted Cruz to moderates like Peter King and liberal-leaning Republicans like Chris Christie.

The GOP again faces the daunting task of wading through a large field of prospects to pick a candidate to challenge the presumed Democratic choice of Hillary Clinton.

He or she must be a stronger choice than Mitt Romney, be ready to navigate the choppy waters of the liberal media, and appeal to a broad base of the Republican Party, which for now remains deeply splintered.

Here are 16 names (in alphabetical order) to keep an eye on as we edge closer to 2016:

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Jeb Bush

Personal: Age: 60; former two-term governor of Florida; son of former President George H.W. Bush and brother of former President George W. Bush; married, three children.

Pros: Regarded as a successful and popular governor in a key battleground state; part of the Bush political dynasty; has high Latino support; speaks Spanish.

Cons: Has the electorate had enough of the Bush family? Even matriarch Barbara Bush seems to think so. Of course if he runs against Hillary Clinton, one could ask the same question about that surname.

Related Story: Jeb Bush: 'I Would Put My Record Up Against Anybody'


Dr. Ben Carson

Personal: Age: 62; former director of pediatric neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins Hospital; married.

Pros: Rational, plain speaking; brilliant medical background; gained national attention with biting speech against Obamacare at the National Prayer Breakfast, with the president sitting on the dais.

Cons: Has never held political office and lacks political experience on any level; likely considered a one-trick-pony opposing Obamacare.

Related Story: Dr. Ben Carson on Presidential Bid: The Good Lord Has a Plan

Chris Christie

Personal: Age: 51; governor of New Jersey, just elected in a landslide to a second term; former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey; married, four children.

Pros: High approval ratings; good grades for his fast response to the Hurricane Sandy disaster; GOP candidate most likely to appeal to Democrats; has a straightforward, no-nonsense style some find refreshing.

Cons: That no-nonsense style has also routinely rankled some, who feel he comes off as a manipulative bully; considered too liberal by many in the GOP; his weight has raised questions about his long-term health.

Related Story: Christie's Star Dims as Stories of Bullying, Double Dealing Emerge

Ted Cruz

Personal: Age: 43; serving first term as U.S. senator from Texas; married, two children.

Pros: Beloved in the Bible Belt and regarded as one of the tea party's rising stars; extremely smart and articulate; staunch opposition to Obamacare and support for conservative ideals has endeared him to the GOP faithful; Cuban heritage aligns him with Hispanics.

Cons: Blamed for filibuster that spurred the government shutdown; intelligent, yes, but also can come off as arrogant; may be too conservative for some moderate Republicans, whom he rankled with his shutdown strategy; potential rival Rep. Peter King called him a "fraud."

Related Story: Sen. Ted Cruz: No Regrets Over Shutdown

Nikki Haley

Personal: Age: 41; governor of South Carolina; married, two children.

Pros: Like Bobby Jindal, would bring double diversity to the White House as an Indian-American and a plain-speaking southerner.

Cons: Little national recognition; was recently slapped with a fine and ethics warning for campaign donor violations

Related Story: Gov. Haley: Santa Gave Me Gun for Christmas

Mike Huckabee

Personal: Age: 58; former governor of Arkansas; ordained Baptist minister; married, three children.

Pros: Personable and glib; veteran TV and radio broadcaster with high visibility; former Southern Baptist pastor with strong religious support; strong on core conservative social principles.

Cons: Is already finding opposition among the conservative group Club For Growth for his fiscal policies while governor; failed to develop momentum for the nomination in 2008, despite winning some states.

Related Story: Gravis Poll: Huckabee Tops SC's GOP Presidential Field

Bobby Jindal

Personal: Age: 42; serving second term as governor of Louisiana; former U.S. representative; married, three children.

Pros: Would bring double diversity to the White House as an Indian-American and a southerner; has an impressive resume as a public servant, from, governor, to congressman, president of the state university system and assistant secretary of Health and Human Services (giving him an inside track on fixing Obamacare).

Cons: Has been considered a rising star in the party for several years, but has not developed much traction nationally; his biggest moment in the national spotlight — the 2009 GOP response to the State of the Union — was not well received.

Related Story: Jindal: We Don't Need Government Running Healthcare

John Kasich

Personal: Age: 61; governor of Ohio; former U.S. representative; married.

Pros: Impressive political chops: former U.S. congressman, Ohio senator; chairman of the House Committee on the Budget.

Cons: As was the case in 2000, when he considered a presidential run, Kasich has little national presence and is not even a blip on most polls; expanded Medicaid in Ohio over GOP opposition; got negative attention several years ago for calling a cop an "idiot" for giving him a traffic ticket.

Related Story: Ohio Gov. Kasich Seeks to Re-Brand GOP With Compassion

Peter King

Personal: Age: 69; U.S. representative from New York; chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security; married, two children.

Pros: Outspoken and highly opinionated; strong in national security issues; scandal-free.

Cons: Too aligned with New York and the Northeast; made enemies in his party when he criticized slow GOP response on Hurricane Sandy aid; called rival Ted Cruz a "fraud," and Rand Paul "a disgrace to his office."

Related Story: Rep. Peter King: Would Run to 'Save' the GOP

Susana Martinez

Personal: Age: 54; governor of New Mexico; married, one child.

Pros: Made history as first elected female governor of New Mexico and the first female Hispanic governor in the U.S.

Cons: Has said she is not interested in a White House run; could face heat from women for her pro-life stance; does not have a national presence.

Related Story: Martinez Says She's Focused on New Mexico's Problems

Rand Paul

Personal: Age: 50; U.S. senator from Kentucky; son of former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul; married, three children.

Pros: Plain-speaking conservative with a solid record of backing core Republican values, such as the Second Amendment, immigration, and lower taxes; can build on the following his father developed during his previous presidential runs.

Cons: Launched a controversial filibuster against proposed CIA head John Brennan that was panned by some conservatives; dogged by recent accusations of plagiarism.

Related Story: Paul Votes Against Budget Deal, Says Sequester Better

Rick Perry

Personal: Age: 63; serving 14th year as governor of Texas; married, two children.

Pros: Longest serving Texas governor; can tout a strong record on creating jobs and keeping taxes low; his strong stance against abortion made national news.

Cons: Trails fellow Texan Ted Cruz in visibility; burned bridges with women when he slammed Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis for her filibuster; could be haunted by gaffes from his last presidential run.

Related Story: Gov. Rick Perry: Teamwork Needed if GOP to Win White House

Marco Rubio

Personal: Age 42; in first term as U.S. senator from Florida; former speaker of the Florida House; married, four children.

Pros: Charismatic, articulate and politically savvy; popular with Latinos; gained national attention as head of "Gang of Eight" pushing immigration reform.

Cons: Alienated some in the party on his signature immigration reform campaign; like Jindal, failed to take advantage of his opportunity on the national stage and became known for the infamous "water bottle" incident during the State-of-the-Union rebuttal speech.

Related Story: Rubio Outlines Bold Plan Giving 12 Million Illegals Legal Status

Paul Ryan

Personal: Age: 43; U.S. representative from Wisconsin; chairman of the House Budget Committee; GOP vice presidential candidate on Mitt Romney ticket in 2012; married, three children

Pros: High approval ratings from GOP, a conservative hero who champions cutting spending, taxes, and entitlements; scored points as a bipartisan bridge-builder after cutting budget deal with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.

Cons: Was part of the Mitt Romney presidential disaster; may be too conservative for American mainstream.

Related Story: Paul Ryan 'Taking a Hard Look' at Presidential Run

Rick Santorum

Personal: Age: 55; former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania; former U.S. representative; married, eight children (one deceased).

Pros: Squeaky-clean and scandal free; one of the GOP's most respected social conservatives with a strong record opposing abortion and gay marriage.

Cons: Had a reputation as a spender in Congress; still fell short of the nomination in 2012, despite better-than-expected showing; might be considered too evangelical.

Related Story: Santorum to Newsmax: I May Run for President in 2016

Scott Walker

Personal: Age: 46; governor of Wisconsin; married, two children.

Pros: Dynamic and articulate speaker who has gained traction in a recent book tour; showed off his substantial political skills in beating back a 2011 recall effort.

Cons: Needs to win re-election in 2014; while successful in his recall challenge, he took a beating from labor unions and teachers; needs to continue to establish a higher national profile.

Related Story: Scott Walker: GOP's 2016 Candidate Should Be Washington 'Outsider' -- 'Like a Governor'

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