The 2016 primary is like none other.
Gone are the carefully scripted debates, poll-tested answers, and statements where each syllable is groomed for maximum appeal and minimum friction.
Instead, what we’ve got is rhetorical mudwrestling. So who is the right choice? A brain surgeon? A Midwestern governor? A Cuban-American freshman senator? Another Cuban-American freshman senator? A bombastic businessman?
Here is your voter's guide:
Dr. Ben Carson:
The most decent and honorable man in the race on either side of the aisle. He would make a very good president. However, Carson’s campaign has not caught fire and he has no path to the nomination. Let’s hope the next president utilizes Dr. Carson’s powerful story and appoints him surgeon general.
Governor John Kasich:
Kasich has no path to the nomination. He is hanging around until March 15th in hopes of winning his home state. The 2016 John Kasich is not the limited government, numbers crunching firebrand that he was as a congressman back in the 1990s.
Recently he caught flack for accepting the Obamacare-driven Medicaid expansion in his home state of Ohio. Instead of justifying it by the numbers (a la Congressman Kasich), Governor Kasich said “When I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.” Really, John? That line has some troubling items baked in it, not the least of which is the implicit view that Obamacare is a good thing.
Until the Ohio vote on March 15th, Kasich is being very careful not to tread on Trump’s toes, likely in hopes of a getting possible vice presidential slot. That might not be a bad thing given that Kasich could help deliver Ohio in November.
Moreover, he has executive experience plus he knows his way around Washington, D.C. A powerful combination, especially for a D.C. outsider like Trump.
That leaves three options:
Senator Marco Rubio:
A young, articulate, charismatic, first-term senator with a thousand watt smile. Sound familiar? Many call Rubio the Republican version of the 2008 Barack Obama, which is why the movers and shakers in the Democratic Party fear his candidacy the most.
Rubio styles himself as the leader of the “children of the Reagan revolution,” ready and willing to erase the Obama era and restore America as that shining city in a hill.
Just like Reagan did in the wake of Carter.
Rubio can come off as two dimensional, practiced. Like when Chris Christie pointed out Rubio was sounding like a skipping record (Gen Xers, ask your parents) during one of the debates.
Also, Rubio claims to be the candidate with the most foreign policy expertise. But from where? His foreign policy bona fides seem to come from the senate briefings he gets on Capitol Hill. Certainly valuable, but hardly a substitute for actual real world experience.
With Jeb out, Marco is the de facto candidate. But this is 2016.
The problem is that with Trump in the race Rubio has a very difficult path to the nomination. Rubio is unlikely to win any state on Super Tuesday, and the polls show him badly behind Trump in his home state of Florida.
Rubio’s best hope is to keep the delegate count fairly close and hope that Trump doesn’t win outright, sending the contest into a brokered convention where the GOP establishment can attempt a Marco Hail Mary.
Senator Ted Cruz:
Hands’ down the most conservative candidate on the ballot. Expert on the Supreme Court, amplified by Justice Scalia’s passing. A highly educated, thoughtful man who truly believes in supporting and defending the Constitution.
However Cruz doesn’t work and play well with others — friend and foe alike. He’s a bomb thrower who publicly called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a liar.
Gauntlets like that are best thrown behind closed doors.
Cruz has a tough path to the nomination. He is highly unlikely to obtain the 1237 delegates necessary to win the nomination outright.
Moreover, were it to go into a brokered convention where the Party has more sway, Rubio would almost certainly get the nod over a very unpopular Cruz.
Cruz is very popular in Texas, He would benefit from running for governor, if and when Greg Abbot retires. Ted Cruz someday will make a good president — just not right now.
Here’s where the status quo blows up. If you don’t like that, then Rubio is your guy. But if you have concerns about the establishment wing of the Republican Party, then listen up.
If you vote for Trump, you must be prepared to incur an added element of risk. That’s because The Donald is not, I say again not, a conservative. Politically he’s been all over the map. That said, he’s certainly not a liberal either. He’s a businessman whose politics have blown with the wind.
With a Trump presidency we don’t know what we will get. It may well be the best thing since Reagan, rocketing our economy and rebuilding our armed forces. Or it might be an embarrassing installment of "The White House Apprentice."
What is likely is that he will do what he has done to make his business a success: he’ll work hard and surround himself with some very capable individuals. He’ll need them, particularly in foreign policy matters and the Middle East, where his ideas regarding Israel and the peace process run dangerously naïve.
Here is what Trump supporters like about him the most: he is not a career establishment politician. Career politicians of all stripes have dug America into a hole, and millions of voters are done with handing them the shovel every four years.
Trump’s path to the nomination is very clear. He is likely to win big on Super Tuesday, sweeping all states except Texas, where he will split delegates with Cruz.
The next step is March 15th where he is likely to win Rubio’s home state of Florida and he will play Kasich close in Ohio. In that event his delegate count will be such that he should win outright before the convention.
That’s your voter’s guide, happy voting!
Patrick Murray (colonel, U.S. Army, retired) was part of a military-diplomatic exchange program between the Pentagon and Department of State, where he served in the Bureau of Political Military Affairs in Washington, D.C. In 2005, Murray became the U.S. representative to the Military Staff Committee at the United Nations in New York under Ambassador John Bolton. After retiring from the Army in 2009, Patrick became the Republican nominee for U.S. Congress in Northern Virginia. He is the author of "Government is the Problem." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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