With six months until Iowa and then on to New Hampshire, the question remains who will challenge Hillary Clinton, presumably — but not for certain — the 2016 candidate for the big prize next year.
At the moment, Scott Walker appears to be the front-runner. He has edged out Jeb Bush for the mantle, but it’s early and anything could happen. Even a dark horse could emerge from the current field, or someone totally unexpected could arrive on the scene.
Here’s my latest take on the Republican primary field:
- Scott Walker: Blue state governor. Tough as nails. Conservative all around. Close to the GOP base. "Compromise" candidate in divided race. Strongest primary candidate, difficult general election candidate. Most Midwestern.
- Jeb Bush: Most pro-growth and opportunity. Smart. Most Reagan-esque in policy. Strongly conservative. Problems with base on Common Core and immigration. Terrific record governing Fla.: low taxes, strong on education. Strong executive style. Huge fundraising apparatus. Weak grass-roots support in GOP primary, strong candidate in general election. Mexican-American wife Columba will be key asset in general election. Candidate Hillary fears most.
- Ted Cruz: Smartest candidate. Connects easily with the base. Has solidified the evangelical vote. Could win Iowa. Powerful speaker. Has strong grass-roots support, and Texas billionaire donor support. No grays. Strong potential in GOP primary, challenges to win general.
- Rand Paul: Most outside the box. Washington outsider. Gravitas, no non-sense candidate. Thinks like a doctor; talks like a doctor. Libertarian. Appeals to young and ethnic voters. Articulate. Foreign policy scares many in GOP. Surprisingly strong general election candidate.
- Chris Christie: Most charismatic, most articulate. Solid record in blue-state Democratic-controlled New Jersey. Pro-life. Liberal media fears him, think of all the coverage over Bridge-gate. Would frighten Putin. If Jeb fails, could become "establishment" candidate. Most electable GOP general election candidate.
- Donald Trump: Unparalleled success in the three pillars of American life: business, entertainment, politics. Richest candidate. Best "voice" of the base. Biggest turnouts. Biggest applause lines. Big tea party and independent voter following. Highly admired. Smartest businessman. Has real-life experience and gets things done — and done well. Tough. Straight-shooter. His endorsement carries weight.
- Marco Rubio: Bright, young, articulate. The "future" of GOP. But not his moment now. Early support for immigration reform continues to hurt with grass roots. Lacks a base of support in GOP. Strong vice-presidential contender.
- Rick Perry: Strongest record as governor. Extraordinary jobs record. Looks presidential. Three-legged conservative: socially, fiscally, and national security. Has good record on border security. Stumble from 2012 and indictment creating hurdles, but surmountable.
- Ben Carson: Most principled. Most sincere. Most in touch with the base. Most well-liked. Most respected. Conservative and traditionalist. Pragmatic streak. Will surprise in primaries.
- Carly Fiorina: A successful woman. Strong executive. Lights up the base. Qualified. The anti-Hillary. Core conservative. Rising support. Strong VP contender.
- Mike Huckabee: Most connected to Christian right. Conservative socially, but surprising centrist on fiscal issues. Defense hawk. Solid record as Arkansas governor. Powerhouse base of support. Endorsement most influential in GOP primary with ability to sway states with strong Baptist voting blocs.
- Rick Santorum: Principled. Superb record as U.S. senator. Staunch social conservative. Sensible fiscal policies. Could woo Reagan Democrats in general. Support in primaries, especially among evangelicals, tepid this year.
- Bobby Jindal: Principled, thinking conservative with strong record. Indian-American Catholic who wins by landslides in Louisiana shouldn’t be ignored. Strong VP potential.
- George Pataki: Conservative with remarkable record as New York governor. History of electoral surprises. High-likability. Hero of 9/11 and New York’s comeback. Fiscally sound, defense hawk. A farmer, he may surprise in Iowa. Has New England sensibilities, which may help in New Hampshire. Strong draw for GOP in general election.
- Lindsey Graham: Well-liked. Has great personal story rising from humble beginnings. Defense and national security paramount. He’s the anti-Rand Paul. Strong donor support.
- John Kasich: Carries Ohio. Can win over independent and Democratic voters. Good record in Ohio. Moderate conservative. Strong presidential or vice presidential candidate. Late-comer, limited organization, limited grass-roots appeal, limited national donor base.
As I explained in my last blog, neither the primary nor the general election will be about the "future" or "change" or about a generational change of leadership.
It will be about fixing problems. The public wants a "solution" person. The GOP base wants this plus a candidate who will clean up Washington.
So far, the Republican grass roots is still focused on narrow issues, like immigration, and missing the big picture that will be necessary for them to win in November 2016.
Remember, the Democrats have 247 electoral votes "locked up." They need just 270 to win. For the GOP to have any chance of winning, they need a candidate with the "X-factor" — one who can win the support of independent and Democratic voters.
Christopher Ruddy is CEO and editor of Newsmax Media Inc. Read more Christopher Ruddy Insider articles — Click Here Now.
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