Contenders and Pretenders: Ranking the GOP Candidates

After the Republican convention in 2012, one commenter at Instapundit wrote:

Romney was not my first, second, or third choice, but I will crawl over ground glass to vote for him.

That has stayed with me ever since; it rang true for me as well. With the field for the 2016 Republican nomination as crowded as it is, the exercise of ranking and re-ranking the candidates is surely one that many interested voters (and pundits) will be conducting on a frequent basis. After the first debates, now is the perfect time to start. This is where my personal-preference ranking of the GOP candidates stands, along with notes about why I have placed them in that particular spot.

1. Marco Rubio: I am firmly in his camp and a donor to his campaign. As a Floridian I’ve been following his career for several years, and I think he is one only three actual contenders for the nomination. I know the commenters are going to beat him up (and me as well) because of his dalliance with the “Gang of 8” on immigration reform. Well, what can I say: I agree with Senator Rubio and disagree with the peanut gallery. Marco’s actual overall record is as conservative as anyone in the field. What makes Marco so attractive as a candidate is that he brings conservatism together with an optimistic outlook and rhetorical skills.

The general election is going to boil down to convincing about 5-6% of the electorate (that won’t be paying attention until about two weeks out). I believe Rubio has the right stuff to make that convincing closing argument.

2. Scott Walker: He is also one of whom I consider to be the three actual contenders. There's a lot of talk on social media of a Walker/Rubio ticket; one can see why that’s so attractive. Both are from purple states that are needed to win in 2016. Walker is a strong candidate with executive experience who took on the trade unions and the Democrats and won. If you’re looking for “a fighter,” nobody has proven more tangibly that he can fight the American left and come out victorious than Walker.

3. Rick Perry: I think he's a much better candidate than what he showed in 2012 (because of his back surgery, etc.). He’s a former governor with a strong fiscal record and jobs record in a big and important state. Texas has stood defiant against all the hope-and-change rhetoric and ensuing malaise that much of the country has endured. I also like the way he’s taken took on Trump and his crass remarks.

4. Bobby Jindal: He's a long shot, but I rank him fourth in terms of preference. I personally like him and see him as a solid conservative who is not charismatic. He took over a state infamous for corruption thanks to decades of Democrat rule, and has begun to turn things around. Perhaps he’s a solid choice for the VP slot.

5. Jeb Bush: I believe that, besides Walker and Rubio, Jeb is the only other real contender. I voted for him twice for governor. He’s more of a policy wonk, not a retail politician. I think Jeb is actually more conservative than most people give him credit for, but his common-core stance really brings him down. My son, who has special needs, will be attending private school for the first time thanks to the inflexibility of this monstrosity that Bush champions. Luckily, he will be attending that school with a voucher that Bush also championed. Like most people, I really don't want another Bush. We need to get away from dynastic politics.

6. Ted Cruz: I really like him as a pit-bull senator, but I don't think his act plays well as a presidential candidate. One of the things that bothers me most is his reliance on speaking a lot of platitudes and very few policy prescriptions. Cruz is a brilliant legal mind, an actual rather than imagined constitutional expert, who would be a great attorney general or solicitor general in a Republican administration, or Senate majority leader should a Democrat be elected president.

7. Carly Fiorina: After her early-show debate performance her stock is rising, but I don’t put her higher on my list because I think the idea of someone who has never held office being elected president, in this day and age, is far fetched. I actually think she's a top contender for VP and she would be a fine one if the eventual president would change the scope of the job so that she could be more than an adornment as most VPs are.