Jeb Bush is latest to become a US Republican Presidential hopeful, and arguably the best known.
There are now eleven declared runners with perhaps three or four more ready to join the crowded field. Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, who covered the Republican campaign last time around looks at the chances of those who want to be President, and a couple who have yet to declare.
The size of the field shows the Republicans think the 2016 Presidential race is one they can win. They have the advantage that they are not facing an incumbent President, and so there has never been a better time to declare.
Let’s look at the field in alphabetical order.
Jeb Bush: He has just declared his candidacy but has essentially been running his campaign and raising
money since the end of 2014. He has raised more money than anyone else, has the support of a lot of the party’s big backers and is a trusted establishment figure. His brother and his father were President and there is an element of exhaustion about dynastic succession or entitlement. He flubbed a question he should have known would come about the Iraq war, and his position on immigration and education doesn’t match where a lot of the party base sit. He has to do well in one of the first three nominating contests, probably New Hampshire, to have momentum going into Florida where he was once governor. The next six months will be crucial. He’s got to build an inevitability about his success or he could be easily picked off.
Ben Carson: A retired neurosurgeon with no executive experience, he grew his profile as a right wing pundit
on a right wing news channel . Perhaps best known in the US for saying President Obama’s signature Affordable Health Care Act was the worst thing ‘since slavery’. The only black candidate in the Republic field, his fiery attacks delight the right wing of the party but he lacks the broad base support he needs and the money he would require to sustain any lengthy campaign. Highly unlikely to be the candidate.
Ted Cruz: The Texas senator likes to claim he is the most
Conservative Republican in the field and believes that his party have lost the last two elections because they have chosen someone who will appeal to the centre. While Republicans can vote with their hearts while
picking candidates for the House of Representatives where most districts are either heavily Republican or Democrat, they know Presidential elections are won in the middle. He has a strong campaign team, can be impressive one to one and he has important backers. He’ll hang in the race for a while but is unlikely to win.
Carly Fiorina: The only woman so far in the Republican field, she has made a specialty of attacking Hilary Clinton but will need more than that to make a breakthrough from
her very low opinion poll rating. A former executive at computer firm, Hewlett Packard, she talks about how she would make a good President because she knows how the economy works, but she was fired from that job because of the company’s performance. She lost a senate race in California by ten points and was pulled as a media surrogate for John McCain’s Presidential campaign because she had a tendency to veer off message. No broad base of support, no big backers, no clear new policies. No chance.
Lindsey Graham: The South Carolina Senator carries a wealth of Foreign policy experience having served on important Senate committees for years. He is a hawk and believes America needs to be strong militarily to project strength abroad. That will appeal to voters who
believe the Presidency is all about national security. Unlikely to do make any great inroads in Iowa but the new Hampshire Primary, the second nominating contest gives him a reasonable chance of success. It tends to favour independent, outspoken voices. A good performances there – and he has been described as an impressive campaigner – would take him into South Carolina, where he would have expectations of a very good showing. That can go two ways. Failure to finish in the top two in his home state would almost certainly end his campaign. A win and that would start the big money donors looking at his pragmatic message on the economy and key domestic issues. Not the long shot every thinks.
Mike Huckabee: Former Arkansas Governor and Christian preacher, he ran for President before and
actually won the 2008 Iowa caucus before dropping out of the race. An impressive speaker, he will appeal
again to the right wing, Christian base of the Republican party. He opposes a two state solution with Israel and Palestine and talks a lot about gay marriage and conservative social issues, which tends to turn off younger voters, and middle of the road independents.. Will have to perform well in Iowa again. From there he’ll be hoping to establish himself as the leading Conservative voice in the race. A large outside bet for the nomination.
George Pataki : The former New York Governor has risen without trace in the this race. Since announcing his candidacy, he has rarely troubled the opinion poll takers. A fiscal conservative, but a social moderate, his views on cultural questions rubs against the majority of the base of the party who vote in the nominating contests. He occupies much the same political ground as former New York Mayor, Rudi Giuliani, and if he couldn’t put together a coalition to survive a Presidential race, Pataki has no chance. Likely to be the first to drop out.
Rand Paul: Son of Ron Paul who ran for President last time around, the Kentucky senator benefits from a
lot of the his dad’s political organization around the country. He’s made his name on Libertarian issues, notably government overreach on surveillance. He also talks about small government and cutting costs, which appeal to the Tea Party faction of the party. However, many libertarians believe he has moved too far away from them to appeal to mainstream Republicans, and the Tea Party can pick other candidates who have the same message but are stronger on national defence. Some commentators have been asking if he’d be more comfortable running as a Democrat. That’s got to hurt. An articulate long shot who will pick up enough support to keep going longer when others have fallen away.
Rick Perry: The former Governor of Texas was an instant favourite when he entered the race last time
around but his campaign died with the ‘Ooops’ that was heard around the world. In a debate he couldn’t remember all three departments of government he would close if elected. And when you are remembered as the man who can’t remember things, that is never a good thing. He’s gone away, read up on a number of issues, got over a debilitating back injury and donned some nifty glasses which help make him look smarter. A great retail politician, someone who is great one to one of small groups, he has his supporters and influential backers. Since leaving office in Texas he’s spent a lot of time in Iowa. He will be in the top three there. The big question will be who will be left in the race at that point. Certainly one of the top five contenders.
Marco Rubio: One of the best performers during the 2012 Republican convention, all that was missing from his speech was the phrase ‘I’m Marco Rubio and I’m running for President’. Well now he is. The
problem he may have is the Republican Party has spent the last eight years saying it was a mistake to elect a one term Senator to the most important job in the land and he is exactly that. He talks about the Republican Party moving on a generation, meaning him. He’s young, he’s right wing enough to encourage the base to vote for him but charismatic and intelligent enough to have floating voters give him more than a quick look. A Cuban American, he also speaks fluent Spanish, which will help with outreach to a group of voters who overwhelmingly back Democrats. He has to do well in the first four contests, not necessarily winning any of them and stay alive until the show moves to Florida. There he’ll be competing against Jeb Bush. A win for either man is a big victory and essentially ends the campaign of the other. Will be there or thereabouts come the final counting.
Rick Santorum: A candidate whose time has passed. He ran Mitt Romney close in 2012, surprisingly and narrowly winning in Iowa. But his lack of campaign structure meant he was never going to cause the biggest shock and win the nomination. A Conservative voice, he attracted only four people to a recent campaign event back in Iowa. He has rich backers, but the man known as the rooster in college won’t be crowing (sorry!) about any results this time around.
Still to declare but expected to join the race
Chris Christie: May have missed his moment by not challenging Romney in 2012. Once the darling of the party, the combative New Jersey governor is still considering a run. He’s made trade mission trips to Mexico and the UK to bolster his foreign policy experience, has travelled a lot to Iowa and as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association raised a lot of money and made a lot of friends in the 2014 midterms. But he has a short temper, has had to battle off local scandals in his state and people wonder if he is too indecisive. A strong performer with Republican crowds, there’s a just a feeling his time has passed.
Bobby Jindal: Governor of Louisiana but unpopular there. Many people complain his most recent budget was fashioned to impress right wing conservative voters rather than deal with the problems of the state. Such a long shot it seems hardly worth firing up the campaign.
John Kasich: Ran for President before but his campaign ended almost as soon as it began. He lost the nomination to George W Bush. He is Governor of Ohio, an important swing state, where he enjoys impressive popularity with voters from both parties, but politically he occupies much of the same ground as Jeb Bush. If the Bush campaign fails to ignite, if he makes another stumble, Kasich might decide it’s time to get involved. Will be a relatively late entrant if he decides to jump in .
Scott Walker : The darling of many on the right, and has essentially disappeared for the last few weeks as he hones his campaign and his message. The first candidate to open an office in Iowa there is no way he’s not running. He boasts a strong conservative record in Wisconsin where he’s the governor. He curbed the power of the public –sector unions and then won a recall election with people angry at his actions. He has secured some big name support and Wisconsin is an important state. But some of his claims about the state budget don’t add up and there are questions about his record and shifting positions (Anyone remember how the hurt Mitt Romney?). His appeal lies mainly with Conservatives, and the Republicans want to win, so he may sit too far to the right. He could go far in the contest but ultimately not far enough.
The thing to remember with all these assessments of course if that we are seventeen months from the election. One slip, one bad gaffe, one stellar moment in a debate and the picture changes rapidly. Some believe this election is now the Republicans to lose. And there are plenty in the field who want to be the winner.