Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Who Will Be Your Next President?

With the South Carolina and Nevada primaries about to begin, and the nastiness in the presidential race starting up, I figured it was time to do another ranking of who is most likely to be your next president.  When last we checked in (pre-Iowa Caucuses) we hadn't yet caught the boomlets to the Trump, Kasich, and Sanders campaigns, and watched the roller coaster that is Marco Rubio rise and fall (and rise again?) headed into the south.  Right now, quite frankly, it could be anyone's game, and I mean that-while I haven't moved the rankings as much as I would have expected since the last time I did this rundown, I will point out that several people, especially the one at the top, have seen their stock fall significantly since the last time I did this, and I suspect that we may have a new frontrunner if they can't make a stronger argument as to why the country should elect them.  Without further adieu...

Not on This List (Because They're Not Going to Be President): Ben Carson has absolutely no business still running for president, and should have left last week.  His presence in the race shows how obtuse his campaign is.  Michael Bloomberg seems more and more likely to actually run for president, and it's still unclear whom he would hurt more, but it's hard to imagine him possibly getting enough votes to win the White House, so I will keep him off the list for now, as his most important role will be as a spoiler and not as #45.  And it's too soon for names like Paul Ryan or Joe Biden, so just keep them to yourselves.

7. Gov. John Kasich (R-OH)

Why He's a Threat: New Hampshire provided an excellent boost for the Ohio governor.  He's picking up steam in South Carolina, he's the voice of common sense in his party, and he's arguably the most qualified Republican currently running, as he's the only candidate to have been both in an executive position (governor for the past five years) and a congressional one (eighteen years in the U.S. House).  If he can make it until Super Tuesday and beyond, he could sweep the Great Lakes states.
Why He's Not a Threat: Can he really make it until Super Tuesday?  I mean that genuinely after being pretty impressed by him in the last week-he's doing better than expected, and could end up outperforming Bush and Carson in South Carolina, which seemed unthinkable a few days ago, but he's still at the bottom of the heap, and he's taking heat now from the likes of Bush and Rubio, both of whom are seeing that there's only room for one of the establishment trio left in this race.  Kasich's experience seems to mean diddily squat this cycle, and he might be too "been there, done that" to make it past the likes of Trump and Cruz. (Previous Ranking: 7)

6. Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL)

Why He's a Threat: Bush has a bit of life back in him after doing passably in New Hampshire and scoring a pretty solid victory in the most recent debates, both against Trump and Kasich.  South Carolina should be a good bet for him, and he's pulling the Hail Mary pass of bringing his brother, who knows a thing or two about winning the Palmetto State, into the field.  If Rubio cannot regain his luster, it's Bush v. Kasich, and Bush has the name and the money.
Why He's Not a Threat: He has yet to win anything.  I think part of the political punditry's assumption is that one of the trio of Rubio, Kasich, and Bush eventually does well enough to become a genuine rival to Trump and Cruz, as neither seems possible for the nomination.  However, it does appear more and more likely that every state could go Trump or Cruz, leaving this as a theoretically contested convention, but one where the establishment is in a weak bronze place.  Bush is probably the best establishment candidate left, but it's unlikely that anyone is going to buy that if Rubio stays in his current spot. (Previous Ranking: 6)

5. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Why He's a Threat: He's doing the best of the establishment candidates in South Carolina, and is still a favorite amongst the rank-and-file (look at him scooping up those congressional endorsements).  He's young, handsome, Latino, and still a very strong consensus candidate if the far right and the CoC right merge together at some point in the near future.  Plus, it has to be said that he remains Clinton/Sanders' toughest general election foe.
Why He's Not a Threat: That debate performance was brutal, and everyone knows it.  Debates rarely matter (Mitt Romney didn't lose because of "binders filled with women"), but occasionally they are important (just ask Dan Quayle and James Stockdale) and it appears like Rubio doesn't know how to find his fire in the way that Cruz and Trump do.  It has to be said, but after a third and a fifth place finish in the first two states, if his name wasn't Marco Rubio, he wouldn't be on this list.  He needs to strike out, fast, or he'll risk becoming Lamar Alexander. (Previous Ranking: 4)

4. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT)

Why He's a Threat: The only candidate on this list I moved up since last time, Sanders has earned his pull into pewter.  He nearly won Iowa, had a blowout in New Hampshire, and is swiftly becoming the candidate to beat in Nevada.  For all of the talk about the Republican pandaemonium this year, it's Sanders who has completely riled up pundits.  His campaign, particularly his focus on the have-and-have-nots has struck a major chord with Democratic voters and he has come across as the more passionate and most visionary of the candidates for the left.  It's often said the Republicans have to like their nominee, Democrats have to love them, and right now Democrats love Bernie.
Why He's Not a Threat: Sanders will continue to outearn Clinton, and in a state-by-state approach I suspect he'll have the upper-hand, but Clinton's inevitability and institutional support will start to matter when we have multiple states voting at once and Sanders cannot outdo her in retail politicking.  It's hard to see Sanders outearning Clinton in the South or delegate-rich plums like California and Illinois.  Plus, he's a hard sell as a socialist in the general election, even against Cruz or Trump. (Previous Ranking: 5)

3. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Why He's a Threat: Cruz won Iowa-it's important to remember that always, and his fight from the right is intensely important as he tries to paint Trump as a liberal in what is becoming a two-man duel.  As the race thins and Trump's 30-40% per state becomes less and less impressive, Cruz could be the guy to catch him.  He continues to poll well in almost every state, and getting first doesn't matter as much in the early states when you split the delegates.
Why He's Not a Threat: Cruz has to prove that he can beat Trump post-Iowa.  Trump was caught off-guard in the Hawkeye State, but that doesn't appear likely to happen again and Cruz hasn't been able to best Trump, who has proven unbelievably teflon.  Even if he makes it through to the general election, it's hard to imagine Cruz's incredibly conservative beliefs playing well with women and minority voters, and he's perhaps the best candidate to keep the Obama coalition with Clinton or Sanders for at least another four years. (Previous Ranking: 3)

2. Donald Trump (R-NY)

Why He's a Threat: Because he's leading in the Republican Primaries.  Say what you will about Trump, but there is a contingent of Americans who stand behind him no matter what he says.  Hell, the man admonished George W. Bush in a Republican Primary and my guess is that it doesn't hurt his numbers one iota.  Yes, he's only won one state, but that seems likely to change with South Carolina and Nevada coming up, and he's the best prepared for when the race starts going national rather than local in coming primaries.  Trump has deficits both in the primaries and the general, but aside from Sanders no one else on this chart has done more for his ability to land in the White House than the New York magnate in the past month.
Why He's Not a Threat: Two reasons, both of which are looking thinner and thinner.  One, it's hard to imagine the Republican Party going with someone so alien to their core beliefs (he's almost certainly the most liberal of the five Republicans on this list) and someone who seems like such general election poison.  And two, Trump will almost certainly meet his match in Hillary Clinton if that's where this goes (as I still suspect it will), as his cheap points on Clinton won't play when you have Democrats who uniformly despise the man as part of the equation and you have someone that doesn't give a crap about whether or not his supporters like her. (Previous Ranking: 2)

1. Sec. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)

Why She's a Threat: Because, despite all of the hubbub over Bernie Sanders, she's still the frontrunner.  She's still leading in most states, has the entire establishment behind her, has a country that leans to the left in the electoral college, and is the most qualified candidate on either side of the aisle (not to mention the best debater).  Clinton has taken a lot of licks in the past month, but she's still in a better position now than she was at the same point against Barack Obama, and if Trump or Cruz is running against her it's hard not to see how she wins.
Why She's Not a Threat: Bernie Sanders is real, ladies and gentleman, and Clinton doesn't really know how to respond.  Clinton is a candidate every Democrat respects, which is why Sanders can't really run a proper negative campaign against her, but she's also not one they love or who inspires a lot of hope for the country.  Clinton needs to find a campaign staff that genuinely challenges she and her husband, who appear more and more out-of-touch as the days go by, and she continues to give the Republicans ammunition in the form of her email scandal that doesn't seem like it will be going away.  Clinton needs to find a way to catch fire in her campaign, and calling young people lazy feminists isn't the answer. (Previous Ranking: 1)

There we have it.  We'll check in in a few weeks once South Carolina and Nevada are over, but until then-what do you think of these rankings?  Who is too high or too low?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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