BAYHAM: Looking At The (Possible) 2016 GOP Field, Part II

This is the second part of a two part column looking at the potential Republican candidates for president. The previous piece focused on Tier I and Tier II contenders; this takes a look at the back of the pack.

Tier III

Chris Christie LIKELY CANDIDATE Guy from the New York area starts off the race with a head of steam and solid name recognition and then suddenly collapses. Am I talking about Rudy ’08, Christie ’16 or both?
I caught some grief for having not listed the New Jersey governor as a Tier II contender in my previous column on the GOP presidential field, however there are two reasons for the bombastic northeasterner’s low status: Bridgegate and Jeb Bush.

The former damaged Christie’s perceived electability going into a White House race where that trait will end up being the most important after eight years of Democratic misrule and the fear and loathing of at the prospect of at least another four. His previously leading poll numbers have not recovered since the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal made news early last year.

When the ex-Florida governor dipped his toe in the White House water through the creation of what will be a very well-funded super PAC, Christie saw both his financial and political base become ripe for poaching.

To Christie’s credit, he’s cognizant of it, hence the sharp elbows he threw towards Jeb during his on-stage interview at the recent CPAC conference. Expect to see “Big Boy” focusing his guns squarely at Jeb as soon as Christie makes his candidacy official.

Rick Santorum LIKELY CANDIDATE The good news: a 2016 Santorum presidential campaign would start off in far better shape than his 2012 effort did. The bad news: the ex-Pennsylvania senator does not seem to have retained much of the support he enjoyed when he emerged as Mitt Romney’s chief rival. Will also have to fight off a number of strong rivals for the social conservative vote.

Bobby Jindal LIKELY CANDIDATE Has the resume and the rhetoric but thus far not the poll numbers, and thus the standing to become a part of the discussion. More on this later.

Carly Fiorina LIKELY CANDIDATE Impressed people at the Iowa Freedom Summit and outscored better known candidates in the CPAC Straw Poll despite not having a political operation on the ground. The former HP exec has been scoring points as the anti-Hillary. Fiorina is the only female seriously considering a campaign for the GOP nomination. Expect to see her do something at the Iowa Straw Poll later in August and to participate in the debates. The question is will Carly make it to the Iowa caucuses?

Tier IV
John Kasich UNLIKELY CANDIDATE Governor of the state the GOP obsesses over so much, they are holding the national convention there. Had there been no Scott Walker for President on the horizon, they’d be a Kasich for President.

Mike Pence UNLIKELY CANDIDATE Played coy with the media in interviews in 2014 about running, though the Indiana governor probably missed out on his chance in 2012 when the field hungered for a solid conservative. Another guy eclipsed by Walker.

Rick Perry POSSIBLE CANDIDATE The former Texas governor has nothing else to do but explore another run for president. Still haunted by his meltdown after having become the Republican frontrunner immediately upon throwing his hat in the ring. If conservatives were into giving second chances, Rick Santorum would be polling better. There’s also speculation that a Perry candidacy is aimed primarily at gutting US Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential ambitions. Perry will likely pursue a degree of candidacy before dropping out before the first ballot is cast and backing Jindal.

Tier V

Lindsey Graham UNLIKELY CANDIDATE The senior senator from South Carolina was going to be in Tier IV if only because he hails from one of the “holy four” early states, but then Graham admitted to have never sent an email. I’m convinced that his buddy John McCain is egging Graham to hint that he is contemplating a presidential bid just to aggravate the TEA Party. Short of an improbable bid by John Bolton, Graham would be the best versed candidate on foreign affairs if he jumped into the race.

John Bolton UNLIKELY CANDIDATE The embattled United Nations ambassador under George W. Bush has kept a high profile through media appearances. Publicly considered a run in 2012 before backing Mitt Romney. A Bolton candidacy would be centered on international issues and would not go beyond New Hampshire, though he would have eviscerated the Obama Administration’s foreign policy in the debates leading up to his departure.

George Pataki UNLIKELY CANDIDATE Won three terms as governor of the navy blue state of New York and left office with a destitute and shattered state party. Has hinted about running for president in 2000, 2008 and now 2016. Theoretically a threat to Christie as any Pataki support would bleed off from the New Jersey governor’s base, though a small problem.

Sarah Palin UNLIKELY CANDIDATE Just because a person flirts doesn’t mean they’re serious. The same holds true for politics as it does for romance.

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