I was inspired to write this post by an article I read in yesterday's Times, "A Deep 2016 Republican Presidential Field Reflects Party Divisions":
Republican presidential primaries have for decades been orderly affairs, with any momentary drama mitigated by the expectation that the party would inevitably nominate its tested, often graying front-runner.
But as the 2016 White House campaign effectively began in the last week, it became apparent that this race might be different: a fluid contest, verging on chaotic, that will showcase the party’s deep bench of talent but also highlight its ideological and generational divisions.
“I can think of about 16 potential candidates,” said Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi and a veteran of Republican presidential politics dating to 1968. “Almost every one of them have a starting point. But there is no true front-runner.”
Last week I wrote about the 32 candidates the Republican National Committee recently mentioned and my own whittled-down list of 18. After another piece, in which I concluded that Jeb is indeed running, I've got it down to the three above. Here's how I get there:
If Jeb runs, and right now it looks like he is, he should vacuum up all the establishment money and talent. So that freezes out Mitt Romney, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (can't have two guys from Ohio anyway) and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (again, two from the same state).
The second Republican candidate could occupy the libertarian/tea party slot. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul may get challenged here by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but I think Paul will own the space based on the fact that he's been running since 2010 and will also benefit from his father's infrastructure.
Finally, I think there's a place for a family values/Christian conservative/culture warrior like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He might get some early competition from former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum but Huck is the Real Deal. (He's already making noises about things like same-sex marriage; that should give the establishment a migraine!)
Three other hopefuls, Dr. Ben Carson, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and New York Rep. Peter King are what you might call "vanity" candidates.
And the four governors who are expected to jump in the race, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker might just be running for -- well, I don't know -- vice president? 2020? (I think Perry will run if nothing else to rehabilitate his reputation. Even if he gets crushed, which is likely, at least he can put in a few good debate performances and stop his name from being a punchline.)
As for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, I think he's happy as House Ways and Means Committee chairman. (Also, remember that bit about two guys from one state.)
With the Republican Party's shortened calendar in 2016 (to prevent a long and drawn-out battle like last time), don't be too surprised if someone like Huck catches fire in Iowa and South Carolina and sprints to the nomination. If Paul wins in New Hampshire, Jeb could find himself 0-for-3 in the early going. Then watch the establishment panic! You don't want a long primary season this time around? Be careful what you wish for.
* P. S. Wearing a suit without a tie is not a good look. It's not presidential; if anything, it makes you look like a hostage or something.