Meet the GOP's 19 Presidential Candidates
It increased their activity level, and perhaps their confidence.
So where does the field stand today? (Cheap joke answer: in a very, very, large room).
There’s a large group of seemingly viable candidates, all of whom have conventional qualifications and fit within the Republican mainstream on public policy. In addition to Bush and Romney, this group includes Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker.
One of those 11 men will almost certainly be the Republican nominee. All but Pence, I believe, have intensified their own efforts this month (Kasich, Walker and Rubio just in the last 24 hours). Whether or not they will still be in by the Iowa caucuses next winter, they are all running now. And it’s getting very late for anyone who hasn’t been laying at least a bit of groundwork to jump in .
Who are the strongest contenders? If I had to guess right now, I’d say Bush, Rubio and Walker are sort of a top-tier; Kasich and Pence are both realistic longshots who might belong in the top group but who seem to be moving very slowly (perhaps because they aren’t getting as much encouragement as they would like?). The rest all seem somewhat less likely. But that’s a mix of speculation and my (subjective) interpretation of early (and perhaps very incomplete) reporting; there’s very little hard evidence yet about who is running well and who isn’t. It's called the “invisible primary” for a reason: A lot of what’s happened isn’t being publicized.
Those 11 hardly exhaust the huge supply of candidates.
The next group is made up of three senators who appear to be viable nominees, but almost certainly aren't: Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham. Paul falls short because he’s not in the party mainstream on policy. Cruz isn’t a viable nominee because large groups of party actors dislike and don’t trust him. And Graham reminds me of previous campaigns by Richard Lugar, Orrin Hatch and Fritz Hollings: Some senators seem to enter the presidential game but aren’t really playing at that level.
Which brings us to candidates who fall short because they don’t have conventional credentials for the job. Some may be running to influence the debate. Others because they underestimate how difficult it is to win. And some of them are probably just trying to sell books or get high-paying gigs on Fox News. There are several of them. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, John Bolton and Marsha Blackburn are all speaking to Iowa conservatives this weekend. I suppose I have to also include George Pataki, a Bateson candidate, though it seems unlikely he'll still be around for the first debate later this year. There's still plenty of time for others to join them. Only viable nominees must start early.
So that’s a grand total of 19 candidates. Presumably, at least a few of them (Romney, perhaps) will drop out before making formal announcements. Rob Portman and Paul Ryan have already exited the race, though Ryan seemed to do little more than hold the door open a crack as he focused on his House career.
We’ve entered the second, more public phase of the invisible primary, when what matters is still reactions by party actors, not rank-and-file voters, who won’t really start paying attention until their state’s primary or caucus is a couple of weeks away.
But party actors are paying attention, and could decide soon -- there may even be a bandwagon effect that yields a consensus nominee a lot sooner than most expect. Or they could wait, or divide into factions, with two, three or four candidates. There has never been a nomination contest like this, so there’s plenty of uncertainty -- and for political junkies, the promise of a lot of fun.
(Corrects reference to John Bolton in ninth paragraph.)
"Entries" may be too strong. Bush and Romney spent 2014 hinting that they were in the race, and met with a lot of skepticism. What they did this month was to make it clear that they were serious – or, at least, to bluff in a way that no one could miss.
For example, Rick Perry didn’t start his full-on campaign until summer 2011, but had already published a campaign-type book and was well along in the rhetorical portion of the campaign. And he had almost certainly been in touch with potential supporters well before he formally entered the race.
And what is public may be spin and bluff. Remember, Huckabee would love for Santorum to drop out and vice versa; Jindal wants Perry and Kasich and Pence out, and so on.
We need a name for this kind of candidate. Any ideas?
I suppose I could also mention John Thune, who dropped out this month despite having zero public activity during this cycle. Last time, he make candidate-like moves before withdrawing.
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