With a full year to go before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries, the Republican Party 2016 Presidential field is taking shape and Dignitas News Service handicaps the futures odds for the nomination and VP slots. While the Democrats wait to see if anointed candidate Hillary (vacated hyphen) Clinton will indeed be their lone contender, the GOP field is shaping up to provide a true horse race in the quest to take the Oval Office. While not dismissing the possibility that an heretofore unknown, minor candidate may make their presence felt, we have limited the field to established and nationally known individuals who have shown at least tepid interest in a run for the White House.
We will provide updates to our handicapping sheets as events dictate, leading up to the Iowa Caucuses set for January 18, 2016. While not applicable for all candidates, we will factor their odds to secure the Republican Party Presidential nomination, as well as the likelihood they will be chosen as a Vice Presidential running mate for the eventual nominee.
2016 REPUBLICAN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS
CANDIDATE: Jeb Bush
HOME STATE: Florida
PRESIDENTIAL ODDS: 7/2
VP ODDS: 10,000-1
Strengths: To the chagrin of many in the GOP’s conservative wing, as well as Americans leery of dynastic succession, the former Governor of Florida has to be considered the early line favorite. On top of name recognition, he will carry with him significant organization advantages and allies within the RNC. An American public that has soured on six years of President Obama’s leftward course has also negated aversion to his brother, George W Bush, and could be aided by nostalgic sympathy for his ailing father, George H.W. Bush. These factors will help him minimize the Bush-fatigue factor. Fluent in Spanish, with a Mexican wife, could help him outflank fellow Floridian Marco Rubio and capture Hispanic support.
Weaknesses: In addition to facing stern opposition from conservative and Tea Party forces, the affable Mr. Bush will need to convince the American people that he can be “hard enough” to handle the job for a nation filled with internal strife and international perils at every turn.
VP Possibilities: Not going to happen. It’s either the top spot or nothing.
Comments: This well-bred favorite will need to follow the Nixon model of assuring conservatives he has the bona fides to lead, then dart back to the center for November. Formidable.
CANDIDATE: Rand Paul
HOME STATE: Kentucky
PRESIDENTIAL ODDS: 9/2
VP ODDS: 40-1
Strengths: A wild-card in the race, the telegenic Senator from Kentucky warrants serious consideration based on a number of factors. Never dismiss the importance of desire in Presidential politics, and he has his well-known. Having spent the better part of three years courting voters in and out of the GOP base, he will have significant advantages in states with open primary options. While his campaign staff may end up looking more suited to an Occupy rally than a Republican pancake breakfast, expect a high level of energy from his camp.
Weaknesses: Where does one begin? Although he can be commended for his outreach to traditionally Democrat-leaning voters, including African-Americans, he comes off at times as pandering, and his attempts to appease everyone generally end up pleasing none. Paul has significant work to do in building a base within either the establishment or conservative wing of the GOP. While his populist brand of libertarian-ism will help the Republican Party expand its grasp, it will be difficult to obtain the needed delegates with the RNC. Should he somehow capture the nomination, however, he is better suited for a general election victory than others.
VP Possibilities: Don’t dismiss this as a possibility. He badly wants in the White House, and may be willing to wait his turn in the VP’s mansion.
Comments: Although there are many reasons to make him one of the betting favorites, our guess is he will rise early, get exposed in South Carolina and fade by Super Tuesday. Would the GOP really nominate someone with a foreign policy possibly more dovish than Obama’s?
CANDIDATE: Rick Perry
HOME STATE: Texas
PRESIDENTIAL ODDS: 5-1
VP ODDS: 1,000-1
Strengths: 2012 didn’t go the way he wanted it to, but will most likely serve as an excellent prep run in 2016. He learned some very valuable lessons at dealing with a national media, and will benefit from an already-developed liberal attack squad, gaining sympathy from Republicans who will circle the wagons for him. He will also be able to boast his record in Texas, having lured numerous large companies to his state, many from Democratic Party strongholds like California.
Weaknesses: His debate performance in 2011/2012 was painful to watch, and questions linger as to whether he can put that behind him. This will put the heat on him early from the national media and late-night comics.
VP Possibilities: Don’t dismiss this as a possibility. He wants in the White House, and may be willing to wait his turn in the VP’s mansion.
Comments: Although not an endorsement, at 5-1 he offers decent enough value to place our wager on him. How he fares in Iowa and New Hampshire (and the pre-season debates) will be crucial to his chances but he may benefit from being under-estimated and may emerge as the candidate best suited to bring RINO’s & Tea Party advocates together. He will be underestimated by many, which is great advantage as campaigns focus on taking out potential threats early in the game.
CANDIDATE: Mitt Romney
HOME STATE: Massachusetts
PRESIDENTIAL ODDS: 11/2
VP ODDS: 40,000-1
Strengths: Play it again Mitt?? There were moments during the 2012 campaign that Mitt Romney looked downright Presidential, and showed (at times) in the debates that he is more than capable of the job. Telegenic and articulate, he comes across as a strong executive, and instills confidence for a beaten-down nation in need of a hero.
Weaknesses: Been there, done that. The former Governor of Massachusetts had the White House in his grasps but spit the bit at the most crucial moment, having Obama on the ropes only to allow Candy Crowley to save the President. Rather than acquiesce, he should have pounced with a force worthy of a There Will Be Blood ending, instead it was he that was “finished.”
VP Possibilities: If he’s not willing to throw his hat in the ring for the top slot, its highly unlikely he would settle for the second saddle.
Comments: Will he be Richard Nixon and avenge a former loss to claim the prize or is he destined to become Aldlai Stevenson? The mere thought of the latter would be enough to drive most sane men to retirement.
CANDIDATE: Chris Christie
HOME STATE: New Jersey
PRESIDENTIAL ODDS: 7-1
VP ODDS: 200-1
Strengths: It certainly doesn’t hurt to be talked about during the NFL playoffs, and while Bush & Romney also benefit from national recognition, the slimmed-down Governor of New Jeresy is a bona fide celebrity. Public opinion polls show him reviled by liberals and conservatives alike, but endeared by moderates and independents. And they put people into the White House. His willingness to take on the Progressive bulwark of the public employee bureaucracy will gain him many admirers in primary battles.
Weaknesses: His 2012 RNC keynote speech was a huge disappointment for many Republicans. Many in the GOP still (somewhat rightfully) blame Christie for providing Obama key photo ops during the end of the campaign against Romney. He will also have to convince conservative voters that his brand of populism, which in fairness did help turn New Jersey slightly rightward, can translate into one which nationally promotes a conservative vision. Not altogether impossible but a stiff test nonetheless.
VP Possibilities: Highly doubtful but not impossible. Christie would have to balance his ego with his ambition and consider that while still in his early 50’s, the VP slot may not be a bad career move.
Comments: Which Chris Christie will primary voters see? The combative reformer who took on the Teachers Unions or the man who demurs for camera? He could emerge as the beneficiary of supporters from whoever bails first, Bush or Romney.
CANDIDATE: Scott Walker
HOME STATE: Wisconsin
PRESIDENTIAL ODDS: 8-1
VP ODDS: 10-1
Strengths: Having survived repeated attacks and attempts to dethrone him by liberals in a blue state, Walker has emerged battle tough and ready for higher office. He is well liked by conservatives and establishment types alike, and seems an ideal candidate to capture disaffected Democrats in a general election.
Weaknesses: While his personal story has its appeals for rising above his circumstances, the Governor of Wisconsin will have to deal with being derided as the “University of Phoenix” candidate by Democratic Party media allies. This can be turned into a strength if his campaign plays it correctly, as many Americans who themselves had to forgo finishing college due to the necessities of life. His task is to define himself, and the college situation, before its defined for him by outside forces, possibly by fellow GOP opponents.
VP Possibilities: Should he fail to capture the top slot, Walker should be considered an appealing running mate. More personable than fellow Badger State star Paul Ryan, his potential weaknesses are better suited for the VP slot, where they can certainly be capitalized as a strength and a symbol for boot-strap Republicanism.
Comments: Not to be taken lightly by any means, this handicapper see’s this as a trap bet, however, who looks better on paper than he will once he gets into those contested early furlongs in Iowa and New Hampshire. Pass.
CANDIDATE: Bobby Jindal
HOME STATE: Louisiana
PRESIDENTIAL ODDS: 10-1
VP ODDS: 5-1
Strengths: There is tons of fight within Piyush “Bobby” Jindal and he has proven himself willing to take on both President Obama as well as establishment Republicans. Those factors may make him, to the chagrin of the liberal press, the ultimate candidate of Tea Party conservatives as the primary battles get into swing. He is able to appeal to the right, but has also proven capable of working with moderate Democrats in his home state, a recipe for success in the general elections.
Weaknesses: Like Rubio, the highly intelligent Governor of Louisiana will only be 45 during the 2016 campaign, but unlike the Florida Senator he can brings executive experience to his resume. Jindal’s biggest liability, however, will be a lack of charisma in close settings, so vital for those large donor meetings. Better in a debate than on the campaign trail, his campaign will need to work on this aspect of his ground game to energize crowds as the primary season hits full stride. And while his ethnicity holds many opportunities, the liberal-Progressive machinery will be working overtime to ensure that a non-white Republican is not elected President of the United States.
VP Possibilities: Given his youth and back story, Jindal will be on any prospective nominees short list for the VP slot. While the Indian-American vote in itself is not large, his candidacy could help make appeals to minorities and would diffuse Democratic Party rhetoric of the GOP being a party of older, white men, particularly if the Democratic Party ticket is headed by a 60-something white wife of a former President.
Comments: At 10-1, it is more than a smart bet to put your money on a “Life of Pi” story-book candidacy. His noted lack of charisma is a huge added-weight issue, but he still has time to overcome this with the right coaching. If he can outflank other conservatives and become the de facto “anti-RINO” candidate, he might just pull a shocking upset. A value play worth the wager.
CANDIDATE: Ted Cruz
HOME STATE: Texas
PRESIDENTIAL ODDS: 15-1
VP ODDS: 50-1
Strengths: Ted Cruz will begin the campaign season as the leading candidate of many conservatives and Tea Party activists. An engaging speaker, with down home appeal to compliment his Ivy League credentials, he better than any Republican has been able to articulate the angst of a citizenry horrified by the decline of American greatness.
Weaknesses: If Cruz has one overt liability, it is that on a national level, the Senator from Texas has allowed the left define him to the American people as a “swarthy, foreign-born extremist.” For largely the same reasons liberals hate Jindal, Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson, he has been savaged by the mainstream press. This could, however turn into an advantage as once the American people see him up close, they will come to see not an ideologue on the fit of madness, but a highly intellectual and capable leader. His tangible liability may be that he is a Senator in a race which will be dominated by Governors in his own party. His task will be to translate his legislative populist appeal into a sound platform of executive leadership within the frames of a conservative vision. This is a daunting task, but if he is somehow able to do so he may need to be contemplating White House china patterns come December of 2016.
VP Possibilities: While not out of the realm of possibilities, Cruz possesses such outstanding leadership qualities that he risks overshadowing the top name on the ticket. It would take just the right combination to see Cruz as a VP candidate, and given the rest of the field, doesn’t seem likely.
Comments: With his Tea Party support, Ted Cruz should find it fairly easy to set up a vibrant ground-campaign apparatus, but the key for him be to garner support within the RNC and large donor groups. If he is successful he could become formidable to the very end. Not a bad bet, for the heart or the head.
CANDIDATE: Marco Rubio
HOME STATE: Florida
PRESIDENTIAL ODDS: 17-1
VP ODDS: 4-1
Strengths: As an undisputed “rising star” within the Republican Party, he possesses one of the better foreign policy minds in the nation and has emerged as the leading anti-Marxist within the GOP. His February, 2014 speech on Venezuela & Cuba stands out as one of the best foreign policy addresses of the decade and brings a similar passion on a number of issues. Telegenic and engaging, he has proven himself able to articulate his positions (the water flub aside) and has done a good job of damage control following his amateur handling of the immigration issue.
Weaknesses: His aforementioned flub on immigration is still of major concern among conservatives. His strong anti-communist stance has helped heals these wounds, somewhat, and can be chalked up to a rookie mistake. That said, it does speak to his biggest liability, his relative youth. He would be only 45 during the campaign and while he will grow to appreciate his youthful features, they serve more as a liability in Presidential politics.
VP Possibilities: His overtures to running may actually be designed to establish himself as a leading Vice Presidential candidate, which he most certainly is. Given his appeal to Latino voters, one can easily speculate that had he, and not Paul Ryan, be given the role in 2012, Mitt Romney might be sitting in the Oval Office today. Likewise, his problems with Tea Party conservatives would not be as potentially dangerous kin the #2 slot.
Comments: While it seems like he has been considered “the future of the Republican Party” for decades now, the Senator from Flroida is still only 43 and his time is yet to come. As noted, he would make a great running mate, which is where we would prefer to put our money at this stage.
CANDIDATE: Rick Santorum
HOME STATE: Pennsylvania
PRESIDENTIAL ODDS: 25-1
VP ODDS: 11/2
Strengths: Rick Santorum surprised many during the 2012 GOP primary season by emerging as the only potential threat to Romney’s nomination. As well as his appeal to social conservatives, he was the only American candidate of this century, in either party, to articulate a plan to rebuild the nation’s manufacturing base. He is telegenic and likable, who proved himself capable of standing his ground in debates.
Weaknesses: The former Senator from Pennsylvania has a serious problem in that he has been out of elected office for so long, he is danger of being written off as irrelevant by the press and opponents alike. While this served his interests in 2012, four years is an eternity in politics, and could put him jeopardy. And unlike 2012, he will find plenty of viable conservative opposition this time around, without a presumptive candidate (absent Bush) to position himself as an alternative to.
VP Possibilities: I can see this happening. Santorum has a unique appeal in that he fits in well as a “middle ground” between Tea Party conservatives and establishment RINO’s. He could serve as a uniting factor within the party for whoever garners the nomination.
Comments: Despite his impressive showing in 2012, it just doesn’t seem in the cards this time around for him. For the reasons noted above, a smarter money play would be to throw him down for the Place, rather than the Win.
CANDIDATE: Ben Carson
HOME STATE: Maryland
PRESIDENTIAL ODDS: 30-1
VP ODDS: 15-1
Strengths: The engaging and accomplished Dr. Ben Carson comes with an impressive non-political resume which will be hard to question, after all he is literally a brain surgeon. Although highly intellectual, he comes off with a common-sense persona that has resonated with Tea Party conservatives and mainstream Republicans alike.
Weaknesses: He really only has one weakness, but it is a tremendous one. His lack of having held elected political office for all practical purposes makes it unlikely he could carry either the nomination or the White House. That said, his inclusion in the race will make it not only more interesting, but bring a much-needed level of sophistication and maturity to the American political landscape. As much we admire Dr. Carson, this Achilles heel seems to much to overcome.
VP Possibilities: He would certainly be an intriguing VP nominee, although his aforementioned lack of held office could hurt the ticket. He would also be in the position of being an African-American GOP candidate for national office, which could not be tolerated by the liberal press, who would dig extra deep to assassinate his character.
Comments: In 2016, America will surely be in need of a Surgeon General worthy of the post. Dr. Ben Carson is an obvious front-runner for this.
This rounds out the early field of serious consideration. While we have nothing but the utmost respect for Mike Huckabee, we just don’t see that it’s in the cards, but we do hope he will lend himself to the campaign, to both ensure that the views of social and religious conservatives are heard, as well as to play the role of “elder statesman” in a relatively young field. We list his odds at 40-1, with a 100-1 shot for VP. We also see South Carolina Governor Nimrata “Nikki” Haley as an intriguing and attractive (no pun intended) candidate should she throw her hat in the ring. Her ability to boast one of the nation’s most successful welfare reform packages, having moved 20,000 South Carolinian’s from the welfare dependency to the dignity of employment and self-determination, on that basis alone she should be taken seriously. Her lack of name recognition and (to this point) indications that she wants the job are the reasons we did not include her among the top contenders. That said, throw a couple bucks at her at 75-1, but pay close attention to her as a prospective running mate, with at least 11/2 odds for the VP slot. Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada may be a bit green for a serious run at the Presidential nomination (250-1 for the adventurous), but is a rising star in his own right, cruised to re-election in Harry Reid’s home state and posts an early line of 8-1 for the Vice Presidential nomination.
The Iowa Caucuses will take place on January 18, 2016 with the New Hampshire Primary a week after. This is a lifetime in Presidential politics, so the numbers are of course likely to change dramatically over the course of the next year. That said, as of January of 2015, we are comfortable with the futures odds posted for Republican Party Presidential (and VP) hopefuls for 2016. One thing is certain, the GOP field will by far provide more intellectual, ideological and ethnic diversity than that of the Democratic Party contest.
By Paul M Winters
Managing Editor, Dignitas News Service