5. Jeb Bush. Many might place Jeb higher on this list but if anything I feel this placement is generous. Jeb has an extremely low ceiling amongst conservatives. Put another way, as the bottom half of this list drops off, whose votes will be going to Jeb? The only candidates whose voters might have Jeb as their second guy are Rubio, Walker and perhaps Kasich, all of whom look to go deep into the primaries. The current size of the field works to Jeb’s advantage and his inability to get a bigger share of voters at this stage does not bode well for him moving forward. As for his debate performance? Well, ehh... it was “Jebby.”
6. John Kasich. Kasich remains my top dark horse candidate. Being able to deliver Ohio is the single most substantial asset of all the GOP candidates. Add to that his common touch, likability and appeal to moderates and you have the makings of a very formidable general election candidate.
8. Carly Fiorina. Fiorina emerged as the clear winner of the little kid debate and was quickly catapulted to the grown-ups’ table. I respect her candidacy hence her placement on the upper card, but my gut tells me she will prove to be more of a flavor-of-the-month candidate than someone that goes deep into the primaries.
9. Mike Huckabee. I’ve never been a big fan of Huckabee but no one can deny that he performed very well at the debate. He also has a great platform for a general election. That being said I ultimately think his lack of intellectual depth holds him back in a field this deep.
11. Rick Santorum. It certainly doesn’t look like Santorum’s campaign is going anywhere—but then again it didn’t look that way in 2012, either. Santorum remains a principled advocate of blue collar Americans and his proven track record of winning states and delegates give him the tie breaker over the bottom portion of the pack.
15. The rest of the list has such low chances of winning there’s not much point in trying to rank them. Here we have a tie for last place between candidates Gilmore, Pataki and Graham.
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