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Friday, August 14, 2015

GOP Post-Debate Power Rankings

Daryl Kane

1. Scott Walker. Despite a generally underwhelming debate performance and a slight slide in polls, Walker remains the candidate likeliest to thread the needle and satisfy the various wings of the party.

2. Donald Trump. On the one hand, it’s extremely early in the race and it remains far more likely that the Trump bubble will burst than not. Nevertheless, he is the undisputed front runner at this particular point in time and has earned that place by repeatedly bitch slapping political correctness and mastering Nixon’s madman thesis. Hint to the establishment: your attempts to sabotage Trump all inevitably backfire; legitimate questions on policy prove to be his Achilles’ heel. Treat Trump fairly and trust in primary voters to figure out where he belongs.

3. Ted Cruz. Cruz may not be polling particularly well at the moment but he is first in line to receive the most Trump votes should his bubble burst. He also has arguably the strongest social media presence save Rand Paul, whose campaign is going nowhere fast as I’ll address several numbers down.

4. Marco Rubio. Rubio performed well during the debate and remains a safe pick for a general election due to his appeal to Latinos and his ability to shore up Florida.

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.

7. Ben Carson. Despite having a relatively small amount of speaking time during the debate Carson managed to stand out with his wit and charm. Carson has a tremendous platform and his ability to turn the board on its head by liberating the African-American community from the destructive worldview of political correctness makes him another potential dark horse.

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.

10. Chris Christie. The man who was four years too late. Christie did well during the debate but it remains to be seen if he will be able to overcome the scorn he has drawn from conservatives since 2012. My suspicion is no.

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.

12. Rand Paul. Whether or not you think Paul got the better of Christie during their 4th amendment tiff is irrelevant. Rand Paul had the worst debate performance, by far. He came off as testy, erratic and a little bit weird. With foreign policy primed to play a strong role in 2016 the libertarian party ceiling continues to sink. My advice to the Rand Paul fan boys: do yourself a favor and put your bitcoins on someone else.

13. Bobby Jindal. Last week I blasted Jindal for being a generally bland and generic candidate. That being said, his line about “assimilation vs. invasion” proved to be best line of the night. That alone puts him ahead of Perry.

14. Rick Perry. Perry was clearly disappointed he didn’t make the cut but he was actually rather lucky not to. Glasses or not, the man simply is not intelligent enough to be president and the more people hear him speak the less likely it is that he will ever be taken seriously.

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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