With Ted Cruz announcing and Rand Paul and Marco Rubio soon to follow, it’s time to start handicapping the horses and making enemies.
No point in wasting time on the Democratic field. There is none. The only thing that can stop Hillary Clinton is an act of God, and he seems otherwise occupied. As does Elizabeth Warren.
On to the GOP.
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1. Marco Rubio. Trails badly in current polls, ranking seventh at 5 percent, but high upside potential.
Assets: Foreign policy looms large, and Rubio is the most knowledgeable and fluent current contender. The son of Cuban immigrants, he can break into flawless Spanish and speak passionately about the American story in a party that lost the Hispanic vote by 44 points in 2012.
Liabilities (in the primaries): His immigration apostasy, though his current enforcement-first position has wide appeal.
Major appeal: Fresh, young, dynamic persona is a powerful counterpoint to Clinton fatigue.
2. Jeb Bush. The consensus favorite (though I remain a bit skeptical). Solid, soft-spoken, serious, with executive experience and significant achievements as governor. And he has shown backbone in sticking to his semi-heretical positions on immigration and Common Core.
Obvious liability: His name.
3. Scott Walker. A fine record of conservative achievement. Has shown guts and leadership in taking on labor unions and winning three elections (five if you count proxy elections) against energized Democrats.
Good, rousing speech in Iowa, but has stumbled since, flubbing routine questions on evolution and patriotism, then appearing to compare the Islamic State to Wisconsin demonstrators.
Most encouraging sign: ability to maintain altitude after meteoric rise. Numbers remain steady. And his speeches continue to impress.
4. Chris Christie. Some politicians have their one moment. Christie might have missed his in 2012 when his fearless in-your-face persona was refreshingly new. Over time, however, in-your-face can wear badly. That plus Bridgegate cost him. Biggest problem: being boxed out by Jeb Bush for the relatively-moderate-governor-with-cross-aisle-appeal slot. 12-1.
5. Ted Cruz. Straightforward base-oriented campaign. Has developed a solid following. 15-1.
6. Mike Huckabee. Great name recognition, affable, popular. But highly identified with social/cultural issues – how far can that carry him beyond Iowa and evangelicals? 15-1.
7. Rand Paul. Obama’s setbacks abroad have created a national mood less conducive to non-interventionism. Bottom line: 30-1.
8. Carly Fiorina. Getting her footing. Given current societal taboos, she is best placed to attack Hillary and has done so effectively. 50-1.
9. Ben Carson. Truly good man, brilliant doctor, great patriot. But not ready for the big leagues. Chance of winning? Zero.
Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and John Kasich – still below radar. If they surface, they’ll be featured in the next racing form.
Charles Krauthammer’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.