Ranking the 2016 Republican Field

The 2016 primary election season is starting up soon. With 17 different declared candidates to pick from, Republican voters must do the hard work of narrowing down the competition.

Some candidates are pretty easy to put aside once you take in the breadth of the entire field, and others are already respected front runners in the eyes of both the base and the media.

Since the human mind loves rankings, I thought I would go ahead and organize the GOP field into tiers, from most likely to least likely to win.

Tier 1 – The Possible Nominees

Marco Rubio

Dynamic, young, smart, and has a wide appeal across the party. His weak spot is immigration, but that alone isn’t enough to stop him if he performs well and other candidates don’t work out.

Jeb Bush

He has the money, the experience, and is considered a ‘safe’ bet for many in the party. He is not popular with strict conservatives or the grassroots though, which is why I think that even with his key advantages, Rubio is still more likely to win it.

Ted Cruz

Many would think I’m crazy to rank Cruz the third most likely nominee. Well he has a ton of cash, a great standing among grassroots and basically suffers from the opposite problem Jeb Bush does. He is to the establishment what Bush is to the Tea Party. That makes him less likely than Rubio or Bush to win, but if the base finally decides they’ve had enough of it all, and Cruz’s interesting primary strategy of focusing on more conservative red states panes out, it’s still a possibility.

Scott Walker

The Governor is too bland to be ranked higher. He has a great record, is an excellent executive, but his “aggressively normal” persona can only go so far. After that first debate performance, it’s clear that it will be a task to stick out in a field with so many interesting candidates.

John Kasich

If Bush fails, and the base is too split among others to stop him, the very talented and accomplished politician could run up the delegate score through the primary season.

Tier 2 – The Trouble Makers

Donald Trump

Donald is leading in the polls but that means nothing in August. Right now people want to have fun and most voters aren’t even tuned in yet. Just wait until we are weeks away from voting. If he still leads then, then he deserves to move up into the above tier. Until that happens though, he will be a lightening rod for media attention, will set the agenda for candidate questions, and will all around suck away oxygen from others, but shouldn’t be considered a likely nominee just yet.

Rand Paul

The Senator from Kentucky used to be the most popular pick for President in 2016. His campaign has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, and he isn’t raising the kind of money he needs. This, plus his controversial positions make me think his days as a nominee favorite are gone. Paul still has a bright future in politics, and we won’t be seeing the last of him anytime soon.

Carly Fiorina

The former-CEO is a fantastic speaker and debater. If she had held political office before (by winning in 2010 against Barbara Boxer) I would have her in the top tier, right up there with Rubio and Cruz. But someone who has never held office getting the nomination is still way too much of a stretch, no matter how talented they are.

Ben Carson

Doctor Carson is great at most things politics. However, like Fiorina, the talent alone won’t carry him. I would prefer if he ran for Senate in one of the 2016 races. Republicans can use all the help they can get there, and Carson would make a great Senator. He is sorely needed in politics regardless.

Chris Christie

Governor Christie came and went like Senator Paul, but as the second most rhetorically aggressive candidate in the ring, he can still grab some headlines and stir up some controversy. He won’t be invisible even if he isn’t winning.

Tier 3 – Would Be Top Tier if This Was Still 2012

Rick Perry

Rick has a fantastic record. It’s sad that the multi-term Governor of Texas is so far down this list, but second impressions are hard to make. His biggest mistake was running in 2012. He would be taken much more seriously if this was his first go at the White House.

Mike Huckabee

I feel the Governor could have done even better in 2012 than Senator Santorum did. The boat has left the harbor though. Time to move onto Christian media, or whatever it will end up being.

Bobby Jindal

Governor Jindal is a blander Scott Walker. I mean that quite literally. Like Walker, he is an accomplished sitting Governor of a mid-sized state, and has a strong conservative track record. But Jindal is even less interesting than his Wisconsin counterpart, and was lucky enough to be governing a red state this whole time. Walker can at least say he won a blue state multiple times. While Jindal would likely make a great President, this just isn’t the time for him, and there is no reason to be in the race while Scott Walker is there.

Rick Santorum

Second place finisher last time around. Sorry Rick, but that was a very weak field compared to now.

Tier 4 – For Fun/Can I Get a Higher Speaking Fee?

George Pataki

Pretty good Governor.

Lindsey Graham


Jim Gilmore

Awesome ring during the debate!

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