If you ever want to make a post that’s unpopular, tell supporters for six of the seven top candidates that they’re not going to win. That’s the price of political commentary. You’re always going to make more people upset than happy.
Over the last few months, we’ve seen the race for the GOP nomination take some crazy turns. Favorites faded. Mysteries popped up. Outsiders are turning the whole thing inside-out. We’re attempting to sort through the mess to find the last man (or Carly) standing when the Republican National Convention rolls in Cleveland next year.
Here is our breakdown of the candidates in order of likelihood of getting the nomination. I’d love to say it’s completely unbiased but that’s pretty much an impossibility, particularly when you consider that our top choices aren’t necessarily at the top of the likelihood list. Still, if we had no horse in the race and looked at it completely objectively, this is pretty much how we see it playing out.
At this early stage, everything is pretty much just a hunch. There’s some science applied – unpopular ratings (which are much more important than popularity ratings at this point), finances, risks from the left media, positioning, and gameplan are the primary criteria we considered. One of the most important factors is the timing of the primaries as early victories build momentum for fundraising going into the first Super Tuesday on March 1. Those who survive Super Tuesday with strong performances will be the ones who have sustainability to the end which is what we’re looking at here.
There are intangible factors which we’ll detail in each individual explanation.
One thing that we’re looking at very lightly is current polling. As has been detailed ad nauseam, modern polls are relatively worthless, especially at this early stage. The polls in October 2007 and 2011 would have given us Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, and either Rick Perry or Hermain Cain as the nominees.
Absent from the list are Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, and those polling at 1% or less. Even though the early polls aren’t effective in determining who will be the nominee, they do give a good indication of who won’t be around by the time the primaries get going. Huckabee and Christie will likely make it into the opening primaries but won’t make it to Super Tuesday.
Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.
7. John Kasich
Before Donald Trump entered the race and shifted most of the attention towards him, Kasich was our dark horse. We saw him as best positioned to put out a message of slight contrast to Jeb Bush but with enough mainstream appeal to get him votes from across the spectrum. Now, he’s just not getting enough attention. His base is strong but small.
Campaign End Date: March 2, 2015 – He’ll do well in New Hampshire which will give him a little momentum, but he’ll bomb on Super Tuesday.
6. Carly Fiorina
She hit it hard at the last debate and skyrocketed in the polls. If the primaries started today, she’d have a great chance. Instead, she may have peaked too early. She’s one of the most likable candidates and if she were the only outsider in the race she’d probably be positioned to win. Unfortunately, she’s the third of three true outsiders which makes her an alternative rather than a primary choice. She could fair well as nominee because she could pull in female independents very nicely, but she probably won’t get that opportunity.
Campaign End Date: March 6, 2016 – It’s not common to pull out two days before three primaries, but after a poor showing on Super Tuesday and the three primaries March 5, she’ll be approached about her future in someone else’s cabinet and urged to throw support towards one of the top contenders with Marco Rubio as the likely culprit.
5. Jeb Bush
The front runner a few months ago has faded fast. The only reason he’s still on the list is because he has a ton of money and the backing of some pretty major players. Both factors will keep him in much later than he should, but in the end he won’t make it into April.
Campaign End Date: March 25, 2016 – He’ll try to win Florida. After losing to Rubio, he’ll linger for a week before making a quick exit with his support going towards his protege.
4. Donald Trump
Ah, the wild card. From here, the final four competitors all have a good chance of winning the nomination, so don’t fret if you’re thinking that being ranked #4 is bad. His chances are nearly as good as the rest of the top bunch. The thing that we anticipate knocking him out early is his attitude towards winning and losing. He doesn’t like to lose and we can see him abandoning ship after a poor performance on one of the March primary days. As candidates fall off, their supporters will shift towards other candidates. He’s smart enough to see the writing on the wall when that starts happening. If he’s able to sustain high levels of support until the primaries, higher than he has now, that would be the ticket to keep him through to the bitter end.
Campaign End Date: March or Never – If he pushes his way through the primaries, he’ll win. If he’s not liking the taste of defeat, he’ll exit earlier than even Bush or others.
3. Marco Rubio
The last establishment candidate standing. Some will say, “Wait, he’s a conservative!” Nope. He will bend to the donors who shift towards him away from Jeb Bush and John Kasich and start to position himself as the mainstream candidate who can beat the Democrats. He’s 3rd on our list but there’s a good chance that if his fundraising takes off he could easily rocket up to #1.
Campaign End Date: May or Never – It all depends on the money. If Bush goes out when we expect, Rubio will be in the best position to turn left and pull in big donations.
2. Ted Cruz
He’s not an insider. He’s not an outsider. He’s the enigma and it seems to be working… or not. If Trump wasn’t in the race, Cruz would be the wild card. He has a chance to run away with the nomination based upon a brilliant campaign game plan and a strong financial foothold. The thing that makes him the risky #2 choice on this list is the order of primaries. Super Tuesday looks like Cruz Tuesday with Texas, Oklahoma, and other southern states on the agenda. A lot will depend on his buddy, Trump. The longer Trump stays in, the worse chances Cruz has of consolidating the conservative vote.
Campaign End Date: April or Never – If his message isn’t received properly, he could flop. The only reason this has a good chance of happening and the reason he’s not #1 on this list is because of all the media hatred, he gets the lion’s share. Leftist rags like Salon and Slate run hourly hit pieces on him. He’ll need Drudge to come around, Breitbart to embrace him, Red State to jump off the Rubio bandwagon, and continued support from the far right publications if he has a chance of beating the likely winner…
1. Ben Carson
If Carson keeps saying the things that conservatives want to hear but in a measured way that’s not as deviant as Trump’s message, he will be the Republican nominee. He’s the most likable out of the group and has his hands in all of the major primary voting demographics. The press will try to destroy him, but so far that’s been working to his advantage. If he stays true to his convictions and doesn’t get too rattled by the attacks that are already mounting against him, he will be victorious. Looking at how quickly he’s learned the political punch-counterpunch game is nothing short of brilliant. We shouldn’t have underestimated his resilience, a factor that put him at #5 on our list in the recent past.
Campaign End Date: April or Never – It’s strange to see someone at the top of our list having a potential end date in April, but there’s no way to know how hard the press will attempt to butcher him. Lest we forget, the left-leaning media really wants Bush or Trump to win the nomination because they are the least likely to win in the general election versus Clinton, Biden, or Sanders.
Everyone has an opinion. Some are more thought out than others. This early in the race, anything can happen. We’ll see how our list evolves into the election year.