Politico’s Mike Allen has his super-early ranking of the 2016 candidates in Playbook. Here’s a quick runthrough of my thoughts on what each needs to succeed, with two additional candidates left out of the mix (the all-caps descriptions are his, not mine).
STRONGEST: Sen. Rand Paul – Paul, as I’ve noted on more than one occasion, has proven his political savvy and his political chops on more than one occasion. What he needs now is to position himself on foreign policy in ways that will make it difficult for the establishment to frame him as identical to his father or too flaky to be trusted with the reins of power.
STRONGEST: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – Walker needs to improve his speaking ability and find a second gear oratorically. His Midwestern status could help him in a primary with a surplus of Southerners, but appearing presidential requires more than just a story about what he’s done in his state. He needs to be able to come across like a commander in chief.
LOUDEST: Sen. Ted Cruz – He’s raising money like mad and has a huge profile. In person, I find Cruz to be personable and authentic. Unfortunately, his tone and presence in the media too often comes across as someone who believes himself to be the smartest guy in the room. In Cruz’s case, given that he is surrounded by Senators, it’s probably often true, but it’s also something that makes you less relatable as a candidate. For his foes, he’s pompous; for his friends, he’s tireless and principled. The last year has earned him plenty of the former and the latter.
RECOVERING: Sen. Marco Rubio – I continue to think that Rubio’s immigration efforts will not prevent him from performing well in 2016 given his eloquence and the fact that his personality lights up a camera. He also doesn’t have Cruz’s problem of being unrelateable. His problem, instead, seems to be that he wants everyone to like him – which can prove troublesome in politics. Additionally, Rubio’s foreign policy remains a wild card in how it will play by 2016.
WOUNDED: Gov. Chris Christie – Christie’s fall surprised me greatly, as I expected he would be the choice of a significant portion of West Coast and East Coast money in 2016. Now, that money may travel elsewhere. The problem with the bridge scandal isn’t that it’s that big a deal – Rahm Emanuel does ten things like this before lunch without blinking – it’s that it cuts against Christie’s core brand appeal as the last honest man fighting for the little guy against the corrupt. I expect he’ll bounce back enough to run, but it’s a problem.
RISING: Ohio Gov. John Kasich – I dispute this notion that Kasich has any kind of appeal outside of the Chamber of Commerce set. Here’s my one debate line for Iowa: “John Kasich fought harder than any Republican governor in the country to implement Obamacare.” Also: Common Core. Also: not inspiring as a speaker. While he may get some of the post-Christie love, I can’t see it.
RISING: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence – Pence’s biggest problem is that he inherited a great state from Mitch Daniels. This is a great problem to have as a governor, but a difficulty as a potential presidential candidate in a field likely full of governors (Walker, Jindal, Christie, Perry) with stories to tell about how they made their states dramatically better.
RISING: S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley – I don’t see it.
RUNNING FOR VEEP: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal – My normal caveats apply about the candidate I’m closest to personally: Jindal is doing a smart thing by staying a little under the radar at this point, picking his moments to lay down a marker. Jindal’s improving as a speaker, and is positioning himself as a oratorical champion of religious liberty, of populist middle class policies, and of dramatic reforms. That’s a good place to be for a dark horse. His challenge will be, like Walker’s, appearing presidential.
ONE LAST GASP: Mike Huckabee … Rick Santorum – Two social conservative retreads who both missed their moments in prior primaries. Huckabee is the more talented speaker, and I think Santorum underrates how much he was helped by being the last not-Romney. I have a hard time seeing either of them do as well in a field not full of people trying to sell books, so long removed from serious electoral combat.
NOT RUNNING, BUT WILL GET COVERED: Chairman Paul Ryan … Sarah Palin – Ryan’s smart not to run – he’s just as powerful without it, if not moreso. But it may turn out that Palin would be smart to run – which causes all sorts of problems for the other Tea Party friendly candidates if she does. The martyr appeal still carries some weight. Left unmentioned is the sideshow candidate we all know will join in – Allen West or Joe Scarborough, perhaps?
THE SAVIOR: Jeb – Ultimately, I think he’ll be too smart a politician to run – he’ll pass along his team to Rubio mostly. But it’d be very interesting to see how he does if he got in.
YA CAN’T MAKE IT UP: Rick Perry – The hipster glasses say yes.