With fifteen candidates battling for the coveted prize of Republican Presidential nominee, and the next debate scheduled for Wednesday, October 28, I thought it might be a good time to compare and contrast our GOP lineup.
The polls fluctuate from day to day, but six candidates consistently stay in the top tier. They are, in no particular order, Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. That leaves nine who seem to stay at the bottom of the pack. Again, in no particular order, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore and Mike Huckabee. I look for several of these last candidates to start backing out of the race over the next few weeks. Since it is doubtful at this time that any of these last nine will overtake the top six, I will limit my analysis to the top tier of candidates.
Trump has been the front-runner, but Ben Carson is closing in on him, and even pulling ahead of him, depending on the poll. Third place seems to fluctuate between Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, with Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz trading places day to day. Of these six candidates, three of them are political outsiders, Trump, Carson and Fiorina, which seems to be a large part of their appeal.
Donald Trump: on the upside, he is larger than life, with a strong personality. His campaign is self-financed, which keeps him from having to please any special interest groups. He shakes things up because he speaks his mind, saying what most everyone else is thinking, but would probably never have the nerve to vocalize. He has been a public figure for many years, so he has great name recognition. On the downside, he does not have a lot of depth as a candidate; his political rhetoric is not substantive. He is not well versed in foreign policy, which is and will continue to be of major importance in our country. His political and moral views have fluctuated over the years, and he remains controversial. He alienated the Hispanic population with his derogatory comments about the character of Mexican illegals, and with his immigration policy. He has personally attacked most of the other GOP candidates repeatedly, including a scathing remark about Carly Fiorina’s physical appearance. His performance in the debates has been mediocre, although that has obviously not cost him politically. Overall, I would say that as the field narrows, his lack of political knowledge will become more apparent, and that could cost him among serious voters. I think Hillary Clinton would destroy him in a debate.
Dr. Ben Carson: on the upside, he is a highly intelligent and renowned neurosurgeon. He is a self-made man, who grew up in poverty, but who managed to beat the statistics and become hugely successful. He is a deeply spiritual and devoted family man, who speaks about traditional values with a common sense delivery which appeals to the conservative base. He gained public attention at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, where he openly criticized the direction of the country in front of a noticeably uncomfortable President Obama. Carson, like Trump, speaks his mind, and he does not back down with the media. Unlike Trump, he does it in a soft-spoken and non-confrontational way. On the downside, he also lacks knowledge on foreign policy. He has performed decently well in the debates, but his low-key manner is not what we normally see in a presidential candidate. Some voters might think he could be easily trounced by political heavyweights. I think Dr. Carson has the intelligence to problem solve, and to surround himself with the right people to make up for any deficit he has in political knowledge.
Carly Fiorina: on the upside, she is a successful former Hewlett Packard executive who has considerable experience in international business, as well as personal connections with many of the foreign leaders in both the public and private sector. She is the only female candidate in the GOP, and that negates Hillary Clinton’s edge with those that would like to see the first female President. She has performed very well in the debates, managing to move out of the lower tier of candidates after the first Republican debate. She is articulate, exudes self-confidence, and she can hold her own against Donald Trump and her other male competitors. On the downside, she comes across aloof, and she has not managed to connect with voters on a personal level. However, she would be a formidable opponent in a debate with Hillary Clinton.
Marco Rubio: on the upside, he is a product of the American dream, the son of Cuban immigrants, which makes him appealing to Hispanics. His modest upbringing gives him the ability to relate to the lower and middle class voters more easily than say, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush or Carly Fiorina. He is a young family man with traditional values, and he comes across as very authentic, with a genuine concern for the welfare of the United States at home and abroad. He is a first term US Senator, but prior to that, he served in the House of Representatives in Florida for eight years, the last two of them as Speaker of the House. He is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he speaks knowledgeably on foreign policy. On the downside, it is questionable as to whether he can raise the money he will need to stay in the race, and he is still relatively unknown to a large percentage of voters.
Jeb Bush: on the upside, he is a former Governor of Florida and a member of the “first family of Republican politics”, but his last name is both a blessing and a curse. He is an establishment politician, although probably more moderate in his views than his brother or father. He has tremendous financial backing, and a well-seasoned campaign staff. On the downside, he has underperformed in the polls and in the debates. He lacks passion in his message, and his personality and demeanor may be too lackluster to attract much of a following. His weak debate skills may continue to erode his chances.
Ted Cruz: on the upside, he is as conservative as they come, and arguably, the tea party favorite, but I am not a fan. Like Rubio, he is a first term US Senator, but he has the least political experience among the three insider candidates, which is not necessarily a bad thing. He is passionate about his positions, and he has garnered exposure for his incendiary remarks about President Obama and about fellow Republicans. On the downside, when I listen to him orate, I feel like I am at a tent revival. To me, he comes across as contrived and pompous. He doesn’t have a lot of name recognition, and it’s doubtful that he can raise the funds he’ll need to stay in the running.
Personally, if I had to vote today, I would vote for Ben Carson, with Marco Rubio running a close second. We need integrity and authenticity in our president, and both of these men have it in spades. I think a Carson/Rubio ticket would be a winner, with Rubio giving Carson the foreign policy background, and Carson providing the anti-establishment appeal. According to a Quinnipiac Poll, one of the swing states in the 2016 Presidential election will be Florida. If Rubio does not manage to make it into the top spot, he will be a smart choice for the number two slot. He can definitely deliver Florida to the GOP.