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A look at the GOP field

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Judging the political gifts of the GOP would-be nominees thus is best undertaken with some humility, especially as the field is deep and the clashes between the talented will reveal big strengths and flaws. As I will be back as a panelist at the CNN-Salem Media Group debates of December 15 and again in March, I am also maintaining a studied neutrality about who would make a better nominee or who would lead to defeat. Voters will make that choice. Pundits can assess but this one at least will not endorse nor condemn any of the candidates.

Here, though, are quick summaries of their strongest suits:

Donald Trump: A broad charisma born of what AEI’s Arthur Brooks called his embrace of happiness on the campaign trail. Trump loves the game, and is loved in return for doing so.

Ben Carson: Humility and conviction ooze out of the good doctor. This is rare in American politics and attracts a crowd.

Carly Fiorina: Sharp-edged intelligence and a willingness to direct it at Hillary Clinton with focus and intensity.

Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki: Successful experience in governing and various degrees of enthusiasm for the campaign trail and the actual business of campaigning.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio: Eloquence and intelligence, with Cruz certainly the most successful appellate advocate ever to take a debate stage and Rubio perhaps the most gifted GOP orator to seek the White House since Lincoln.

(I saw Ronald Reagan on the trail in ’78-79 and I think Rubio better at the classic stump speech even than Reagan. Given Normandy or the Berlin Wall as a backdrop, though, Reagan has no equal save perhaps George W. Bush when the country met “in the middle hour of our grief” days after 9/11 at the National Cathedral. Comparing candidates to incumbent presidents is apples to oranges.)

Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham: Conviction politicians who are in the race to advance agendas — and they are doing so. Though their agendas could not be more different, this pair is gifted with tenacity born of deep focus.

Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum: Connections to real blue-collar roots give both men an ability to talk directly to the working men and women in the party’s primary electorate, and their obvious sincerity of Christian belief also allows them opportunities to connect with faith-based voters.

Hillary Clinton beat the Washington Generals on Tuesday last. By contrast, there are no weak links in the GOP field, and the winner will have bested able, talented opponents and be very well positioned to tackle the former Secretary of State or the sitting Vice President.


This column was originally posted on


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