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The 2016 HH Line 1.0

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My Monday Washington Examiner column is about Ted Cruz and 2016 –the first column I have written about the presidential race that year.

I am thus using its publication as the occasion to kick off the 2016 HH Line, edition 1.0.

The HH Line is mine and mine alone.  I don’t use polling, the RCP “poll of polls” or Nate Silver’s analysis of polling.  I don’t even have the primary schedule down yet as the RNC hasn’t yet even given us a glimpse of the revamp possibilities, though moving the actual nominating convention up until June 2016 seems likely.

So this is the three-years out, back-of-the-pants “feel” for the odds on a variety of potential candidates’ chances to succeed in any bid they may mount for the GOP nomination against the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination, former Secretary of State Clinton.

My only claim to make such educated guesses is the actual experience of being involved in the process since 1976 –deeply involved since 1992 as a talking head, before that as a volunteer and then as a young Reaganite appointee.  I didn’t bother with posting such a tote board after my 2007 book about Mitt Romney appeared because I thought he’d be the nominee in 2008 –he should have been and would have been a far stronger candidate than Senator McCain proved to be– and I thought correctly he’d be the nominee and the strongest available in 2102.

This cycle: Who knows?  I have interviewed all of the potential nominees on this tote board, sometimes often and in-depth but each at least a couple of times.   I like them all, respect most of them a great deal, could support any of them as a nominee. I exclude vanity candidacies from people who might run and have no chance to be nominated –Donald Trump etc– and I exclude remote possibilities, such as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley or New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez, and individuals whose candidacies would be viable and even relatively strong bets such as Paul Ryan or Tim Pawlenty when their disavowals seem to me to be sincere and not easily reversed.

A candidacy has to be plausible to make my tote board, and the nomination at least a decent possibility should the candidate declare.  The Cleveland Cavaliers, for example, are said to be 70-1 to win the NBA crown in 2014.  Too high, in my fans assessment, but a realistic assessment.  The 76ers have a mathematical chance of winning the same title, but no serious line-maker is doing anything other than indulging dreams to put a line up on them.  The Browns being listed at 75-1 for their first Super Bowl ring is a travesty given their soaring potential, but I digress.  Back to the GOP nomination, 2016.

Someone could emerge out of nowhere, but that is almost impossible to conceive of these days.  My line muses on a wide field of plausible candidates, and  while it makes no assertions about whether any of the candidates listed will in fact run, it offers odds and commentary on how their three year road looks in July 2013 to this pundit should they decide to start down it.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results, and given my predictions of a Romney nomination in 2008 and a Romney win in 2012, that’s a good thing to remember.  (I did call Romney’s win of the nomination a “mortal lock” early in the process, but two strikes on three pitches isn’t great.)

All that aside, here the 2016 HH Line 1.0:

Jeb Bush                    2-1

The former Florida governor would almost certainly be the nominee should he seek it.  First, he’d clear at least half and perhaps all but one or two of the other probables from the field.  Even if he didn’t, the three state-wide races in one of the country’s most closely divided major states has given him an enormous edge on the practical side of the running-for-pesident business.  Did I mention the family fundraising network, the smarts, the fluent Spanish?  Or the part about how he is very, very smart and extremely likable?

Chris Christie           3-1

Ya really going to argue these odds?  Really?  Get off the site then and open your eyes.  Read something, anything, about the charisma of the New Jersey governor.  The last time I interviewed him he was in Lordstown –Lordstown!  Perhaps the only GOP surrogate Romney-Ryan trusted to wade into UAW land and pitch their plan.  Tough, plain-spoken, a fighter.

Marco Rubio             3-1

Like the line on Christie, Rubio’s strengths are obvious.  There are no overwhelming favorites if Jeb doesn’t run, but the Florida senator with the music of America in his message and at least some of Bush team behind him is a frontrunner.  The amplification of the angry anti-immigration reform activists means nothing in the 2016 cycle other than to have championed the Senate effort was a plus, though a painful one for Rubio.  See other strengths of both Jeb and Christie.  Rubio has them as well.

John Thune              5-1

The lanky –yes, we get to use that adjective finally– South Dakota senator is smart, telegenic, and a leader of the GOP senate though only in his second term.  He’s still the guy who beat Dashle, still the disciplined campaign machine, and very much the last great hope for many evangelicals who know his faith and his character very well already.

Ted Cruz                    10-1

His odds would be even better if the disaster that is President Obama hadn’t shown the dangers of promoting someone with so little experience.  The young Texas senator with the huge brain and wheelbarrow full of charisma will argue that one bonehead with two years in the senate before declaring his candidacy shouldn’t ruin it for everyone else, and the passion of the Reaganite right is already on fire for the brilliant former Texas solicitor general.  Slingshot time.

Rick Perry                    20-1

A lot of the base believes it was the back surgery, but the damage done on the national stage the last time around was immense.  But so is Perry’s sense of humor.  Upcoming line “You are telling me Anthony Weiner can be mayor of New York and Eliot Spitzer back in office too and I can’t run a second time in New Hampshire and South Carolina?”  Plus, Texas looking better and better every day.

Scott Walker            25-1

The base knows and loves him.  He’s a PK to boot, and quietly genial and very experienced in actually running organizations.  He rides a Harley.  Tough as it took to beat back Big Labor three times and keep smiling.  A list of small donors that is the envy of the party, and the stripes it took to earn it.  But Wisconsin didn’t go red with its other great Republican on the ticket, so many will wonder if not then why in ’16?  His big wins of the past few years are already old news in the constantly accelerating news cycle, and it will be hard to get the cameras back to Madison.

John Kasich             25-1

He’s the governor of the state the GOP has to win, and he will have won it twice in the six years prior to the nomination.  Plus he’s fun and funny, with energy enough to light many rooms, and the state is surging on smart policies and lots of new energy finds.  Education reform and bold ideas.  Plus the Best Damn Band In The Land.

Bobby Jindal            25-1

The Mitch Daniels of this cycle…smartest guy n the room.  Strangest state as well.  Super nova of ideas.  Talks faster even than Rubio.  And he knows health care.  Very very well.  Watch out for the stiletto in the debates.

Rand Paul                 50-1

Even the people that don’t want to like him end up liking him.  He went to Israel and works overtime to shed the isolationist tag, but dad is going to haunt as well as help him –this time.  He’ll have barely been in the Senate two years when he has to get busy, just like Cruz, but that network is in place.  The trouble is that a lot of that network is, well, demanding and doesn’t play well with the rest of the GOP, which remains a conservative, not a libertarian party, and one that really does care about defense and America’s status as as superpower in a dangerous world.

Rick Santorum       100-1

Rick Santorum got the unluckiest break of 2012.  He won Iowa but that result didn’t get counted and certified until after the circus left town.  This time there will be no keeping Iowa as central to its glory days, if at all.  If Jeb runs, he should skip it.  If he doesn’t run, the free-for-all won’t matter as much.  If the GOP gets up the courage to just say no, everybody wins except the former Pennsylvania senator.

The Field  500-1

Everybody else you can think of –every ambitious senator, every billionaire, every country music star or Patriot quarterback launching a book.  You get ’em all, and none of them can be the nominee.



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