My Ranking of Alternatives to Jeb Bush for the GOP Nomination

Jeb Bush is the Republican Establishment’s candidate. He’ll raise all the money he wants to raise. But he’s running poorly in polls so far.  And he can’t blame this on low name ID.

Jeb’s alienated the conservative Republican base by making a steady stream of statements and comments mocking, well, the conservative Republican base.

The policy positions he’s best known for so far are: 1) Basically supporting Barack Obama’s position of granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, thereby permanently and forever transforming the American electorate; and 2) Supporting Barack Obama’s “common core” curriculum that indoctrinates America’s children into political correctness.

Other than these policies, we don’t know much more about what Jeb stands for, though he was a decent governor of Florida.

We have no idea what kind of Justices Jeb would pick for the Supreme Court.  And the idea of a race between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush for President is just too nauseating.

America fought a revolution to get out from under rule by royal family.  The Presidency is not supposed to be an inherited office.

We don’t need another Clinton or Bush.

America has a population of 317,000,000. We should be able to do better than this.

The question is: Who will emerge as the most credible conservative alternative to Jeb Bush?

My rule on this is the old William F. Buckley Rule: We should nominate the most conservative candidate who can win.

Here’s my list, handicapping the potential candidates in order of strength. My bias is for a proven governor — someone who has governed a sizable state successfully and moved that state in a conservative direction.

For me, this rules out the free freshman Senators: Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, though I like them all.

My List, In Order of Strength . . .

#1: SCOTT WALKER: He has a story to tell. He has governed as a conservative very successfully in the solidly blue state of Wisconsin. Walker has won three statewide elections convincingly.

For years now, Rush Limbaugh has been touting Walker’s tenure as Governor of Wisconsin as the template for good conservative governance. This will help Walker with grassroots conservatives.

Walker has slashed taxes in Wisconsin by more the $2 billion.  Wisconsin’s economy has done well under Walker, especially when compared to neighboring Illinois.

Membership in public sector unions in Wisconsin has shrunk 50 percent since Walker’s collective bargaining reforms went into effect. He has since signed “right to work” into law and a requirement that one have a photo ID to vote.

He’s solidly pro-life and will certainly appoint good conservative judges to the Supreme Court.

Walker has a national fundraising base. Since he was first elected Governor of Wisconsin in 2010, he has raised $40 million from outside Wisconsin — $19 million during his recall election battle in 2012.

So Walker has the capacity to compete with Jeb on the fundraising front.

Polls show Walker leading Jeb in the two big early states Iowa and New Hampshire. This will help build momentum for Walker early if this holds up. Polls also show Walker leading Jeb nationally among Republican voters.

NEGATIVES: The major chink in Walker’s conservative armor so far is his flip-flop on amnesty for illegal aliens. He was pro-amnesty and now opposes amnesty, apparently.

Walker disappointed conservatives when he said in May of 2012 that he had “no interest” in passing “right to work” legislation in Wisconsin.  This was at a time when he was in the midst of his brutal recall election battle.  He then said passing “right to work” into law was “not a priority” for him in 2014 when he was fighting for reelection.  But right after his reelection he signed “right to work” into law.  Walker has been a longtime supporter of “right to work.”  In 1993 he sponsored “right to work” legislation as a Wisconsin state lawmaker.  His lack of interest in passing “right to work” legislation in 2012 and 2014 had to do with political timing, not opposition to ending compulsory union labor membership.

This provides insights into Walker’s governing style.  He’s a cautious incrementalist.   But he keeps the ball moving in a conservative direction.

Walker needs tighter answers when talking to the press. Biggest gaffe so far was suggesting his battles with Wisconsin’s public sector unions demonstrate he’s ready to crush ISIS and handle foreign policy.

#2: JOHN KASICH: He has a solid record of accomplishment as Governor in the key swing state of Ohio. He eliminated the state’s estate tax. He cut Ohio’s income tax. Ohio’s “Rainy Day Fund” has grown from $0 to$1.4 billion under Kasich. He declined to set up an Ohio ObamaCare exchange. He also signed collective bargaining reforms into law opposed by the labor unions. But that law never went into effect because it was repealed by voters in a referendum.

Kasich is an evangelical Christian. His parents were both killed by a drunk driver. So he has a sympathetic personal story. He has led efforts in Ohio to end human trafficking. He has strong appeal among blue collar workers and Christians. He’s proven himself to be a good and resilient politician. He’s a very likable person.

NEGATIVES: He went along with accepting Barack Obama’s expansion of Medicaid in Ohio under the ObamaCare law, which disappointed conservatives. He spoke out against efforts by Ohio GOP legislators to turn Ohio into a “right to work” state. It might already be too late for Kasich to raise enough money to mount a serious campaign for President. He doesn’t have anywhere near the national name recognition that Walker has.

But a Kisich candidacy would be very interesting if he gets into the race.

#3: RAND PAUL: Rand Paul is polling very well in head-to-head match-ups with Hillary. Recent Quinnipac polls shows Paul leading Hillary by 3 points in Colorado and 1 point in Iowa — both swing states.

Rand Paul’s libertarian message might play well with young voters. He’s receiving some surprisingly positive media coverage

He can also tap into his father’s formidable fundraising base.

NEGATIVES: Incoherent flip-floppy foreign policy. He’s never run anything. Is America ready for another freshman Senator to be President?

#4 MARCO RUBIO: Almost everyone likes Marco. He’s a solid conservative who seems to be settling in as the number two choice for many. Perhaps he can help with the Latino vote. He’s from Florida, a big swing state the GOP must win.

NEGATIVES: He’s another freshman Senator who hasn’t run anything. He stumbled badly with conservatives in 2013 when he championed the so-called “gang of eight” bill in the Senate to grant amnesty to illegal aliens.  He later backed away from amnesty. We need Marco to stay in the Senate. We don’t want to lose that Florida Senate seat.

#5: TED CRUZ: Solid conservative. Brilliant man. Fun to listen to. Grassroots conservatives love Cruz.  He’s also raising a lot of money.  If political philosophy were the only criteria, Cruz would be my candidate.

NEGATIVES: He’s another freshman Senator who hasn’t run anything. Personally, I think he’s a bit too much in love with the sound of his own voice and comes across as too much of a preacher. We need Ted to stay in the Senate.

#6: BOBBY JINDAL: Governor of Louisiana. Articulate conservative. Has championed “choice in education” in Louisiana.

NEGATIVES: Delivered a less-than-stellar response to Barack Obama’s first State of the Union Address in 2009 that tarnished Jindal’s image as a possible Ronald Reagan for the future. Not from a big swing state.

Jindal has also been victimized by plunging oil prices (not his fault), leaving Jindal with shrinking tax revenues and a gigantic (for Louisiana) $1.6 billion budget deficit.  Under Louisiana’s Constitution, the budget must be balanced, which has forced Jindal to raid various dedicated funds to fill in the budget hole.

This has produced a 27 percent job approval rating in Louisiana for Jindal.  Yikes!

To his credit, he has not raised taxes.  If oil prices rise again, Louisiana’s economy will bounce back. So will Jindal’s approval ratings.

So far, there’s no evidence he’s serious about running for President. Hasn’t raised much, if any, money.

#7 SUSANA MARTINEZ: She gave a great speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention.  She’s a popular governor in the solidly blue state of New Mexico.   She would appeal to women and Latinos.  She’s pro-life, so probably would appoint good Supreme Court Justices.  She’s very likable and has a great personal story.  She’d be a great face and voice for the GOP.

NEGATIVES: She’s says she’s not running and won’t run, or she would be much higher on my list. Though she’s certainly a conservative, it’s unclear how much of a Scott Walker-style fighter she would be for conservative policies.  Would she hold up under an all-out liberal assault the way Walker has?

#8: MIKE HUCKABEE: He was a former Governor of Arkansas. So he has run a state. He also ran a surprisingly strong candidacy for President in 2008. He’s an excellent speaker and very likable. Appeals to evangelical Christians and women. He’s a viable dark horse possibility.

NEGATIVES: Can he raise enough money to compete credibly? The biggest negative is Huckabee’s role as Governor of Arkansas in commuting the sentence of a criminal (Maurice Clemmons) who went on to shoot and kill four police officers in a coffee shop. Huckabee, while Governor, also commuted the sentence of a man who had been convicted of rape and murder (Wayne Drummond) who went on to commit another rape and murder. In all, Governor Huckabee pardoned more than 1,000 convicted criminals — a stat that raised eyebrows among many prosecutors and law-enforcement officials.

#9: MIKE PENCE: He’s done a good job as Governor of Indiana and has strong conservative credentials.  He was a conservative stalwart when a Congressman.

NEGATIVES: His failure to defend his own law protecting religious freedom and the First Amendment in Indiana showed he’s weak and can’t be counted on when the going gets tough.  How hard is it to stand up for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Pence folded like a house of cards under pressure.  Though a possible Pence candidacy has been talked about in the press, he’s made no moves toward running for President.  He probably can’t raise enough money.

#10: RICK SANTORUM: He ran a great campaign in the primaries in 2012 with almost no money. He won the Iowa caucuses, won Colorado, won in Missouri, won Minnesota. He lost narrowly to Romney in Michigan. Had Santorum defeated Romney in Michigan, he might have won the GOP nomination. He’s a good speaker and very likable.

NEGATIVES: He lost his Pennsylvania Senate seat in 2006 by 17 points in a very bad year for Republicans. He’s never run anything.

#11: RICK PERRY: He was a good Governor of Texas and is a solid conservative.

NEGATIVES: Perry might never recover from his embarrassing Presidential debate performances in 2012. He claims he was on pain medication for his back.

Perry is not registering more than 1 percent or so in polls for potential GOP candidates. It seems rank-and-file conservative and Republican voters want a candidate who can articulate their philosophy in a convincing way.

#12: DONALD TRUMP: Hugely successful in business. Great marketer. Great self-promoter. Fun to watch. Has some good ideas.

NEGATIVES: If he runs for President, it will be as a marketing stunt. Not a serious candidate. Won’t appeal to women, who will see The Donald as a cad.

#13: CARLY FIORINA: She’s an attractive woman and a good speaker.  Though her history is as an establishment Republican, she’s been campaigning this year as a solid conservative. She’s also making some funny comments about Hillary.

NEGATIVES: Her six-year stint as CEO of Hewlett-Packard was widely considered a failure.  She was fired — given a severance package worth $20 million.  She then went on to run for Senate in 2010 in California against Barbara Boxer, losing to Boxer by 10 points in a year when we saw sweeping Republican victories at every level of government. Granted, California is a very tough state for Republicans. But there’s not much in her resume or story that suggests she’s ready to be President of the United States.

#14: CHRIS CHRISTIE: The positive is he’s a Republican governor who won two elections in a blue state, New Jersey.

NEGATIVES: New Jersey’s bond credit rating has been cut six times under Governor Christie. That’s untenable to any fiscal conservative. He has no accomplishments in New Jersey he can point to.

Christie’s 2012 keynote speech at the Republican National Convention was among the worst keynote speeches in history. There was nothing in that speech about what Christie believes in terms of political philosophy or policies. There was nothing in that speech about Romney, the GOP nominee. The speech was all about Christie.

Then there’s Bridge-gate, Hug-gate One, Hug-gate Two, and Hug-gate Three. Christie’s blowhard antics will wear thin with voters.

I would much prefer Jeb to Christie.

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