ELYRIA, Ohio, July 26, 2015 — There are actually fewer than one billion people running to be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. The precise number of recognized candidates (not counting your Uncle Al, who is running on the unheard of “Get off my lawn” ticket) stands at 16 people.
Even in a field this large, there are several Republicans who could still enter the race and vault into top tier status. Here is a look at the Republican non-candidates.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — Normally when a candidate loses a general election, he is exiled to elder statesman status. Romney is an exception because polls show that a majority of Americans wish they had voted for him.
Downside: Romney was not a great campaigner. He was far too polite when the 2012 campaign required that he hit back hard. He was unwilling to bring up Benghazi and perhaps was intimidated by President Obama’s race.
Upside: Romney was one of the finest, most decent men to ever seek the White House. He would have governed honorably. On the economy, he would have governed competently and effectively.
Why he stays out: Romney is sitting this race out for one reason. The establishment allows only one candidate, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the choice. If for some reason Bush falters and drops out, the establishment may beg Romney to enter the race to fend off a far more conservative insurgent candidate.
Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan — Romney’s 2012 vice presidential choice was a home run out of the ballpark. He will be a respected voice in the GOP for decades to come.
Downside: Virtually nothing. He is as close to the complete package as it gets.
Upside: Democrats are terrified of Ryan. He is one of the brightest members of Congress, a real policy wonk who can explain boring, complex concepts in an engaging, simple manner. The left is frightened to death of Ryan because he is smarter than they are, and they know it. He is too bright to be labeled stupid and too friendly and likable to be labeled evil. Democrats would have no idea how to demonize him, and the last thing they would want is to debate him solely on policy.
Why he stays out: Ryan is sitting out the race for the exact same reason as Romney. If Bush falters and Romney still stays out of the race, the establishment will turn to Ryan as the next in line heir apparent in the GOP hierarchy. As much as conservatives detest the hierarchical nature of the GOP, in this case it would not be a problem. Ryan really is that good.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani — America’s Mayor was criticized for his lackluster 2008 campaign, but he put honor over winning. He was not willing to criticize his friend and competitor, Arizona Sen. John McCain. Giuliani was itching for a mano a mano fight with Romney. His plan was for Romney to knock out McCain, so he could then take down Romney. His plan almost succeeded, but McCain barely survived Romney.
Downside: Perhaps Giuliani’s time has passed. Outside of New York, many young voters do not remember his leadership.
Upside: He may be the greatest mayor in the history of mayors. He turned around New York City when others thought the city was lost. He cracked down on crime and made the streets safer. The Bill DeBlasio reign of error and urban decay in cities around the nation have many people longing for a Giuliani-style law and order crackdown. This is before factoring in his heroism in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001.
Why he stays out: Refusing to run keeps his legacy at mythically high levels. Entering the race brings him back down to Earth. He is earning millions of dollars as a global security consultant.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence — He inherited a good situation under former Gov. Mitch Daniels and maintained the ship admirably.
Downside: His fight over social issues enraged the left, distracting the GOP from other issues. Pence was right on the facts but he lost the public relations battle.
Upside: On economics he is as tough on unions as anyone. He has Indiana open for business.
Why he stays out: Two white Midwestern governors are already in the race. Pence is every bit as good as they are, but he does not bring anything new to an overcrowded field. He should have entered the race earlier. He is young enough to be a serious contender in 2020 or 2024.
Former Florida Congressman Allen West: This military hero blew the lid off of Times Square at a recent rally to block the awful Iran deal.
Downside: He is a minority conservative, so liberals will go all out to destroy him.
Upside: He is tough enough to handle anything. He can inspire a new generation of leaders. Nobody would be more trusted to rebuild America’s military. He goes after the left with ferocity and does not back down from anybody.
Why he stays out: He is set to make millions on the speaking circuit. He has given plenty of years to his country and has every right to seek financial comfort for himself. If he were drafted, he would serve honorably and with distinction.