MANSFIELD, OHIO, Aug. 3, 2015 — The next few months will see the Sweet Sixteen plus one winnowed down to the Final Four before an eventual winner emerges. No, this is not college basketball. The 17 in ’16 are the Republican presidential candidates.
The Democrat field consists entirely of old, rich whites who come from the public government sector. Republicans are offering the first two Hispanic candidates, the first candidate with roots in India, a female candidate, a black candidate and candidates of all stripes with private sector business experience.
With so many candidates, a scorecard is required to keep track of them. Due to the number of candidates, only the most important pluses and minuses of each candidate are noted. Listed in alphabetical order to prevent accusations of bias, here are the pros and cons of each candidate.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — He is the establishment candidate in a Republican Party that tends to be very hierarchical.
Downside: He supports Common Core.
Upside: He was an excellent, successful conservative governor. He is far more ideologically conservative than his moderate image projects. He is married to a Latina.
Dr. Ben Carson — He is possibly the brightest neurosurgeon is America, having saved the lives of conjoined twins.
Downside: As a youngster, he lost his temper and stabbed somebody. His lack of political experience causes him to say controversial things he later has to walk back.
Upside: He is black and an American success story that can inspire young people of all stripes.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — His brashness was a breath of fresh air. He won re-election in a blue state in 2013 by over 20 points.
Downside: Some Republicans will never forgive his hug of President Obama that sabotaged Mitt Romney’s election. He is suspected of being for gun control, and rumors swirl of associations with anti-Israel people. Conservatives do not trust him.
Upside: He takes on teachers’ unions and is not afraid of a fight. He knows how to hit back and has crossover appeal with moderates and independents.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, a liberal, has publicly lauded Cruz as the brightest constitutional law student he has ever taught.
Downside: He is only a first-term senator, which worked out badly in 2008.
Upside: Conservatives love him. He votes the right way on virtually every issue that matters. He is a Cuban whose father was imprisoned in Fidel Castro’s jail. He articulates the case for freedom better than anyone.
Carly Fiorina — She is a self-made multi-millionaire who holds a top position with the American Conservative Union, which puts on CPAC.
Downside: She was fired as CEO of Hewlett Packard and then blamed the firing on gender. She has never successfully explained her ouster. She failed as a 2008 McCain economic adviser and as a 2010 California senate candidate in a year the GOP won nationwide.
Upside: She worked her way up from an administrative assistant position to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. As the only woman in the race, her attacks on Hillary Clinton are humorous, truthful and very effective.
Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore — He ran for president in 2008. His brief candidacy ended six months before the Iowa Caucus.
Downside: He rode the popular Republican George Allen’s coattails into office, yet Gilmore was succeeded by Democrat Mark Warner. He lasted only one year at the Republican National Committee. He lost to Warner by 31 points in their 2008 Virginia senate race.
Upside: Nobody knows who he is in 49 states, giving him a chance to define himself.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham — He started as a House firebrand and brilliant Clinton impeachment manager. He is running to keep the focus on foreign policy.
Downside: He is far too quick to criticize his fellow Republicans or cave to Democrats, especially on Obama judicial nominations. Many of his home state Republicans want to primary him out of office.
Upside: He has been magnificent on Benghazi, doggedly pursuing the truth while other candidates let the issue go.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — He came out of nowhere in 2008 to earn a cult following, eventually being rewarded with a Fox News television show.
Downside: He has shown no ability to be seen as anything but a social conservative. He is a tax-raiser, which means the Wall street Journal editorial pages will crucify him.
Upside: He has a sense of humor, and likability matters.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — This son of Indian immigrants is another walking embodiment of the American Dream.
Downside: He has called his own party stupid. Many Republicans never got over his lackluster 2009 response to the State of the Union.
Upside: He is a solid leader, receiving bipartisan praise for acting quickly in the wake of Hurricane Gustav. He was re-elected with 66 percent of the vote.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich — He is running on competence rather than ideology. He speaks about common sense solutions while being willing to help the poor.
Downside: He is boring. He voted for the 1994 assault weapons ban and received F ratings from the NRA. He supported Medicaid expansion.
Upside: He won reelection with 64 percent of the vote. His calm style has crossover appeal.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki — He knocked off liberal icon Mario Cuomo in 1994 and led the state through the Sept. 11 attacks.
Downside: Mayor Rudy Giuliani gets most of the credit for 9/11 leadership. Pataki is pro-choice on abortion, which could doom him among the conservative primary electorate. He moved leftward to get re-elected, and the New York GOP was in shambles when he left.
Upside: He served three terms as a Republican in a deep blue state. He instituted the death penalty in New York, although the law has been all but gutted.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — He is trying to run as Ron Paul’s son, only less scary.
Downside: He shows no ability to expand beyond his die-hard libertarian base of pot smokers and anti-war activists. Global crises have the GOP moving back to its neocon roots. His Israel position is suspect. His college supporters turn off potential voters with their unruly behavior.
Upside: Many of his core supporters are deeply committed to him. His willingness to talk to poor, black voters is commendable and should be emulated.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — He spent two terms as lieutenant governor under George W. Bush before becoming Texas’s first three-term leader.
Downside: His 2012 presidential run was a flop, although that can be said of many first-time candidates. Critics gave him the “dumb jock” Texan label, and it’s up to him to prove them wrong.
Upside: His record was solid conservative and successful. He created more jobs than any other governor as businesses flocked to his state. When he left, Republicans held every statewide office.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — The former Florida House speaker came out of nowhere to send Charlie Crist into political oblivion.
Downside: He is only a first-term senator, although leading the Florida House can neutralize that criticism.
Upside: He is perhaps the brightest and most articulate Republican speaker in a generation. The son of Cuban immigrants, he passionately articulates how the conservative vision is necessary to restoring the American dream. He is telegenic, conservative and likable. Liberals are terrified of him.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — He came from 1 percent in the polls to win the 2012 Iowa Caucus.
Downside: His outspoken social conservatism causes him to be pigeonholed as only a social conservative. His seriousness is occasionally mistaken for dourness.
Upside: He was a leader on Iran sanctions. Even people who disagree with him know where he stands. He is honest and trustworthy. He will keep his word. He resonates with blue-collar voters.
Donald Trump — Yes he had a rich father, but Donald Trump built a multi-billion dollar empire. He is one of the great marketers of all time.
Downside: He refuses to rule out a third party run. He has supported gun control and other liberal positions. His shoot-from-the-hip style sometimes obscures the salient larger points he is making. He has sharply criticized George W. Bush. His foreign policy views are Ron Paul paleocon.
Upside: He is willing to deal with problems like illegal immigration and unfair trade with China that have been long ignored. He is not afraid to hit back against liberal media hit jobs. He is a master at creating jobs.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — He won three elections in four years, including a recall election that instantly gave him national status.
Downside: Although the left will hate whichever GOP candidate emerges, they will be mobilized and out for blood to defeat Walker in 2016. He could help boost Democrat turnout.
Upside: He broke the unions. He turned around Wisconsin and created plenty of real jobs. He does not back down against even the most cutthroat liberals. His modest background gives him appeal among Joe Six-Packs everywhere. He has a calm demeanor but lights up rooms when required.