Despite the efforts of various pundits, at this point you really can’t rank the Republicans vying the 2016 presidential nomination.
A number of pundits and other political observers have taken it upon themselves to try and start ranking the 2016 Republican field. For example Larry Sabato has a new “Crystal Ball” item out that divides the prospective field into a series of tiers with reasons and everything. So Kentucky’s Rand Paul is doing well because he has “National ID and fundraising network” while Ohio’s John Kasich is confined to the second tier because of his, “Abrasive personality.”
Let me be clear, this is all a bunch of nonsense. There’s lots of interesting things to look for in how the Republican 2016 field is shaping up, but the fact that John Kasich has once said some mean things or that cable news keeps putting Rand Paul in the spotlight is hardly one of them. As Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein pointed out:
We’re mostly in the realm of the pundits, not reporters. That is, we’re all guessing how party actors from various groups and factions will react to the candidates over the next couple of years, rather than seeing objective evidence of how those party actors are actually treating the candidates. We’re also speculating about what the candidates might look like two or three years down the road: which will display strong national campaign skills, which will have the fire in the belly to commit to the long slog of a national campaign, all of which will turn out to have problems beyond anything we can hint at today.
I think that’s exactly right. There’s just no way to tell how party actors like GOP Governors or important donors are going to react in real time to these various candidacies. Rand Paul’s strength of “National ID” could just be a function of cable news producers preferring to air coverage of an iconoclast Republican senator rather than some other run of the mill Republican senator. John Kasich’s “Abrasive personality” could easily be turned into evidence of “toughness” and thus become a strength. Not unlike how Chris Christies’ talent for yelling at people and political hard ball was once seen as an asset.
If you want to know how the GOP 2016 field is shaping up look for broad evidence of important Republicans lining up behind a candidate or voicing their opposition to one. It may not be as fun as ranking candidates or dividing them into tiers, but it is more reliable than trying to grade peoples’ personalities.
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Photo by Charles Dharapak/AP