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2016 Presidential Power Rankings: Republican Primaries

by Wonk Report | May 8 2015

2016 Presidential Power Rankings: Republicans

Let us preface these 2016 Presidential Power Rankings by saying we are not Charlie Cook. Our official Wonk Report 2016 Presidential Power Rankings are not based on any science or historical trends; they are simply a fun exercise to gauge the lay of the land and read the political tea leaves. Any events, interviews, performances in debates, campaign strategies, media attention, momentum, polling data (you get the idea) of the negative and/or positive variety will obviously have an impact. We will update these rankings every few weeks.

Tier One – The Front-Runners

 Presidential Power Rankings Rubio1. Marco Rubio (Senator – Florida) (Last Week: NA)

Rubio occupying the top slot is mainly due to the fact that we here at Wonk Report feel he is one of only two Republican candidates that could defeat Hillary in a national election. He may not be leading in polls or have a huge base of support among the conservative base right now; however, we think he has a great shot to win them over once the process starts. Nationally the only thing people associate Rubio with is the taking a drink of water gaff when responding to Obama’s State of the Union Address a few years back. Once people realize how smart he is and see his platform we think he will become the main frontrunner. One member of Wonk Report’s staff is convinced that a Marco Rubio & Condoleezza Rice ticket would win the White House.

Presidential Power Rankings Walker

 2. Scott Walker (Governor – Wisconsin) (Last Week: NA)

Walker would likely have held the top spot a month or two ago. However, the Tea Party favorite has let some flaws in his political armor surface that may hinder his ability to beat out a guy like Rubio. If Walker continues to let a hostile media rattle him, he will fade from the top. Walker’s strengths are his record as governor and his performance in polls despite the recent events. We are Wonk Report are bearish on his ability to beat Hillary Clinton in a national election, but that may not matter to the conservatives voting in primaries.

Presidential Power Rankings Bush3.  Jeb Bush (Former Governor – Florida) (Last Week: NA)

Jeb was the early favorite and has been able to maintain a solid showing in polls despite avoiding the spotlight the past month or two. The former governor will likely do very well in the fundraising department compared to his competitors. The problem for Bush is – well – his last name. Many conservatives have less than fond memories of his brother but we don’t feel that is the biggest issue for Bush to overcome. The biggest issue for Jeb to overcome is the fact that is isn’t very charismatic. That same flaw doomed Hillary Clinton when she took on Obama back in 2008. We feel that 2016 could play out very similarly with a young, charismatic, fresh, smart candidate like Rubio taking an early lead over Bush and never looking back.

Tier Two – The Libertarian Conservative

Presidential Power Rankings Paul4. Rand Paul (Senator – Kentucky) (Last Week: NA)

One of these years a Libertarian-Conservative will connect with the conservative base and win the nomination. We are just not sure that 2016 will be the year. Rand Paul’s advantages are many: he connects with young voters in a way none of his opponents can match, he is creative and knows how to use social media to his advantage, while he can be hostile (like Walker) to the media – he can pull it off a little more naturally (like Obama). We at Wonk Report feel that Paul is the other Republican candidate that can defeat Hillary in a national election. We think that the debates will really be the time for Paul (and Rubio) to shine. Paul should be 2nd or 3rd on this list but we wanted to give him his own category to break in this initial power ranking.

Tier Three – The Dark Horse

Presidential Power Rankings Jindal5. Bobby Jindal (Governor – Louisiana) (Last Week: NA)

Jindal may be the smartest person in either the Republican or Democrat primaries (sorry Rubio and Warren). However, being the smartest person in the room can often times be a disadvantage in presidential elections. Jindal is also from a safe Republican state with little national recognition – so he has a few strikes against him. That being said we can envision a scenario where once the national attention turns to the primaries Jindal may very well be the man with the best vision, platform and campaign strategy. We have a feeling that if he can somehow grab the lead in the Republican primary he would not stumble and let it fall through his fingers.

Tier Four – Spotlight Seekers

Presidential Power Rankings Christie6. Chris Christie (Governor – New Jersey) (Last Week: NA)

Two or three years ago Christie would have found himself in the top tier on this list, heck he might even have that tier all to himself. However, Christie annoyed many conservatives with how he praised Obama’s handling of the Hurricane Sandy disaster and those same conservatives feel that is what swayed the election in Obama’s favor. The controversies are also a big negative. Those two factors really pushed Christie from the pole position to a place where he has little to no chance of winning the nomination. Any campaign by Christie would merely be to keep his name in the spotlight and stay relevant in political circles.

Presidential Power Rankings Cruz7. Ted Cruz (Senator – Texas) (Last Week: NA)

We just can’t see Cruz winning the nomination. Even the most ardent conservative homer would have an impossible time trying to come up with ways that Cruz could defeat Hillary. Everyone above Cruz on this list you can make at least a few rational arguments for their chances vs Hillary…but Cruz is just too polarizing and too divisive to actually connect with independents and young voters. We feel that Cruz is mainly in the race to make sure the Tea Party has a voice during the debates and to try and shift national focus on the negative aspects of the current Administration and a potential Hillary Administration.

* You could throw in Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum etc. in this tier as well – We picked Christie and Cruz because they actually can be real candidates – the others are just along to try and derail the eventual Republican nominee & to give Saturday Night Live some skit ideas.

Tier Five – The Outsider

Presidential Power Rankings Carson 8. Ben Carson (Neurosurgeon – No Political Background) (Last Week: NA)

Carson really doesn’t have a shot to win the nomination. However, he deserves a mention and spot on this list for a few reasons. We feel he is running because he truly cares about this country and feels that he can help. Additionally, he is a political outsider, with no ties to D.C. or politics which enables him to put forth new and fresh ideas that his party can rally behind. Lastly, if a Republican were to win the White House in 2016 – Carson would be in line for a Cabinet or Ambassador nomination.

Our V.P. Nomination Power Rankings will come in a few months but here is a little preview:

Top VP Picks for Rubio:

  • Condoleeza Rice
  • Rand Paul
  • Susana Martinez
  • Nikki Haley
  • Carly Fiorina

Top VP picks for Walker & Bush:

  • Condoleeza Rice
  • Marco Rubio
  • Rand Paul
  • Susana Martinez
  • Nikki Haley


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