Fixing on a Frontrunner

A closer look at the four most electable Republican presidential candidates

Fall is upon us, and the political winds of 2016 are swirling. Though 17 qualified Republicans are running, important primaries lie ahead. The final five to analyze for Republicans are Jim Gilmore, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, John Kasich and Jeb Bush.

JIM GILMORE, the former Virginia governor, is a smart and impressive candidate, but his late entry into the broad GOP sweepstakes dooms his effort. He won't show well in early primary states.

MARCO RUBIO is a first-term U.S. senator from Florida, elected in 2010. Young (44 years old), polished and possessing a winning demeanor, Rubio is the second Hispanic candidate of Cuban descent to seek the Republican nomination. Rubio possesses working-class roots, forcefulness on foreign policy and a youthful presence. Major drawbacks are, again, his youthfulness, national and international inexperience and service as a first-term senator. (American voters have already experienced the inexperience of a first-term senator who became president.) Rubio is formidable, but is likely best advised to seek the Florida governorship and serve successfully before running again for president. Being passed over as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's running mate in 2012 is another circumstance Rubio won't tout. I doubt voters will ultimately take a chance on an untested Rubio for president.

SCOTT WALKER was elected Wisconsin governor in 2010, reelected in 2014 and survived a recall election in 2012. Conservative and well-spoken, Walker is heroic to those who believe his defeat of Wisconsin unionism saved Wisconsin's fiscal future. Though he's not been prominent as a presidential candidate in national media circles, he's cautiously feeling his way along as he adjusts to the attention his candidacy is drawing. He's been careless with overstatements and lack of detail as the press has peppered him with questions. His absence of private sector experience is a detriment, even though he hails from a blue Midwestern state where he's had political success. Despite his vast government experience, Walker may struggle to connect with millions of Americans who rely on the private sector for their livelihood. Walker seems to have groomed himself for public service at a time when being a public-service-only candidate may make him less attractive and unable to relate well to the common person.

JOHN KASICH was narrowly elected Ohio's governor in 2010 and easily reelected in 2014. A former 18-year Ohio congressman, Kasich achieved political prominence as a no-nonsense chairman of the House Budget Committee (1995-2001) that led the way to a balanced federal budget. He achieved post-congressional wealth with Lehman Brothers and as a FOX News host. Viewed by many as a pragmatic centrist, he's made headway as a compassionate leader who's made government work in his state. Representing an important electoral college state, Kasich would bring common-sense governance to the race for president. His political experience is an asset, too. Forceful in his policy positions and unafraid of political combat, he's generally a happy warrior, open to new ideas and reliant on solutions that work for the common good — an approach that has made him popular in Ohio.

JEB BUSH was Florida's governor from 1999-2007. He left the governorship with an impressive record of effective and lasting fiscal reform and conservative policies. Since leaving the governorship, he's become wealthier in the private sector. Saddled (or blessed) with the same last name of a father and older brother who served as president, Bush has been frank about having to "earn the nomination." Impressive in person, he looks questioners in the eyes and evokes a sincerity that makes one believe he cares about both the questioner and the question. His answers are not pat or rehearsed. He shows humility, a grasp of issues, a modern approach to politics and what I'd call a joyful nature, all qualities that make him endearing in person. Happily married to a Hispanic wife, he's experienced the trauma of a child dependent on drugs, the agony of political defeat and the joys of fatherhood and political prominence. He's raised millions, largely on his name and political reputation. He's vowed not to tack to the right to gain the Republican nomination, only to tack back to the middle to win the presidency. He offers Republicans the best record of conservative governance and path to victory in 2016, having successfully run an important electoral-college state, shown fundraising prowess and been relatable to the Hispanic vote. (He speaks Spanish exclusively when home.) Jeb Bush has the energy and credentials necessary to win in 2016.

My pick for the 2016 Republican ballot is a Bush-Kasich ticket. ♦

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About The Author

George Nethercutt

From 1995-2005, George Nethercutt was the Republican Congressman from Spokane. He contributes to the commentary section of the Inlander.