Predicting the GOP Nominee

Clarke Fox, Contributing Writer

With the recent campaign capitulations of Rick Perry and Scott Walker, the Republican presidential field has been trimmed to 15. And while Donald Trump seems to have cemented his place atop the pack in every recent poll, I would issue caution to anyone celebrating, or fearing, the inevitability of Trump as the GOP nominee. At this point in the 2008 Democratic race, Hillary Clinton held a 26-point lead over then junior senator and unknown, Barack Obama. 

Throughout the 2012 Republican race, Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum all held significant leads in the polls before Mitt Romney ultimately emerged as the party’s nominee. Just because a candidate is currently leading in the polls does not mean there will not be changes. With around 280 days between now and the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016, it is anyone’s race.

Trump leads the crowded field with 23.2 percent of likely Republican voters. Trump is followed by Ben Carson’s 17.2 percent, Carly Fiorina’s 10.4 percent, Marco Rubio’s 9.9 percent, Jeb Bush’s 8.4 percent, Ted Cruz’s 6.2 percent, and John Kasich’s 3.2 percent; Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, Santorum, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore follow, all with less than three percent of the vote. 

It is nearly impossible to predict the GOP nominee this early, as so much of the electorate is irrelevant to candidates and campaigns until the month leading up to the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses. But, what the heck—it’s too fun with this bunch not to.

The Trump hullabaloo will pass. He will win some early states but will ultimately fail to hold the nomination. As fellow campaigns begin to fizzle out after the first window of primaries, voters will realign themselves with the more sensible remaining candidates. How much Trump really wants the nomination, along with his willingness to campaign every day for the next several months, has also been questioned. Trump’s staying power and low favorability among women, Hispanics, and independents will yield another Republican as the nominee.

It will not, however, be Carson. His recent missteps, going on record to say that he believes a Muslim should never become the president and comparing Obama supporters to Nazis, indicate that the soft-spoken genius neurosurgeon is too gaffe-prone to win the nomination.

Like Trump and Carson, Fiorina too will see her presidential light go out. Polling popularity is a double-edged sword. After sky-rocketing in the polls after her showing at the first two GOP debates, Fiorina’s higher position will attract more media and candidate scrutiny, specifically of her role at tech giant Hewlett-Packard. In her six-year tenure as CEO, Hewlett-Packard’s value was cut in half, and she was the orchestrator of what is believed to be the worst deal in the history of the tech industry (HP’s acquisition of Compaq).

Fourth in nearly every poll is Rubio. The 44-year-old senator from Florida, and Jeb Bush’s protégé, lacks considerable political experience. He is widely criticized for his likeness to Obama in 2008, although this hasn’t seemed to stop him yet. Like the 2008 Obama, Rubio is a one-term senator without executive experience to leverage in the Oval Office. 

Rubio’s charisma and compelling personal narrative have endeared him to Republican voters. Anger toward career politicians and establishment candidates has been omnipresent on both the right and left. Rubio offers a hybrid approach: a politician by trade, but one from a new wave of conservatives driven to radically change politics in Washington.

He has shined in both debates, and has positioned himself ideologically within the Republican party to pull support from both moderate Republicans and the powerful Tea Party. In a general election, Rubio would hijack segments of the Hispanic vote from the eventual Democratic nominee, and would be in a favorable position to hold his home state of Florida and its important 29 electoral votes. When push comes to shove, voters from both parties are infamous for nominating the candidate they think has best chance of winning the general election, regardless of ideological alignment. The whispers from the Clinton campaign indicate they are most fearful of Rubio in general. Expect Rubio to win the nomination come next summer.

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