Greg Valliere, the chief political strategist of the Potomac Research Group, released a new list handicapping the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday. His new ranking had former Florida Governor Jeb Bush on top after coming in at third in Valliere’s last list in May.
Valliere’s list, which he permitted Business Insider to republish, also shows the 2012 GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz climbing. The news wasn’t good for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Pennsylvania Senator and 2012 candidate Rick Santorum, and ex-Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who all dropped several spots.
Check out Valliere’s top ten below:
10. Mike Pence (previously 10): The Indiana governor is making just enough noise to stay on the list, keeping his vice presidential chances very much alive. Pence appeals to all wings of the party — no easy feat.
9. Scott Walker (previously 2): The Wisconsin governor was the insiders’ pick last winter; now he’s in a close fight to win re-election this fall. It’s hard to see a hanging offence amid all the allegations about his fundraising — the New York Times was particularly outrageous in its treatment of him — but politics ain’t always fair, and Walker’s halo has slipped.
8. Rick Santorum (previously 3): The biggest surprise of the 2012 campaign (he won eleven primaries), Santorum probably will run again with enthusiastic backing from the religious right. He’s been AWOL lately, but if Santorum wins Iowa, he could stay in the race for a very long time.
7: Paul Ryan: He wasn’t on our Top Ten list in May, and he could be No. 1 or 2 by next summer. For now, we think Ryan is determined to polish his resume by passing tax reform next year; if a bill is through the House by summer, speculation about a presidential bid will intensify. The irony: Ryan deserves respect as the GOP “ideas guy,” but many of his ideas poll poorly.
6. Chris Christie (previously 6): He’s spending a fortune on lawyers, and a suspicion persists that more dirt will come out, but the feisty New Jersey governor is still a major player. Christie could win 270 electoral votes, and not everyone on this list can claim that. Is Christie running? Oh yeah.
5. Mitt Romney: (previously 9): We’re not kidding, listing Romney this high. If no one has emerged from the pack a year from now, the pressure on Romney will be enormous. Like most politicians, Romney lives in an adoring echo chamber; everyone tells him he’d be a great president and could win this time — and his disavowals haven’t exactly been Shermanesque, have they?
4. Ted Cruz (previously 8): The base loves this guy, maybe even more than the base loves Rand Paul. Most Republicans in Washington loathe Cruz, which actually may be an attribute. We rarely pass on an opportunity to joke about his Canadian birth, but that will not deter Cruz — he’s running and he’s a serious candidate. Minor problem: if he’s on the ticket, the GOP won’t win more than a dozen states.
3. Rand Paul (previously 4): He’s an eye surgeon who happens to be a politician who can electrify young people at Berkeley or African Americans at the Urban League. Many of his positions, especially regarding Israel, need work, and he has a long paper trail that will be used against him. But in an era that hates politicians, Paul doesn’t always act like one, which is a major part of his appeal.
2. Marco Rubio: (previously 1): He’s a difficult candidate to handicap. Insiders are down on Rubio because of his flip-flopping on immigration, but around the country his narrative resonates with middle class voters. Reporters say he seems jittery and cotton-mouthed in major speeches; plus there’s the “gravitas factor,” and the jury is still out on that. We could envision Rubio in the final three — or blowing out early.
1. Jeb Bush: (previously 3): We hate succumbing to the consensus, but he’s the favourite — if he wants the nomination. We think Jeb hasn’t decided yet; there are family concerns and strong differences with the GOP base on key issues. But the base wants a winner, and this is a talented and intelligent politician who could give Hillary Clinton a tougher challenge than any of the others on this list.
Valliere also identified several hopefuls he described as being “not quite in the top ten.” This B-Team included Texas Governor Rick Perry, who Valliere said “always seems to do something to hurt his cause,” Ohio Governor John Kasich, Dr. Ben Carson, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Huckabee.
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