RANKED: The 16 Republicans who think they can be president

AP476939921030AP/Steven SenneNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) campaigns in New Hampshire.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) became the latest notable GOP candidate to throw his hat into the presidential contest on Thursday.

He is far from alone.

The GOP’s 2016 field for the White House appears likely to be one of the most robust in modern history. There could be as many as 15 current and former senators, governors, and major business leaders in the race by this summer.

However, there’s not enough room for all of them.

This is especially true on the early debate stages that could provide a crucial opportunity for long-shots to shine. The two first debates, held in August and September, opted to impose strict guidelines to participate: The candidates must average in the top 10 in the national polls of the Republican race. (The two debates have varying procedures and calculate the poll average slightly differently.)

These guidelines leave some candidates much better positioned than others to catch fire on national television, though there’s still time for even the stragglers to potentially surge into the to top 10 and make the debates.

On Friday afternoon, Business Insider collected the latest polling averages from Real Clear Politics to rank where the candidates would roughly stand if the debates were held today. We also gave our take as to some of their political liabilities and assets as they seek the Republican nomination.

#1 -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R)

Bush is expected to announce his candidacy June 15. His RPC polling average stands at 13.2%.

Strengths: Boosted by his family ties to former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush has turned his super PAC into a fundraising machine. Additionally, Bush has a some of the top talent in the GOP behind him and his more moderate tone on social issues helps him with the party's elite.

Weaknesses: He has struggled to criticise the controversial mistakes made by his brother, George W. Bush, while in the White House. Jeb Bush could also be haunted by his relatively moderate policy positions on immigration and Common Core standards, two hot-button issues among conservative activists.

#2 -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R)

Walker says he'll announce his decision on the race later this summer. His RCP polling average is 12.5%.

Strengths: Walker earned love from national conservatives after he aggressively confronted his state's public sector unions. He then survived a tough recall fight and reelection battle as national unions unsuccessfully tried twice to oust him from office. Walker appears to be popular among both the GOP's establishment and its grassroots supporters.

Weaknesses: He's not a polished speaker and his off-the-cuff remarks have landed him in hot water several times. And he could be dogged by his flip-flop on immigration.

#3 -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida)

Rubio launched his campaign in April and holds a 12% RCP poll average.

Strengths: Rubio is a relatively young, dynamic speaker and some Republicans predict his Cuban heritage could help the party reach out to Latino voters. Additionally, Rubio has carved out a hawkish foreign policy profile and has wealthy financial backers.

Weaknesses: Rubio's record includes a major flip-flop on his own immigration bill. Furthermore, some critics have compared him unfavorably to President Barack Obama, who also ran for the White House with just one Senate term under his belt.

#4 -- Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson

Carson announced his White House bid last month and averages 9.2% in RCP's list.

Strengths: Carson holds an incredibly uplifting personal story of rising out of poverty to become one of the most heralded surgeons in the world. He later became a popular conservative author and his frequent Fox News appearances have boosted his name recognition.

Weaknesses: He's a political neophyte and that inexperience has led him to make several embarrassing gaffes and uncomfortable statements, such as comparing the US to Nazi Germany. He's also stumbled on foreign policy issues.

#5 -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky)

Paul, who announced his campaign in April, also holds a 9.2% RCP polling average.

Strengths: Paul has a strong grassroots fundraising network thanks to his libertarian-leaning ideology and the past presidential campaigns of his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Additionally, Rand Paul has managed to stand out in the crowded pack by disavowing party orthodoxy on issues like national security and criminal justice reform.

Weaknesses: It's not clear how hungry the broader party is for a GOP nominee who opposes military intervention and widespread NSA surveillance. Additionally, Paul has been forced to walk back several gaffes after straying from his talking points.

#6 -- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R)

Huckabee announced his bid last month and stands at 8.7% in the RCP average.

Strengths: His folksy demeanour and evangelical appeal helped him win the influential Iowa caucus in the 2008 presidential race, and he likely plans to do well in the state in 2016. His former eponymous show on Fox News also boosted his name recognition.

Weaknesses: Huckabee has bucked the party establishment on certain issues, including free trade pacts and Social Security benefits. It's not clear if Huckabee will have the money or the organisation to rebuff the attacks from influential conservative groups like Club for Growth over his more moderate economic philosophy.

#7 -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

In March, Cruz was the first major GOP contender to announce his campaign. His RCP polling average is 8.5%.

Strengths: Cruz is a dynamic speaker who knows how to win over conservative crowds. He's stood out in the Senate with his uncompromising approach to Obamacare and it will be hard for any of his rivals to get to his right. He also has some very wealthy backers and strong grassroots fundraising.

Weaknesses: That same uncompromising approach has also earned him many enemies in his party, some of whom have accused him of letting the government temporarily shut down to further his political ambitions. Some Republicans also say he's too conservative to win the general election.

#8 -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R)

Christie, who has a 4.8% RCP polling average, is expected to get into the race later this summer.

Strengths: Christie stands out with his larger-than-life personality and would likely bring his sharp wit and blunt approach to any GOP debate. He has also been one of the few 2016 presidential candidates to actually give specific policy proposals on major issues. Christie's a proven fundraiser, too.

Weaknesses: Christie faces many obstacles that have led a number of veteran observers to write off his chances. His hurdles include the so-called 'Bridgegate' scandal that resulted in indictments against some of his former top allies, low approval rating both in New Jersey and among Republicans nationally, and his state's ongoing fiscal problems.

#9 -- Businessman Donald Trump

Trump is expected to announce his candidacy June 16. He averages at 4% in the latest polls, according to RCP.

Strengths: Trump has widespread name recognition from his public life and popular NBC show, 'The Apprentice.' And he could easily fund a campaign through his personal fortune.

Weaknesses: Republican voters widely oppose his candidacy, according to the polls. He is also viewed as a less-than-serious White House contender after flirting with past runs for office without actually running.

#10 -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R)

Kasich is looking to announce his 2016 plans later this summer. He's at 2% in RPC's polling average.

Strengths: Kasich's the governor of a major swing state and has a long record in public office.

Weaknesses: He hasn't quite left an impression outside of Ohio. And it's not clear how he could overtake some his potential rivals who are far better known and who have natural bases of support.

#11 -- Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania)

Santorum announced his 2016 bid last month and is also at 2% in RCP's polling average.

Strengths: Santorum narrowly won Iowa during the 2012 presidential race thanks to his natural appeal to evangelical and blue-collar voters.

Weaknesses: The 2012 field was much less robust than the current one, and it could be difficult for Santorum to shine when there's several other candidates who will be targeting the same voters. Additionally, Santorum has never been a strong fundraiser.

#12 -- Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina

Fiorina has a 1.6% RCP polling average and announced her campaign last month.

Strengths: Fiorina is likely to stand out as the only Republican woman in the race. Additionally, she's been an impressively polished speaker on the trail and could self-fund her campaign to a degree.

Weaknesses: She was prominently fired by Hewlett-Packard and her tenure at the company has been heavily criticised for lacklustre performance and infighting, among other issues. She lost her only other campaign for public office: a 2010 Senate bid in California.

#13 -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)

Graham formally announced his bid for the White House last week. His RCP polling average is 1.3%.

Strengths: Along with Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), Graham is one of the most prominent foreign policy hawks in the Senate. He also hails from South Carolina, an important early primary state.

Weaknesses: He's sided with Democrats on a number of hot-button issues, including votes to confirm President Barack Obama's nominees and on comprehensive immigration reform. It's not clear how much support there could be for him, even in his homestate.

#14 -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R)

Jindal is reportedly planning to announce his 2016 plans later this month. He didn't crack the top 13 in the RCP polling averages.

Strengths: Jindal has some national profile and was once considered a rising star in the GOP ranks. He's also gone out of his way to stake out prominent conservative positions on issues like the controversial 'religious freedom' bills.

Weaknesses: His star has dimmed both in his state and nationally. Lousiana faced a number of budget problems under his watch.

#15 -- Former New York Gov. George Pataki (R)

Pataki announced his campaign last week. He's not included in RCP's polling average chart but his team recently touted a CNN poll giving him 3% support among GOP voters.

Strengths: He's a three-term governor of a major state and his tenure includes handling the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He's aggressively campaigning in New Hampshire, an early primary state that borders New York.

Weaknesses: There's simply far better known candidates in the field.

#16 -- Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson

Everson launched his campaign in March but has received relatively scant attention since then.

Strengths: He's got a decent record in various public service positions.

Weaknesses: He's got an uphill fight to even get his name included in the polls.


Several other politicians, including Rep. Pete King (R-New York), former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R), and former Sen. Jim Gilmore (R-Virginia), have floated their names as potential 2016 contenders.

Of the bunch, King may have the highest profile thanks to his frequent appearances on cable news, where he espouses hawkish foreign policy views.

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