Previously, The Collegian has provided in-depth coverage for three of the current Republican presidential candidates: Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump. At one time, all these candidates were at the top of the polls. Trump and Carson still are.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that any of them will be the nominee. Trump, with all his bombast and ignorance of policy, is unacceptable to a sizeable portion of the Republican Party.
Carson has shown difficulties with policy, and has had a few stumbles along the campaign trail that would likely keep more establishment voters from embracing his candidacy. Of the three, Fiorina could probably be the most unifying, but she’s dipped in the polls, and the fact that she’s never held office could also be a problem for her.
So, in effect, the candidates The Collegian has covered so far all have major hurdles to the nomination, despite the high poll numbers for Trump and Carson. Of the twelve major GOP candidates remaining, four probably have the best chances after the October 28 CNBC debate.
The most notable of these candidates is Florida senator Marco Rubio. While his previous debate performances received some praise, in this debate he has been almost universally described as the winner.
Recently there’s been some controversy about how often he misses votes in the Senate. Jeb Bush, his former mentor, called on him to resign during the latest debate. Rubio responded in a way that was dignified but made Bush seem petty. He basically accused Bush of only bringing up the issue since Rubio is now his competitor. It’s widely considered a winning moment for Rubio in the debate.
Rubio is an eloquent speaker who has an obvious command of the issues. His campaign stresses the theme of “a New American Century.” His youth is also an asset since it helps him with that message.
Perhaps his greatest asset is that he’s considered acceptable to a broad part of the party. He’s competent and electable enough that the establishment can accept him, but he also has tea party roots and is generally not considered an unacceptable candidate to the base. The one exception is the most fervent anti-immigration parts of the GOP, who see him as too open to amnesty. At this point in the race, analysts typically give him a greater chance of becoming the nominee than they do any other candidate.
Jeb Bush had a poor performance during the last debate. His other debate performances have been underwhelming, so he needed to impress with this one. He failed to do that. He also lost when he directly engaged Rubio. However, this doesn’t mean Bush is out of the race yet. He still has a considerable amount of money with his campaign committee, but the real money is with the super PAC supporting him. The Iowa caucuses aren’t until February, so Bush still has time to improve his campaign.
However, should Bush falter, a lot of analysts think that Chris Christie is best poised to take his place as the establishment favorite. He had a solid debate performance. He was able to look directly into the camera and tell the American people that the government has been lying about entitlements. Also, with Donald Trump in the race, there is little concern about Christie being too combative. He looks downright docile by comparison.
Analysts generally described Ted Cruz as doing very well in the debate, and this has helped them consider the possibility that he will be the Republican nominee. Ted Cruz is solidly aligned with the Tea Party and has the reputation of being a fighter. This has made him very popular with a certain segment of the right, but has made others more weary of his candidacy.
If Trump or Carson’s campaign falters, he may pick up support from their voters. He’ll have to win over more moderate voters in order to win the nomination, but he’s well poised to be the “conservative alternative” should any of the other three candidates become the likely nominees.