Monday Power Ranking: Iowa Caucus – Republicans (June)

There’s been a lot of movement in the Republican field since the last time we ranked them about a month ago, so let’s check back in. The GOP presidential race is the one we’ll probably return to the most since the huge list of candidates and actual developments makes it a much more dynamic race than anything else we’re talking about.

1. Scott Walker

The Harley-riding Governor had a lot of fun at Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride a few weeks back, the only candidate to participate with Ernst in the “Ride” part with veterans. For whatever reason, Walker still hasn’t announced yet, the only of the top tier candidates to wait so long. He likely will soon, and hasn’t taken any real hits or criticisms lately, surprising considering he still sits on top the polls in Iowa. There seems to be a lot of complacency surrounding Walker – both on his part by not entering yet, which could allow others to sneak on up, but also by his opponents who don’t attack him. It’s a little peculiar.

Green Arrow2. Jeb Bush

After a horrendous past few months that’s seen a rocky pre-campaign for Bush, the former Florida Governor seems to be finally righting the ship. He’s surging up the ranking after his announcement tour went very well, and he’s impressing many Republican activists previously wary of him. I don’t know if I’ll ever have time to write the post, but I was extremely impressed by his performance on the stump at an Iowa event down in Pella last week. The Democrats salivating for another Bush to take on, thinking the nation’s voters are more than tired of the family’s past failures, may want to watch Bush in person and think again. And poor David Kochel. The Iowa strategist who guided Joni Ernst to victory in 2014, an ever sure-of-himself mastermind, lost his implied job as national campaign manager for Bush before it ever began. Now he’s just a top adviser, still an important role, but Kochel lost a lot of his luster in the shakeup.

3. Marco Rubio

Rubio’s down one in our ranking, but mostly because of Bush’s momentum. The Florida Senator continues a mostly-competent campaign, though he faltered at the national Faith and Freedom Coalition this week. Sometimes he seems oddly unwilling to tailor his message to the audience. Rubio is back in Iowa in two week’s time, though he ought to be here more.

4. Mike Huckabee

The 2008 Iowa Caucus winner had a series of rough stories the past month or two, but his brand of conservatives don’t seem to care. You’d think good Christians would be remiss to learn his friend and co-author of several books has been accused of child molestation. Together, Huckabee and John Perry penned books titled “Do the Right Thing” and “Character is the Issue.” This adds to Huckabee’s child-molesting friend of Josh Duggar, who he still inexplicably defends, including to Radio Iowa last week. But whatever, right? There’s a part of the Republican base who just doesn’t care, and prefers candidates under assault from the media, which is partially why Huckabee’s still doing well in Iowa.

Green Arrow5. Ben Carson

After his announcement in early May, Carson has been doing exceptionally well in early state and national polls. Which is weird, because he hasn’t been out campaigning as much as others. I wish I had something more to add here, but I’ll confess to not understanding the appeal of Carson. I get why Republicans like all these other candidates (even Trump!). But the appeal of the soft-spoken doctor who avoids typical stump speeches is interesting and sometimes perplexing. Next time he’s in town, we’ll do a much larger story on him.

Red Arrow6. Rand Paul

What a rough month for Rand. The Kentucky Senator has become the Republican field’s favorite punching bag, and Paul has only himself to thank for that. He attacked his party in very sharp terms during the NSA debate, going too far in many cases. There’s a difference between rallying and staying true to your libertarian base, and just pissing off fellow conservatives for the sake of it. Rand is venturing dangerously close into father Ron territory, who was dismissed as a kook on foreign policy issues.

Red Arrow7. Ted Cruz

What’s up with Ted Cruz? He constantly gets thunderous applause and standing ovations at every event he speaks at, yet still languishes behind many candidates in state and national polls. I can understand when voters seem to approach certain other White House hopefuls as someone who they love to clap for, but don’t want to vote for (Graham, Fiorina). But Cruz IS the Tea Party. Why aren’t their voters showing up for him in the polls? He drops the most in our ranking from #2 last time – the disconnect between in-person enthusiasm and polling is just bizarre.

8. Carly Fiorina

No movement in the rankings for Fiorina, but that’s because I just can’t see her beating out anyone ahead of her on this list yet. Her favorability in early polls has skyrocketed thanks to her numerous impressive performances at multi-candidate events. We’ll see if that momentum turns into the polling numbers she desperately needs to qualify for the first Republican debate.

9. Rick Perry

He also still hasn’t seen any major polling movement, despite also doing well on the campaign trail. There’s just too many candidates out there.

Green Arrow10. Bobby Jindal

The evangelical Governor of Louisiana is starting to come on as of late at several events. The momentum he’s getting among the religious right puts him ahead of Santorum. The “new” factor with Jindal probably helps, so we’ll see if he’s able to consolidate the interest he’s garnering among this important caucus group.

11. John Kasich

Do we really need more Republican candidates in the race? The Governor of Ohio thinks yes, and is expected to announce soon. Had he put his name more in the conversation early on in this campaign, he might be in the top-tier. A governor of a swing state, strong religious background and policy depth, he ought to be up there with the real contenders. But there just isn’t much justification for even more contestants in the over-crowded field. He’s in town later this week – Starting Line will cover the event to see what he’s like in person.

Red Arrow12. Rick Santorum

The 2012 Caucus winner is looking less and less likely to have a repeat surprise performance. His recent speech at the national Faith and Freedom event went over poorly, a place where he should dominate. He’ll still work Iowa hard, but he needs something to break his way. Right now he’s going backwards.

13. Chris Christie

He’s slightly higher in the polls (like at 3% and 4%) than some of the people I’ve ranked ahead of him, but there’s still a real lack of excitement for Christie. He had an event in Ames recently that was very heavy on policy and got little applause. But at least he’s here.

14. Donald Trump

Well, he’s officially in the race now, something many people doubted. And many still doubt he’s for real, as Trump hasn’t filed the official papers. His rally in Des Moines the day of his announcement got the biggest turnout for any single Republican candidate, but a lot of the attendees were just there to watch the show. Trump actually does have a real appeal to certain people, and I don’t want to discount that, but most voters see him for the joke he is.

15. Lindsey Graham

Graham will have an important spotlight on him as he deals with the aftermath of the Charleston shooting in his home state.

16. George Pataki

The former Governor of New York is getting press coverage on certain issues a lot of these other Republicans would be envious of. Thanks to his more moderate positions on certain topics, Pataki gets quoted much more often than may befit his polling status. That may help him in the long-run to build up a small niche in the primary.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 6/22/15

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