Notice I didn’t say, “correctly assess,” as it’s too early for cocky prognostications. So far, the only bold prediction I’ve made was stating (for more than a year now) that Jeb Bush had no chance to be the nominee. Score one for me. But starting tonight, let’s share brutally honest opinions on candidates.
Notice I said, “honest opinions.” Not chest-thumping bravado ignoring weaknesses. Not Facebook hit-posts with attack lists against rivals—which are always littered with out-of-context exaggerations.
I’ll go first. For several candidates, I will provide a couple strengths and at least one concern—hard questions I want asked about that candidate before we commit. In closing, I’ll give a 1-10 score for how well I believe this candidate would do against Hillary Clinton.
Notice I said, “against Hillary Clinton.” This score reflects how I feel a candidate’s broad appeal and debate style work against Hillary, not how much I like the candidate. If liking the candidate was my top criteria, this entire article would proclaim Bobby Jindal as “The One.”
Spoiler alert: Bobby’s not even on this list.
Ready? Let’s begin.
- Uncanny gift for tapping into deep passions on key issues.
- Tremendous “Star Appeal,” creating strength across multiple demographics.
Warning Sign #1: Can a candidate win today with only 15% Hispanic support? That’s amazingly low.
Warning Sign #2: Can a candidate with such lack of focus perform well debating Hillary Clinton? Hillary’s weaknesses must be exposed with the skill of a prosecuting attorney, not generalized insults.
Score Against Hillary: 5
- Most disarming verbal style I’ve ever seen. Like, ever.
- Superior intellect combined with plain answers.
- Black and popular.
Warning Sign #1: This week, Dr. Carson voiced opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest. While he didn’t say he’d outlaw abortion in these cases, he didn’t say he wouldn’t. I was curious how this might affect Ben’s run, so I asked on Facebook, “Could Carson win with such a view?” Though nearly all respondents were in my socially conservative sphere, not one felt this view helps Carson—many said he couldn’t win with it, period. Wow. Since very few Americans would outlaw abortion in such cases, this markedly drops Carson’s score against Hillary.
Warning Sign #2: As with Trump, Carson lacks focus in cornering a wily defendant. Can his debate style pin down an immensely corrupt Democrat who receives full media protection?
Score against Hillary: 6 (before this week, 8)
- Perfect, blunt approach to exposing and weakening Hillary.
- Quick, understandable answers, both in untangling complex issues (foreign policy) and thwarting criticism (Carly’s record at HP).
- Female and popular.
Warning Sign: Can Carly go beyond her stump speech in addressing issues? Her “first two phone calls” answer on foreign policy is becoming threadbare, as are her comments on what we could do but haven’t yet done in the Middle East. Carly lacks Marco Rubio’s complete command on issues.
Score against Hillary: 9
- Smart, effective debater.
- Supremely principled; trusted by base.
- Great ground game.
Warning Sign: In head-to-head polling against Hillary, Ted polls among the very worst in the field. New numbers aren’t available, but Real Clear Politics over the summer gave him a devastating -7.7%. Question: I love Ted, but can he beat Hillary when we’ll need to re-win millions of voters?
Understand, there's nothing wrong with Ted. What's wrong is an American electorate that can only absorb so much truth between reality TV shows and Bernie Sanders rallies.
Score against Hillary: 4
- Gifted communicator in all 3 settings—speeches, debates, and interviews.
- Young, good-looking Hispanic who speaks fluent Spanish.
- Innovative thinker on tough issues (higher education) with total command of most issues.
Warning Sign: Rubio is smooth and a fine debater, but he isn’t a forceful interrogator. He also lacks Trump’s and Christie’s blunt, plain-talking style that connects with listeners. Ask yourself, “Am I confident Marco would relentlessly pin Hillary to the wall on her corruption? Am I really?”
Score against Hillary: 9
- Ideal interrogator for pressing the issue against corrupt opponents (see: Hillary)
- Excellent in interviews, both on Conservative stations like Fox or liberal nighttime talk shows.
- Blunt, “every guy” style that connects with apolitical viewers.
- Wins big in liberal state.
Warning Sign: Can a guy win without devout support from the GOP base? Really?
Score against Hillary: 8 (but only a 2 against the GOP field)
Is my analysis perfect? Does Andy know all? Of course not. But right now, we must share opinions, discussing candidates as dispassionately as possible. Tonight and going forward, we must put each suitor under our collective microscope, asking, “How would this person do against Hillary?”
I’ve already eliminated my favorite. Startling as it may seem, the last quality I seek in candidates is "Whoever agrees with Andy the most.” Why? Because the Republican Party—and Conservatism as a whole—is a family. It isn’t millions of Andy’s walking around (though that would be glorious). It’s millions of liberty-loving people who see liberty in different ways. And when I look out upon this movement, I realize I couldn’t love their individualism if I demanded they agree with me.
So I reject Andy-ness. When I watch tonight’s debate, I don’t want candidates forcing the Conservative family to act like me. I want to be part of something bigger than Andy; something challenging me daily, extending our impact far beyond my limited scope. As I watch, I’ll ask myself, “Who does the best job selling Conservatism to a nation that has long abandoned it?”
I want someone who sells all of us. Not just my kind. Not just me. All of us.
You’ve heard my opinions on our candidates. I’d welcome yours.