This year we are being treated to a particularly exciting race for the Republican presidential nominee.
While the Democrats are busy attempting to dispel the image of an inevitable Clinton coronation, the G.O.P has found itself in a warlord-esque scenario with over seventeen candidates contending the title of nominee, but in reality holding court over separate groups within the party itself. Here’s a quick outline of the Big Ten, who recently made the cut for Fox News’ primary debate, which received viewer numbers roughly three times that of similar events in 2012.
The Young Buck – Marco Rubio
Senator of Florida
Marco Rubio is an intriguing candidate on the face of it. The youngest of the Big Ten at aged 44, Rubio has sought to position himself as the face of a modern and vigorous conservatism within America; at the end of the Fox News’ debate he called for ‘a new American century’.
The son of a Cuban immigrants, Rubio is a potentially exciting candidate for Hispanic Americans and in some respects represents an olive brand towards a key battleground demographic that is of increasing electoral importance. During his time in the Senate Rubio served on the Committee on Foreign Relations, though he has yet to set himself apart from the field as an expert in international policy questions. Rubio has a difficult task ahead of him in overcoming his friend and mentor, Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, in the upcoming primaries but if he wins the nomination he poses a youthful challenge to whomever is nominated by the Democrats.
The Throwback – Mike Huckabee
Former Governor of Arkansas
If Marco Rubio is attempting to present a fresh face for the Republican Party, Mike Huckabee feels a little like a candidate from yesteryear. Noted for his staunch religious views, Huckabee appeals to a traditional southern, evangelical base within the party.
Generally respected as an effective governor during his term between 1996 and 2007, Huckabee may find it difficult to win over independents with some of his hardline views on social issues: he has made calls for a return of public prayer in schools, believes in intelligent design, and offered some very caustic comments recently concerning the ‘Iran deal’.
The Radical – Rand Paul
Senator of Kentucky
Picking up the gauntlet of his father Ron, Rand Paul stands alone in the Republican field because of his libertarian views and fidelity to his reading of the Constitution. Paul has fought several battles in the Senate over the widespread collection of personal data under the Patriot Act, and during Fox News’ Primary Debate he clashed with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on the issue.
Paul is also noted for his opposition to traditional Republican hawkishness when it comes to foreign policy. In the same vein as his father, Rand Paul has questioned the wisdom of becoming overly involved in the affairs of countries overseas, suggesting that this is not only practically flawed but inconsistent with the Founding Fathers’ intentions. Unlikely to win the nomination in the long run, Rand Paul has a decent opportunity to shape the debate and refocus policy questions on individual liberties.
The Firebrand – Ted Cruz
Senator of Texas
Swept to office on a wave of grassroots populism in 2012, Ted Cruz has made his share of enemies in the Senate. He recently stirred controversy with a damning indictment of the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and has subsequently provoked a backlash within his own party.
Cruz is noted for his passionate and aggressive debating style, and enjoys significant popularity with Tea Party-esque groups within the GOP. Uncompromising and often provocative, Cruz is unlikely to win the nomination as his rhetoric alienates as many establishment and moderate Republicans as it energises the base. He spares no sympathy criticising his Democrat foes, calling the Obama administration “the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.”
The Tested Warrior – Scott Walker
Governor of Wisconsin
An early favourite of many pundits, Scott Walker is a viable contender for the nomination. Walker’s strength is in his experience. Governor of a state that voted for Obama in 2012, Walker enjoys his reputation as an anti-union candidate that can encourage economic growth.
His staying power is evident from his survival of a recall vote in 2012, when residents in Wisconsin sought to remove him from office. Walker has an impressive fundraising machine supporting him, and he has set himself apart from Jeb Bush with his hardline views on abortion and immigration.
The Bush – Jeb Bush
Former Senator of Florida
Supposedly the darling of the Republican establishment, Jeb Bush has at times struggled to define himself thus far in the primary process. After flubbing an early interview on the Iraq War, Mr Bush has delicately attempted to carve out a position that at once respects the legacy of his brother, but also presents himself as his own man. Despite his campaign logo dropping his surname, instead simply championing ‘Jeb!’, questions over his family and dynastic politics show no sign of subsiding in the short term.
On the issues Bush represents a more moderate vision for the party, and is actively seeking to engage with hispanic voters. His wife is of Mexican origin, he himself spent much of his business life in Venezuela, and he has joked about accidentally listing his ethnicity has hispanic on a 2009 voter registration form. More moderate on immigration reform than many of his rivals, Bush is presenting himself as the optimistic candidate, even pledging to grow the economy by 4% per annum if elected to office.
The Wildcard – Ben Carson
An interesting character, Carson’s chances at the nomination are slim at best. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 for the first successful separation of conjoined twins joined at the head, he earned notoriety in 2013 and 2014 after a series of conservative speeches and comments.
Early signs indicate he is successfully tapping into elements of the Republican party membership. A dedicated conservative, Carson has been outspoken against canabis use, evolutionism, and Obamacare, which he dubbed “the worst thing that has happened to this nation since slavery”. It is already clear that many of his policy positions are heavily influenced by his religion, arguing for a flat tax rate system on the basis of God’s request for tithes: “If God thought that was a good idea, I don’t see why we think we’re smarter than he is.”
The Blowhard – Donald Trump
Leading the early polls, Donald Trump has already injected considerable invective and division into the Republican primaries. Having toyed with the idea in previous years, despite his former Democratic-loyalty, Trump has decided 2016 is his year.
His controversial and ill-founded comments about immigration have spurred criticism within the national media and even inside his own party, but have not been able to put a halt in his momentum. Instead, there are anxieties that each successive controversy is merely consolidating his existing support. Trump is running on a platform that is explicitly, aggressively anti-establishment. His message is that ‘politicians are stupid’, and that he himself, cloistered away in Trump Tower, has devised plans to defeat ISIS, prevent illegal immigration, and grow the economy. Despite an almost absolute lack of solid policy positions, Trump is successfully galvanising an angry and embittered core of the Republican base, attacking immigrants, bureaucrats, and political correctness.
The Straight-Talker – Chris Christie
Governor of New Jersey
Chris Christie has most likely missed his chance. In 2012 party bosses were seriously courting his candidacy ahead of Mitt Romney, but Christie declined. Since then he has been mired in controversies in New Jersey, and his political relevance as a moderate Republican able to work across the aisle with Democrats has been lost in the shuffle.
Despite this, Christie is a compelling candidate. He offers a moderate form of conservatism compared with some of his Republican rivals, is noted for his ability to communicate in clear, direct language, and earned national respect for his handling of Hurricane Sandy. Whether this will see him garner enough support for a prolonged primary run is very much in doubt.
The Centrist – John Kasich
Governor of Ohio
A relatively late entry into the race, John Kasich has earned the reputation of a fiscal conservative turned centrist. Touting his working class origins, Kasich is known for his often blunt, pragmatic rhetorical style.
It is, however, unlikely that he will win the nomination. He is deemed to moderate by many within the party, willing to work with Democrats on immigration reform, accepting funds for the expansion of Medicaid under Obama’s health legislation, and acknowledging the dangers of climate change. Governor of an absolutely vital battleground state, Kasich’s form of moderate, sensible policy may struggle to find air time in a crowded Republican field.