Since there are so many Republican candidates, sometime ago (before Perry and Walker dropped out of the race), I started grouping the Magnificent Seventeen into categories to see if that made predicting the eventual winner any easier. There were three natural groups:
A. Governors: Bush, Huckabee, Christie, Kasich, Walker, Jindal, Perry, Gilmore, and Pataki
B. Senators: Rubio, Cruz, Paul, Graham, and Santorum
C. People who have never held elected office: Trump, Carson, and Fiorina
The conventional wisdom is that governors have the edge in becoming president because they have executive experience and the presidency is an executive office, plus they do not have to defend awkward votes in Congress that are part of the normal horse-trading and they are untainted by the abysmally low approval ratings of Congress in the public eye (currently running around 15%) and can claim to be “political outsiders’, even if they have long been political insiders with a lifetime in public office. Starting in 1976, all the presidents have been former governors (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush) except for George H. W. Bush and Barack Obama, and the former can be considered an exception since he was vice-president before he became president and thus had an edge.
But this time, the conventional wisdom seems to be faltering. The two dropouts so far (Walker and Perry) were both governors and all the rest of the governors seem to be trailing the field with the latest CNN/ORC poll showing Bush as the best with a paltry 9% and the total for all nine adding up to a mere 20%. The four senators are not doing much better either with 22% total.
The top three spots in the poll are taken by the outsiders in group C with a total of 53%, so this does not look good for people who have held elected office.
There is another way to group them, though it is admittedly subjective and is based on my inference about what the Republican party establishment is thinking.
A: Those that the party establishment would tolerate as their nominee because they have a chance of being elected: Bush, Rubio, Kasich, Christie, and Walker.
B: People the party establishment wouldn’t want because they think they are pretty much guaranteed to lose and lose big, dragging the party down with them: Trump, Carson, Fiorina, Cruz, Paul, Jindal, Huckabee, Santorum, Graham, and Perry.
C: People nobody cares about: Pataki and Gilmore.
The problem for the party is that group A has total support of only 25% of likely Republican voters while group B has a whopping 65%.
And then there is also a grouping based on my personal tastes, largely determined by the level of my visceral dislike for the candidates. While I want them all to lose, the people I really, really hope go down in flames early and ignominiously are the slick and sly and smarmy Walker (thankfully now gone), the sneering, arrogant Cruz, the ultimate panderer Jindal, the sanctimonious religious bigot Huckabee, the bullying obnoxious Christie, the whiny, self-righteous, religious extremist Carson, the shameless liar Fiorina, the anti-gay extremist Santorum, and the warmongering, fear mongering Graham.
For the rest (Bush, Rubio, Kasich, Paul, Perry, Pataki, Gilmore) I want to see them lose of course, especially in the general election, but seeing and hearing them does not immediately set my teeth on edge and I can tolerate them being around for awhile.
The wild card is of course Trump. He is arousing some of the worst elements of xenophobia and misogyny in the population. The only benefit he provides is to bring those things out into the open rather than using code words and because he does this, he serves a good purpose by throwing the Republican race into chaos, roiling the party establishment and the big money backers, and undermining some of the other awful people who may have a better chance of winning the presidency. While his winning the Republican nomination seems to be too ridiculous to contemplate, the fact is that there seems to be a lack of plausible scenarios by which he is pushed out of the race. His staying in the race may serve a good long-term purpose as long as he does not win the presidency himself.
I find it hard to imagine that I had to actually write that last qualifier. While I have come around to the idea that Trump as the Republican nominee was not out of the question, have we come to this, that a Trump presidency is actually seen as a real possibility? Jon Lovett, writing as if it is around the year 2020, explains how Trump won the presidency and what happened afterwards.