Ground rule: I'll alternate between the Democratic and GOP fields, week-after-week. It's too much work to do report cards for both fields in the same week.
Ground rule: I'll hand out awards to the best pieces of commentary or reporting on each candidate each week.
One such award is an homage to one of the greatest riffers in cinematic history, Al Pacino's "Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade", and the other is an homage to Josephus -- the great 1st century Jewish historian who was essentially a fantastic reporter.
The Frank Slade Award is given to the best commentary; the Josephus Award to the best reporting.
Bottom Line: This is the toughest grade to hand out, because it's too hard to tell whether his increasingly visible role in negotiations will confer the halo of leadership or the thorn of inevitable compromise and the risks that brings to a primary.
a. Supports Rubio's immigration plan; makes key maneuvers.
b. Will keynote CPAC.
c. Emerges as point man in announcing possible short-term debt limit extension,, but to what end?
d. As key consultant to GOP in dealing with Obama.
e. Ryan pushes for debt reduction bill this spring.
f. Risks big grassroots wrath in negotiations -- particularly, in talking about "realities" of divided govt.
g. Speaks to the folks back home for first time since election.
h. Cosponsors House Personhood Bill.
i. AllahPundit's take on Ryan's support for Rubio's immigration reform.
"Josephus Award for Excellence in Reporting" to Robert Costa and Andrew Stiles for "Ten takeaways from the GOP retreat."
CHRIS CHRISTIE: C+
Bottom Line: Still picking battles with the base (in this case, the NRA). Still defending Obama. Still not good things to do for a GOP primary.
a. Picks another battle with conservatives, takes on NRA over Obama video.
b. Holds his 100th townhall meeting (over 30,000 have now attended!).
c. Thanks Alec Baldwin for hurricane help; Baldwin's wife beams.
d. It's looking more and more like powerful Dems might get behind his weak opponent, Barbara Buono.
e. Christie coins "violence control", claims it's more important than gun control.
f. Ryan Seacrest (!) follows Christie on Twitter.
g. Christie's rival, Barbara Buono, hires Obama media firm.
h. State business leaders hail Christie.
i. Base keeps beating him -- S.E. Cupp rebukes Christie for bashing House.
j. Christie whines about Time magazine cover for kind of stereotyping him as Italian mob guy.
k. He's looking more inevitable for a second term every day.
"Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade Award for Excellence in Commentary" to Aaron Blake for "Chris Christie is playing with fire."
BOBBY JINDAL: B+
Bottom Line: Cons are liking his tax proposals, but the lawsuit against his budgeting tactics suggests he's avoiding making some tough choices.
a. Suggests that Louisiana participate with feds on keeping severely mentally ill away from guns.
b. Karl Rove calls him a "serious" potential candidate for president.
c. Budget hawks in Louisiana accuse him of fiscal hijinks in budgeting tactics.
d. Might expand slash to eliminating taxes on oil and gas extraction.
e. Is Jindal's tax plan "upward redistribution"?
f. Claims Obama is "abusing his authority" on gun proposals.
"Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade Award for Excellence in Commentary" to Peter Ferrara for "Bobby Jindal Seeks Rich State Status with Income Tax Phaseout."
MARCO RUBIO: A
Bottom Line: Got important support on immigration reform from Paul Ryan. Gives Rubio some cover with conservatives, who are, btw, fairly keen on his plan, as well. Still, immigration reform is a risk, and Rubio's not immune to a base backlash of some kind.
Something helpful? He was visible and sharply critical of Obama over gun control, which helped protect his flank on immigration -- just in case.
a. Accepts invite to speak at CPAC.
b. Calls Obama gutless on Second Amendment.
c. Picks up key support from Bill O'Reilly on immigration reform.
d. Paul Ryan supports Rubio's immigration plan; they might team up on the issue.
e. Is his plan too close to Obama's for GOP primary voters?
f. Gets support from big conservatives for his new immigration.
g. His PAC isn't very generous.
h. Rebukes Obama for using kids at gun control presser.
i. Politifact backs him on a controversial claim about immigration.
j. Claims Obama is abusing executive authority on guns.
k. Rubio: Mass media hates Second Amendment.
l. Stands up to Colin Powell.
m. Writes op-ed on debt ceiling for USA Today.
n. Hires respected neo-con, Jamie Fly, as adviser on national security and foreign affairs.
"Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade Award for Excellence in Commentary" to Peter Roff for "Marco Rubio's immigration plan offers real promise."
RAND PAUL: A
Bottom Line: He, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz owned GOP criticism of Obama this week. Republicans wanted these guys to step up (well, wanted Rubio and Cruz), and they're immediately making an impact. Paul's only miss? His son's arrest. Will there be ongoing familial drama?
But his take on Israel -- more nuanced and mainstream than his dad's -- emerged, and sets him up as a more viable electoral option. Also, in Dave Weigel's interview with him, Rand Paul said "If I'm the mayor of Jerusalem", which is way funnier a sentence than he probably intended.
a. Rand: Christie's NRA slam won't "play well in a Republican primary".
b. RIPS Christie for throwing a "tantrum" over Sandy relief.
c. Isn't like his dad on Israel, impresses hawks.
d. Arm teachers.
e. Accepts CPAC invite.
f. Links ObamaCare with gun control (how brilliant is that for a primary?).
g. Warns Obama that he'll introduce legislation to nullify any executive action on guns that he feels goes too far.
h. Implies Obama wants to be "king."
i. Human Events gives him a "Rand Paul vs. King Barack I" headline.
j. AllahPundit is impressed with Paul's political maneuvering.
k. Likes the Iron Dome for the U.S.
l. Son embarrasses him pretty badly = 5L.
m. In interview, takes hypothetical role: "If I'm the mayor of Jerusalem".
"Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade Award for Excellence in Commentary" to Seth Lipsky for "Rand Paul's big Israeli surprise."
RICK SANTORUM: B
Bottom Line: Just another week in Santorum's four year campaign. A few overtures to his socially conservative base, but nothing to broaden his message.
a. Accepts invite to speak at CPAC.
b. Calls in to Tony Perkins on Roe vs. Wade anniversary.
c. Will speak at March for Life in DC next week.
d. "No to Chuck Hagel".
e. Fails to broaden his message or try to engage other portions of the base.
BOB McDONNELL: A
Bottom Line: Virginia continues to shine, McDonnell continues to steer it ably. The unemployment number is good, and the base will be pleased by his comments on guns for school officials.
a. Virginia hits its lowest unemployment rate (5.5%) since December 2008.
b. McDonnell urges House Republicans at retreat to focus on messaging and tone.
c. Want dialogue on guns for school officials .
d. Reaches deal with teachers group on education.
"Josephus Award for Excellence in Reporting" to Michael Martz for "VA. working with U.S. on health exchange."
TED CRUZ: A
Bottom Line: He's immediately become a visible player, and is emerging -- along with Rubio and Rand Paul -- as one of the fiercest young critics of the Administration.
a. Obama is "high on his own power" and "exploiting the murder of children".
b. Ted Cruz positions himself.
c. Thoughtfully explains why "47%" comments were so wrong.
d. Schumer, Cruz together on guns?
e. Unveils his new twitter account.
f. Cruz: Gun control backlash will give GOP Senate in 2014.
g. Talks tough on Levin's show.
h. Goes to Afghanistan.
If you're new to him, read this profile.
SUSANA MARTINEZ: A
a. Delivered her 2013 State of the State Address -- laid out base-friendly proposals that ranged from cutting corporate income tax rates to continuing her quest to make it illegal for illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses in the state.
NIKKI HALEY: A-
Bottom Line: Google's additional investment in the state is big, and Haley had a strong State of the State. But how significant will the political fallout from the hacking scandal be?
a. Delivers 2013 State of The State address and proposals -- further tax cuts, school reform, infrastructure developments, and opposition to gas tax.
b. Announces that Google is making a $600 million investment in South Carolina.
c. Haley acknowledges missteps on hacking scandal.
d. Has to talk about Mark Sanford.
KELLY AYOTTE: No Grade.
a. Undecided but critical of Hagel in prominent Fox Sunday appearance.
Okay, so now that we're done with that, remember next week, we'll do the Democrats.
Finally, each week, I'll reserve space at the end of this post for the best reader's email I get on the '16 race. It's a chance for you to weigh in and get however many paragraphs you need to make your point.
You can send it in to email@example.com, and only need to include your first name and favorite college football team, since this post is sort of a box score and report card, all in one. Thanks!
[Photo Report Card photo: Debt Relief NW.com]