Meanwhile, last week, The Fix put together a good power rankings of the Republican candidates, so I figure it's time for me to get on the job, as well.
To put these together, I scored the potential candidates from 0-10 on a number of criteria.
Here's what I used to come up with the final scores.
Guillotine Test: If a candidate lived during a political revolution, would they be so unswerving in their political beliefs that they'd go to the guillotine before renouncing their ideology, or would they cut a deal to save themselves?
This measures "ideological conviction."
|Wheel of Fortune Score|
This measures "Likability."
|Michael Kors Test|
Michael Kors Test: My wife recently showed me the Michael Kors handbag section at Macy's. It probably covered 3/4 of the entire store.
Kors is like an attractive communicable disease -- it's taking over everything, one handbag at a time, and women LOVE his products.
The Michael Kors Test measures a candidate's "Appeal to Women", which is getting more and more important, considering Obama trounced Romney by 11% among women.
|The Unicorn Test (image credit: Energy Insider)|
This measures "Charisma."
|You lose 10 pts if you're in this picture (photo: Reuters)|
Is Your Last Name "Paul" or "Bush"? Test: Candidates will automatically score 0/10 if their last names are "Paul" or "Bush."
Swiffer Score: Swiffer leaves your hardwood floors shiny and smelling of lemon.
The Swiffer Score measures a candidate's "Freshness."
|Do you ever get mistaken for Rosario Dawson -- the Demographic Holy Grail?|
Do you realize how amazing that is? Bob Shrum, you cannot fail with this one!
To go a little deeper -- for political purposes, Hispanics are generally divided into Cuban-Hispanics and non-Cuban Hispanics, but Dawson manages to be both Puerto Rican and Cuban!
Thus, the Rosario Dawson Score measures "demographic appeal."
|Eric Schmidt, sinfully rich, globally connected (photo: Guillaume Paumier)|
Eric Schmidt Score = Schmidt is the executive chairman of Google who just sold $2.5 billion in stock options and recently went to North Korea, event though the State Department urged him not to. He's just a networker like that.
The Eric Schmidt Score measures "money" and "political connections."
|Does your political message resonate with men, women, the young and old?|
Pixar Score = Pixar is known for making "four quad" movies, which means they appeal to the young, old, men, and women.
Hence, a candidate's Pixar Score will reflect their "mass appeal" or "electability."
|Is your professional experience as richly rendered as this guy's?|
Robert Downey Jr Score: This is given to the candidate who's done as much, and done it as well as Robert Downey Jr.
The guy can do comedy (he was on the cast of SNL for one season), searing drama (Less than Zero), poignant biography (Chaplin, for which he received an Academy Award nomination), blockbuster superhero (Iron Man), and television ("Ally McBeal").
He's even sung on multiple soundtracks and released an album of original classical and jazz pieces that he penned himself.
Thus, the Robert Downey Jr. Score measures a candidate's "Professional and Political Record".
All right, with those categorizations in hand, let's do this thing....
1. Florida Senator Marco Rubio
As I was thinking about Rubio, the word "destiny" popped up in my mind, and then his youth came to mind, and I realized I'd made the phrase "Destiny's Child."
But really, Rubio's destiny seems to be the White House, and yet, he's still so young. In fact, almost too young to put at the top of the power rankings.
But Barack Obama forever squashed everyone's opportunity to call a presidential candidate young and inexperienced, because he was both when he ran for president.
And by 2016, Rubio will have gobs more experience than Obama in 2008 (In fact, future presidential candidates can use this template whenever anyone questions their experience: "__ had more experience than Barack Obama when he ran for president", and it'll probably be true).
So if people play fair on this one, they won't focus on Rubio's youth but instead his vitality -- just as they did with Obama.
Now... let's figure out why Rubio is topping the rankings.
What Rubio has: Brains, Charisma, Looks, Story, Youth, Hispanic, Connections, Star Power, Battleground state, Eloquence.
What Rubio doesn't have: He's never been a governor, and he's short.
When you look at it that way, he obviously hops to the top of the rankings.
However, there's still a big "however" looming over Rubio's future, and it's not clear yet whether it's a positive or negative: IMMIGRATION REFORM.
There's no one with as much to lose on immigration reform as Rubio.
Sure, Paul Ryan can agree with Marco on immigration, but he's not the one who has to stand up there with Menendez, Schumer, and McCain, and forever risk the photos.
|Will this picture haunt Rubio? (photo: J Scott Applewhite/AP)|
Jeb Bush can agree with Marco on immigration, but it doesn't cost Jeb anything, because grassroots conservatives already don't like him.
Same thing with Chris Christie. He can move to the middle on immigration, but his supporters wouldn't care.
But, according to polling, Rubio's strongest supporters are the "very conservative", and that group is likely to be the strongest opponents of immigration reform.
So if anyone tells you that Rubio is motivated purely by politics, they're either rank partisans or totally uninformed.
Immigration reform is an enormously courageous thing for Rubio to take on.
In fact, if it weren't for this issue, it would be nigh impossible to find a crack in his armor, but with it, you can the wheels start to unwind in Iowa.
Suddenly, it wouldn't just be about Rubio's heresy on immigration, it would also be about his use of a state credit card and his ties to Rep. David Rivera.
There'd be a spike in stories about illegal immigrants who drive drunk and kill law-abiding American citizens. Someone might even play a tape of Rubio speaking Spanish (gasp!).
So really, immigration reform is the huge X-factor in all this.
Wheel of Fortune Score: Rubio is likable, but only when he tries to be, and remembers that politics is about seduction more than it is persuasion.
In fact, in politics, you can't persuade until you've seduced.
Rubio is very good at the latter, but only when he makes a conscious effort, and moves away from College Republican Mode (hereby defined as college Republicans' precocious and relentless tendency to corner you at parties and talk about freedom and liberty while you just want the liberty to drink with your buddies and talk about PEDs).
When Rubio realizes he needs to turn on the charm, he can be very charming. In time, he'll settle into a lethal groove of seduction and persuasion, but right now, he needs to continue growing.
Rosario Dawson Score: Marco practically invented the category for the modern GOP.
He and Susana Martinez were elected at the same time, but Martinez came to power in New Mexico which is kind of like Arizona but way worse, and isn't a center for anything that matters nationally, except atomic bombs (Its most recent political import, Gary Johnson, flubbed badly in his presidential race. You might even say he "bombed").
Republicans have known for awhile that Hispanics were a looming threat to their electoral existence, and so immediately earmarked Rubio as turnaround artist. That put a remarkable amount of pressure on him from the get-go, but it also moved him up the ranks far more quickly than a young, white guy like Aaron Schock.
Junkies and the smart set often point out that Rubio is a Cuban Hispanic, and since he doesn't have Mexican ancestry, well, he might not do well with Hispanics.
That's bunk. Total bunk. Remember, George W. Bush was white, spoke Spanish, and worked to forge stronger relationships with Hispanics. And they rewarded him at the ballot box.
Why wouldn't they reward Rubio -- a guy who's actually Latino, speaks fluent Spanish, and is at the forefront of immigration reform?
No, to me, the obligatory and relentless emphasis on the distinction between Rubio as a Cuban and most American Hispanics as non-Cuban, is generally an effort to gin up conflict and add nuance to a story where there is none.
Rubio is a political demographer's dream, but the 10/10 on the Rosario Dawson is reserved for a candidate we'll talk about later.
The Unicorn Test: This test was made for Rubio -- provided he doesn't lose too much more hair, because really, if you ride a unicorn with a rainbow and sun behind you, you have to have flowing hair.
The left lodges plenty of complaints against Rubio, but you rarely hear them knock his ability to inspire.
There's no other candidate, on right or left, who can use the overwrought cliche "dream" as though it really meant something you're sad to wake up from.
There are lots of good reasons not to dream in this world today, but Rubio makes you think it's possible again. If Disney ran a candidate, they'd run him or, maybe, Jasmine.
Then there's this -- early in Rubio's run for Senate -- when Charlie Crist was destroying him and outspending him about 100:1, someone snarked that you can't win a Senate seat by tweeting. At that point, Rubio had turned into a habitual tweeter and, often, that seemed the only way to get his message out.
But his story, his tweets, his ideology were so compelling that eventually the masses started following his unicorn.
Michael Kors Test: You can't start a conversation about his appeal to women without mentioning yesterday's Senate vote, wherein Rubio registered a "nay" on the Violence Against Women Act.
There will, of course, be four years of demagoguery over it, highlighted by stuff like this, in particular, but let's hope that in four years time, we have time to read why he voted "nay" and won't perpetuate the idea that he's an Eminem song.
On the face of it, Rubio should have strong appeal to women. He talks about community, about family, about education, and about how all three intersect to create a strong business or society (in other words, he sort of does a muted version of Obama's "you didn't build that" comments).
So his message seems appealing to female voters.
That being said, the truest judge of a candidate's appeal to women comes at the ballot box, and Rubio didn't fare particularly well among Florida women in 2010.
In fact, his two opponents in the general election, Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek, scored 56% of the female vote, while Rubio took just 44%. And 2010 was a VERY Republican year.
How underwhelming was his performance with women? Well, he did 1 percentage point worse with women than Rick Scott did the same year. That's simply awful.
So I'm torn on this -- on one hand, Rubio's message seems appealing to women (not to mention his dark, good looks), but on the other hand, he couldn't even improve upon Rick Scott's score.
Is Your Last Name "Bush or Paul?" Test: No, he's not named Marco Bush or Marco Paul; therefore, he gets full credit on this one.
Swiffer Score: If you were mopping the floor with a Swiffer, would you want Marco Rubio at the end of it?
If you were remaking the party into one man's message and story, would you want it to be Rubio's.
Rubio is 41 years old and until last night, most hadn't even heard of him. In fact, quite a few Republicans haven't, either.
In fact, a December PPP poll found that 38% of likely GOP voters hadn't heard enough of Rubio to form an opinion of him. That was considerably higher than the 24% who said the same about Jeb Bush, the 23% who said the same about Mike Huckabee, the 19% who said the same about Condi, the 17% who said the same about Paul Ryan, and the 30% who said the same about Rick Santorum.
In other words, Rubio's name is the freshest among what's generally considered the top tier of GOP candidates.
And if he's fresh with that group, he's pure grapefruit to the vast majority of Americans.
Now, here's why Rubio doesn't get a 10/10 on freshness. He's not quite as innovative or original a thinker as Bobby Jindal or Jeb Bush.
Save for on immigration, you don't really hear Rubio saying much of substance that's new, and maybe that's because he's spent his life as a legislator and not as an executive.
But still, he's as fresh as the GOP could hope for.
|Would Rubio stand firm in the face of Elizabeth Warren's Republican purge?|
Guillotine Score: Okay, so imagine this.
Elizabeth Warren takes over the Senate Banking Committee and, high on her power, orchestrates a bloodless coup, takes command of the armed forces, and decides to send Republicans to the guillotine unless they renounce their beliefs (an improbable, but possible scenario).
Would Rubio compromise?
I actually think he would.
Rubio is conservative but even though the Tea Party fueled his win, he's not a natural tea partier. As Speaker of the Florida house, he was much more a member of parliament than a mouthpiece for passion.
But, as fate had it, he happened to be a) much more conservative than Charlie Crist and b) the only way grassroots activists could send Crist to his uncle's farm. Thus, Rubio became a tea party champion.
But, in reality, Marco is a conservative with pragmatic instincts who will invariably disappoint some tea partiers along the way as he tries to balance the demands of a GOP presidential primary with those of a general election.
Immigration is already proving to be choppy waters, and there are loads of tea partiers who think he's selling out.
So yes, if Warren threatened him with that guillotine, I'm quite confident Rubio would strike a deal to avoid its gleaming edge, although Warren would have to give a little, as well.
Eric Schmidt Score: Marco doesn't have a ton of money.
In fact, when he was speaker of the Florida House, he charged multiple, personal items (e.g. repairing his family's minivan, grocery bills etc) to a credit card given to him by the state Republican party.
Rubio later paid off those bills, but he freely admitted that it "looked bad."
The point of the story is that Rubio isn't a rich guy, and he can't dip into personal wealth to help fund a bid.
Instead, he's going to have to rely on big donors and, importantly, the army of grassroots donors that helped fuel his upset of Charlie Crist.
The question, though, is whether big money donors are more likely to gravitate toward Chris Christie or Jeb Bush if they see the two as more viable general election candidates. The other question is whether Rubio's army of small dollar donors will disappear in the wake of immigration reform.
Now... Eric Schmidt isn't just merely about money, he's also about connections, and while Rubio's made some important ones, he lags behind Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal, who are heavily involved with the RGA (Jindal is the current chairman; he'll give it up to Christie next year).
Rubio isn't up for reelection until 2016, so he can spend the 2014 cycle stumping for GOP candidates, but my guess is that both Christie and Jindal have earned more political chits than Rubio and are more seasoned fundraisers, at this point.
Pixar Score: Here's Rubio's money category -- he can speak to the dreams of the young, seniors' nostalgia for a better America, new immigrants' hopes, the vitality of small business owners, and the fears of those who've landed on bad luck.
I wrote about all that here, but suffice it to say that no one tops Rubio on this one.
Robert Downey Jr. Score: Rubio has more experience than most give him credit for, but not of the quality you get from Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, or Jeb Bush.
To most, Rubio's experience begins with his career in the Senate, but he ascended to speaker of Florida's state house before that, burning his political skills along the way.
Nevertheless, Rubio has never been a governor, and he doesn't have much (any) private sector experience.
If you march down the list of potential '16ers, the following all have more accomplished resumes: Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Susana Martinez, Jeb Bush, Mike Pence, John Thune, Kelly Ayotte, John Kasich, and Bob McDonnell
In other words, practically everyone.
SCORE : 4/10
RUBIO'S FINAL RAW SCORE: 78/100.
2. Chris Christie
Let's quickly consider why Christie shouldn't be this high.
a. He's not nearly as conservative as the other top Republicans in the race.
b. He stepped on GOP toes with his Obama-love, Boehner bash, and increasing penchant for hammering the ones that he'll need to elect him.
c. He'll always be one explosive gaffe away from disqualifying himself.
d. As he runs for reelection in New Jersey, he might have to move even further to the center. Of course, he won't lose reelection, but he might have to soothe independents and Democrats to assure himself a second term.
Those are all big weaknesses.
But here's why Christie's so special.
He could quiet and destroy every single one of those weaknesses with one spectacular riff in a debate, with one exchange in a raucous New Hampshire townhall, with one smackdown of a media darling.
Then there's this.
People often say Christie is too moderate to win the nomination and that Republicans will never accept him.
Tell that to George H.W. Bush, tell that to Bob Dole, tell that to John McCain, tell that to Mitt Romney. All of those guys were moderate and, reportedly, unacceptable to the base.
Christie is no more liberal than McCain, Romney, or Dole, and he's far better at playing conservative than all three.
Simply put, Christie's ideological unorthodoxies are unlikely to keep him from the nomination.
Keep in mind that Republicans will have been out of the White House for eight years. If they were desperate to beat Obama in 2012, they'll be even more desperate to win in 2016, and that means they're likely to move in the direction of the most electable candidate.
I personally don't think Christie is the most electable, but my opinion doesn't matter. What matters is whether donors, the media, voters, and consultants think you're electable, and Christie will likely come out on top there.
Wheel of Fortune Score: He's an incredibly likable guy.
In 2012, his approval rating never dipped into negative territory, he's getting scores of Democratic lawmakers to endorse him, is cool enough for Mark Zuckerburg's approval, got Steven Speilberg to call him a hero, and manages to do all that, while being pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and anti-tax.
What's his secret sauce? Likability.
He even admitted as such two summers ago when he called himself "huggable and lovable" -- a claim Mika Brzezinski tested and verified.
The Unicorn Test: Unlike Marco Rubio or Hillary Clinton, he might not look great on a Unicorn, but the "go forth and fight" speech he'd give while atop the unicorn would be better than anyone else's.
We saw him on a unicorn, post-Hurricane, and while plenty of politicians were galloping in to save the day, Christie's approval rating on handling Hurricane Sandy was higher than Barack Obama or Andrew Cuomo's.
Michael Kors Score: One of the most widespread political myths is that Christie's abrasion turns off most women, but there are no empirics to back that up.
His current numbers have been inflated by the hurricane, but even before the 'cane, he was scoring well with women.
In fact, last summer a Farleigh Dickinson poll put his net approval with Jersey women at +11%. Another poll over summer put him at +5% with women, another at +9%, another at even, and a Quinnipiac survey put him at +17% with women.
And, again, all those polls were taken BEFORE the hurricane. In fact, I couldn't find a poll released in 2012 where his approval rating with women was negative.
Having said that, Jersey women have been able to see, over time, that Christie's bombast doesn't extend to slightly veiled misogyny. But in the course of a presidential campaign, don't bet on those distinctions being made, particularly because the media is already growing fond of the Christie Turns Off Women meme, and Democrats will only be too happy to steer the conversation that way.
Thus, regretfully and thanks to narratives that are already being built, I have to score him lower than he deserves on the Michael Kors test.
Is Your Last Name "Bush" or "Paul" Test: No, his name is Chris Christie; not Chris Paul (though that wouldn't be a bad name) or Chris Bush.
Swiffer Score: There's no more refreshing politician on the planet than Christie.
If he runs for president, you can imagine a million "Love him or hate him, he's one of a kind!" stories, pumped out in what would be the greatest boon for the media since Sarah Palin.
Currently, most voters have some idea of Chris Christie, but they haven't seen the full guy yet, which was most charmingly on display when he frankly admitted he wasn't ready to be president in 2011, pulled out a doughnut on David Letterman's Show, and once told a protester at a townhall, "Damn, man, I'm governor!"
But my favorite Look, Chris Christie is being a Swiffer! moment came in May 2011 when someone asked what he'd do about high gas prices.
"I'm not answering the gas thing, 'cause, heck, I don't know. I don't know what I'd do, and if I decided to run for president, I'd have to come up with an answer.
But I'm not running for president, so I'm not going to worry about what I can do about gas taxes, and I could make up some answer, but I'm not going to do that for you.
You know what that is? That's no regular Swiffer.
That's a Swiffer Sweeper Heavy Duty with a cloth head that's 1.5x bigger than the normal Swiffer.
Rosario Dawson Score: This is where Christie runs into a little bit of trouble.
He's a white male, and no one wants us white males at the top of their tickets anymore. Christie's only saving grace? At 50 years old, he doesn't really qualify as an old, white male.
But if Democrats nominate Hillary, once again, the GOP will be sending a white male against a more desirable demographic. And demography is destiny.
Guillotine Score: You might not immediately guess it, but Christie isn't a cinch for Elizabeth Warren's guillotine.
He's actually flipped on a fair number of things, despite passing off as a guy who won't flinch when the political guillotine comes.
In the past, he supported a draconian, state assault weapons ban, supported abortion, even donated to Planned Parenthood, and morphed on the environment.
Now, there's nothing wrong with changing your positions (his conversion on abortion seems heart-felt and real), but Christie doesn't have a record on unswerving allegiance to conservative principles.
Thus, you could easily see him making a last-minute deal to spare himself from the guillotine at the expense of his ideology.
Eric Schmidt Score: Wealthy donors were famously pining for Christie throughout the 2012 primary season, and some huge names only ponied up for Romney once it was clear Christie wouldn't run.
Money won't be a problem for him. Big dollar donors like his brand of conservatism, they think he's electable, and he'll have no problem rocking fundraisers.
He's also golden on the connections part of the Eric Schmidt score.
Once he's presumably reelected in 2013, he's scheduled to become chairman of the Republican Governor's Association. From that perch, he'll crisscross the country, stumping for candidates, raising money for them, and earning political chits.
Pixar Score: Theoretically, he should be appealing to just about every age group. Young people will love his Bullworth approach to politics, old people will also love his refreshing candor and tough love shtick.
In fact, it's hard to see a demographic where Christie wouldn't play well.
One potentially thorny issue, though, are evangelicals, who play a big role in the primary.
They might not appreciate his occasional obscenities, his past apostasies on abortion, and his dog-eat-dog attitude, best displayed in this 2011 quote.
"I'm not one of those politicians who thinks that because I'm in public office, I have to be nice all the time.
If you're not nice to me, I'm not going to be nice to you."
Robert Downey Jr. Score: So what's Christie's record like? Well, he was considered a top prosecutor until he became governor (that's not obvious, at all), so that gives him some experience outside of elected office.
But there's considerable debate over his gubernatorial record. Bears point to the fact that the unemployment rate hasn't fallen since he assumed office, and The Star-Ledger notes that his claims about the state's improving jobs situation is "mostly bunk."
Meanwhile, GDP has been fairly erratic. It jumped nearly 6 percentage points from 2009-2010, but the Jersey economy actually contracted -0.5% last year.
That being said, he's done a splendid job at reforming the bloated pension system in the state, as well as staunching the growth of government in the state, which was putting severe stress on the budget (read Noah Glyn for more on this).
New Jersey is a state where it's tough to have a good record. But Christie has picked a few fierce battles and emerged the winner.
The proof is, really, in the electoral pudding, and that record has him on his way to a blowout reelection in a very blue state.
CHRISTIE'S FINAL RAW SCORE: 78//100.
3. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez
The only question with Martinez is whether she wants to run, and from the sound of this interview, she seems to be keeping an open mind.
When you assume she's going to be in the 2016 hunt, it's suddenly very hard to see why she couldn't be a top-tier player and possibly the nominee.
After all, when 2016 rolls around, she'll have served as a state's chief executive for six years and attorney general before that.
And one more thing -- she's an underdog and will be perennially underrated throughout this whole process.
One small example? At the 2012 RNC convention, Condoleezza Rice absolutely blew the roof off the place with a stirring speech that had people openly lamenting that poor Susana Martinez had to follow her.
But Martinez took the stage, apparently oblivious to what had just happened, and delivered a no-nerves address that was scintillating in its own right.
Of all the potential candidates on the Democratic side of the race, Kirsten Gillibrand is the most severely underestimated. For the Republicans, it's Susana Martinez.
Wheel of Fortune Score: At various points in her two year tenure as governor, Martinez has ranked as the most popular governor in the country.
Last September, she scored a 69%/17% approval rating, including an unbelievable 56%/24% number with Democrats.
A newer poll showed her maintaining much of that strength with a 64%/32% approval rating.
Keep in mind what voter registration looks like in the state. Registered Democrats make up 48% and registered Republicans just 32%. That's a 16 percentage point Dem advantage, and yet Martinez is making it work.
In short, Martinez has proven immensely likable, and yes, if she's spinning that wheel, you want her to win the cruise.
Unicorn Test: Martinez could easily gallop across the lines in a unicorn -- a tough, short unicorn but a unicorn nonetheless.
She's been a leader from the day she was born, her grandmother called her "La Abogadita" for her feisty ways, she was the student body president of her high school, and averred that one day she'd become the country's president.
|Martinez has focused on education as governor and child safety as a former DA|
Michael Kors Test: We all know women won't just vote for a woman because she's a woman.
But the fact is that it can't hurt, and beyond the fact that Martinez is a woman, it's easy to see why she could appeal to women.
As Attorney General, she focused heavily on prosecuting child abusers, and in 2008, Heart Magazine voted her "Woman of the Year" for her work in that department.
As governor, she's focused on education, which is particularly important to female voters, and she's also shown a bit more moderation on healthcare, pushing for everything from the expansion of Medicaid to accepting the ObamaCare mandate for state-based health insurances.
Simply put, there's not a single Republican '16er who rocks the Michael Kors test quite like Martinez.
She's a woman, yes, but more importantly, she also talks passionately about issues that are important to women.
Is Your Last Name "Bush" or "Paul" Test: No, her name is not Susana Bush or Susana Paul; thus, she gets the full 10/10 here.
Swiffer Score: Most haven't heard of her. In fact, 65% of likely GOP voters don't know enough about her to form an opinion.
That has its downsides -- namely, it's hard to raise your profile when you're 1) a governor from a fairly obscure state and 2) don't have much personal wealth.
But the upside is that she's enormously fresh. With Martinez as nominee, no one could say the GOP hadn't turned a significant page.
She's also got the refreshing candor of Chris Christie but a tenderness beneath her fairly brusque political persona.
In short, she's not a creature of Washington, which is sometimes helpful when you're trying to move into the city's most important house.
Rosario Dawson Test: A common knock on Rubio is that he's of Cuban and not Mexican descent.
But Martinez's family is from Mexico, and her great grandfather supposedly fired the first shot in the Mexican Revolution!
Hispanics are, of course, the hottest political demographic right now, and women are the second hottest demographic.
With Martinez, you get a Hispanic female. That's huge. It's practically Rosario Dawson herself.
You know how many female, Hispanics the Democrats have on their presidential list? None.
If she doesn't become the party's nominee, you can bet Martinez will get plucked for Veep. You just don't pass up a popular, female, Hispanic governor with a great record.
Guillotine Score: It's hard to get a sense of how strong Martinez's ideological convictions are because she was fairly apolitical in her role as DA.
Moreover, she hasn't served as a legislator in any capacity, so it's tough to gauge how she reacts to political winds. Her concession on the state-based health exchanges suggest some give, though.
That being said, she's shown a lot of moxie in vigorously pushing to make it illegal for illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses in the state. Leftish groups have said she risks alienating Hispanics with the move, but there's no evidence, at all, that she's turning them off.
And then there's this -- both for better or worse, Martinez was absolutely unmoved when some questioned whether there was a conflict of interest when Martinez was DA and her husband an undersheriff who worked on many cases that then went to Martinez.
Martinez dismissed the criticism, even though it was potentially politically explosive. Now -- that says nothing about her ideology, but it does suggest that she's not easily bullied, and when you're not easily bullied, you're less likely to compromise.
Eric Schmidt Score: This is where Martinez really struggles, because she's really nothing like the Google guy on many scores.
She grew up in a working class neighborhood in El Paso, Texas, and mixed it up with her friends and neighbors from an early age and worked security at her family business.
Schmidt, on the other hand, was born in Washington D.C. to a professor of international economics at Johns Hopkins University. He went to Princeton for college, and after that, picked up a PhD at Berkeley and went on to do all the Google stuff.
Martinez, meanwhile, got a law degree at the University of Oklahoma and went to work as a prosecutor in New Mexico.
But if Martinez is a bit thin on personal wealth, she's also a bit thin on political connections. Sure, she showed up at a high dollar Executive Roundtable at the RGA's meeting last year, but that's not enough to get tongues wagging. And she was fairly quiet on the national front during the 2012 cycle, and hasn't exactly taken significant steps to insert herself into the conversation, post-November 6.
If she's going to run for president, Martinez needs to raise her national profile. She's already got a Super PAC, but she's geared it entirely toward local affairs.
In 2012, you could maybe come out of nowhere and compete for the GOP nomination. But in 2016, there are too many strong candidates who've been running nationally for too long to give a darkhorse much oxygen.
Pixar Score: She appeals to everyone. Republican men will love her gun-wielding ways and women will connect with her efforts on education and children's issues as attorney general and governor.
The young will appreciate her zip, the old will be surprised at how tender she can be. Conservatives will like her streak of individualism, centrists will admire her pragmatism, and
Robert Downey Jr. Score: She's got strong experience and a strong record.
Her imdb looks like this -- Assistant District Attorney, Deputy District Attorney, District Attorney (elected three times!), and Governor.
Meanwhile, her body of work is strong and was ably laid out by Andrew Romano last year: $150 million in spending cuts, an extension of corporate tax cuts, streamlined regulations, increased local control of schools, and a Houdini on the state's budget.
When she entered office in 2010, the state faced the largest structural budget deficit in history. Last year, the state ran a $250 million surplus. The unemployment rate has also fallen during that time from 8% to 6.4%.
So again, great record, but it would look better if she'd done it in a state with a massive economy.
MARTINEZ TOTAL RAW SCORE: 78/100.
4. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
Wheel of Fortune Score: We've all seen wonky guys like Jindal win Wheel of Fortune, and we always sort of sneer,"Why don't you just go play Jeopardy or something?"
Jindal is nice, but he doesn't smile and enjoy the moment. He doesn't scream "Big money, big money" on Wheel of Fortune, because he knows that won't make you big money, so why scream it?
Bobby has his fans, no doubt, but you always hear them admire his intellect; not his personality.
In fact, have you ever heard someone say "That Jindal is kind of dumb, but he sure lights up the place"?
It's possible that the country will be so rotten that it opts for the guy who's a bit weird but oh, so smart.
But 2012 confirmed, once for all, that extraordinary likability will always trump extraordinary competence in presidential elections.
Unicorn Test: While Jindal isn't particularly likable, you don't have to be likable to ride a unicorn and get a bunch of elves, dwarfs, and gnomes to follow you.
The strength of your plan, the strength of your cunning, and the strength of your will can inspire others, and Jindal is particularly good at planning, scheming, and overcoming, and he's been a savior of sorts for Louisiana, which is -- by nearly every measure -- better off since Jindal came aboard.
In fact, Jindal's been so successful that he could probably gin up a plan to remake Blockbuster and get Warren Buffett to plunk down $5 billion on it.
If he you can get Buffett to pay $5 billion on Blockbuster, you're riding a unicorn.
Michael Kors Test: After the election, Bobby Jindal wrote a buzzy op-ed about how women should have access to birth control, over the counter.
It's a great idea, but other than that, I can't see why he'd be particularly more effective at reaching single women than his GOP peers.
Sure, he's been innovative on education, but the teacher's unions hate him and, as such, Jindal is susceptible to the charge of being "bad for our country, bad for our schools, and bad for our children" -- as you can easily imagine a defiant teacher proclaiming in a 30 second attack ad.
At a personal level, female voters also tend to respond to warmth. It's one of the reasons Mike Huckabee scores unusually well with women and why Sarah Palin never did.
Huckabee dropped teddy bear bombs. Palin dropped real ones.
Jindal just isn't a warm guy, and it's hard to see how he could fix any of the party's woes with single women.
Is Your Last Name "Bush" or "Paul" Test: No, his name is not Bobby Bush or Bobby Paul; thus, he gets full credit on this category.
Swiffer Score: If you were mopping the floor with a Swiffer, would you want Bobby Jindal at the end of it?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
Since the election, Jindal's unleashed all his bright citrus powers on the political landscape, firing off repeated warnings about just how old and stale the GOP brand and message has become.
He's been preaching a type of intellectual populism, something that Ben Domenech has talked about. Over the next four years, nearly all of the good, innovative Republican ideas will come from Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal.
Rosario Dawson Score: There isn't a huge Indian-American population in the U.S (about 1%) and most live in decidedly blue states., but just by virtue of the fact that Jindal is an ethnic minority, he scores points on the Rosario Dawson scale.
The Republican hope is that other ethnic minorities will respond to Jindal's ethnicity and, out of positional solidarity, inch closer to the GOP.
That makes a lot of sense, and Jindal could probably make a symbolic dent in the GOP's problems.
Guillotine Score: At first you might think he'd score well, because he uses his mind to approach nearly every issue, and when you reach those positions via your mind, it's hard for a rationalist to let go, and he is a rationalist.
But he's also a realist, and realists tend to look at guillotines and say "That thing can actually cut my head off. Maybe I should rethink school vouchers if that keeps me alive."
I actually think Jindal is more pragmatic than people assume and would strike a deal with the people in the French Revolution.
Most recently, I've been a little surprised by his maneuvering on the state budget, which strikes one of political convenience. Instead of making some hard choices, he's using budgeting tactics so he doesn't have to, legally, cut spending. The only thing is that it might be illegal to do what he's doing, so that's why some fiscal hawks in the House have filed suit.
Regardless, Jindal is committed to many core principles at a theoretical level, but at a practical level, he's proven more flexible than you'd think. That's why I think he ultimately cuts a deal with Elizabeth Warren to avoid the guillotine.
Eric Schmidt Score: Jindal has proven himself an exceptional fundraiser, and is the type of guy who raises otherworldly sums of money even when he doesn't come close to needing that money (In 2010, John Thune pretty much set the standard for this when he raised $6.5 million dollars and ran unopposed for reelection).
Jindal raised $13.9 million for his 2011 reelection bid, even though he never had a credible opponent and ended up winning with 66% of the vote.
What's more, Jindal spent tons of time raising money and stumping for Republican candidates in 2012, and as the new chairman of the Republican Governor's Association, he'll be heavily involved in stumping for candidates and collecting all the implied privileges therein.
Jindal might seem like a wonk who spends all night studying chemistry books, but in reality, he knows just about everyone in school.
There are only two, other candidates with stronger Eric Schmidt scores -- Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. But just by a hair.
Pixar Score: Jindal's message can sell, yes, but can he personally sell it?
I'm not sure.
The power of one's ideas can only set you on the right path to the promised land. The power of one's person gets you to the promised land.
In short, I can't imagine voters saying "You know what -- that guy's weird, but I like his ideas, so I'm going to vote for him."
That internal conversation just doesn't happen in America, and it's getting scarcer and scarcer, which means things are getting scarier and scarier.
So yeah, Jindal wrote a strong movie, but is he the right actor?
Robert Downey Jr. Score: He's done everything, and he's done everything spectacularly well.
At 20 freaking years old, he graduated with honors from Brown University with majors in biology and public policy.
His then went to Oxford, where he picked up an M.Litt in political science. He was named Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals at 24 years old. He became President of the University of Louisiana system at 28 years old!
After serving in the Bush Administration, he came back to Louisiana, lost a run for governor, won a congressional seat, and finally became governor in 2007.
As governor, Jindal passed historic ethics legislation, reduced his state's budget by nearly 30%, cut the unemployment rate to 5.8%, passed the largest income tax in history, pushed through some pretty epic education reform, and is in the midst of working to eliminate the state's personal income tax.
Which begs the question -- has Jindal ever failed at anything in life?
Has he ever missed the toilet? I honestly don't think so. After reading Jindal's resume, I think you can make a credible case that he's never missed the toilet.
JINDAL'S TOTAL RAW SCORE: 70/100.
|Photo credit: Vallery Jean/Getty|
5. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
The drop-off from the top four to Jeb is steep.
It's easy to imagine Rubio, Christie, Martinez, and Jindal winning the nomination.
It's much, much harder to imagine Jeb doing it.
Consider the headwinds.
If Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton, Republicans are faced with the specter of another Clinton vs. Bush.
Sure, they're both throwback names, but as a matter of political strategy, that's like putting Windows 3.1 against the Sistine Chapel's stained glass.
There's no way Republicans will ever do that.
There's no name that puts the "old" in Grand Old Party like "Bush". It's a name that cost the GOP the 2006, 2008 and 2012 elections, and there's nothing to suggest it could win a 2016 election.
And here's the deal -- I think Jeb knows all this.
Yes, he wants to be president, but he doesn't want to be the Bush that couldn't even win a GOP presidential nomination.
His dad won the presidency, his brother won the presidency, what if he couldn't last beyond South Carolina.....How badly would that hurt?
So why's he #5 in the power rankings and not #12?
Well, here's Jeb's one path to the nomination.
The primary looks like it could turn into two battles.
In the "moderate-liberal" war, you have Jeb Bush vs. Chris Christie. In the "conservative-very conservative" fight, you have Bobby Jindal vs. Paul Ryan vs Marco Rubio.
Christie is favored over Jeb, but there's always the chance he could self-destruct.
Under that scenario, Jeb would immediately seize the mantle of the "Electable Republican", and there would be all sorts of stories about how thoughtful, measured, and moderate Jeb is compared to that trio of "scrooge, far-right, science-denying, exorcism-loving radicals" (Ryan, Rubio, Jindal).
That inevitable rush of stories (and their crushingly depressing memes) might then push the big money into Jeb's camp, along with mainstream Republicans who've suddenly been scared by those who perpetually warn the GOP about nominating scary candidates.
Sure, grassroots conservatives will never get on board with Jeb, but they never did with Romney, either, and that ended up not mattering.
So yeah, under that scenario, Jeb could win.
Wheel of Fortune Score: Jeb is likable enough -- soft-spoken and thoughtful. But he's got none of the back-slapping likability of his brother or Bill Clinton.
If he spins the big wheel, I don't want him to land on bankrupt, but I'd still probably flip the channel to TMZ to watch the ceaselessly entertaining Harvey Levin.
America won't fall in love with Jeb, just like they didn't fall in love with his dad. They did, briefly, fall in love with his brother, but Jeb is much more like his dad than his brother.
The Unicorn Test: There are some leaders you follow just for the sake of following them. It doesn't matter where you're going just as long as you're going in the same direction as that leader.
Jeb's not like that.
He rides in on a unicorn, promising things thoughtfully but without great urgency or passion. In fact, strike that. He doesn't ride a unicorn. He rides a 12 year-old race horse that broke its leg in the 2003 Kentucky Derby, and is now on a TV reality show about ex-race horses who take tourists around cobbled roads in old town Williamsburg, Virginia.
The Michael Kors Score: Jeb's got the right temperament to connect with women. When he speaks, it's thoughtful; when he's passionate, he's never bombastic.
Further, he's made a cottage industry the past four years, hammering the GOP for being too shrill and acrid. That "play nice" attitude is often appealing toward women, and especially if it's contrasted with other Republican bomb-throwers (Having said that, there really isn't a single bomb-thrower in this top 5, is there?).
Jeb's also been a passionate advocate for education reform.
Of course, anytime you try reforming education you're subject to the scorn and slander of the teachers unions, but Jeb has a bit more immunity on this than his fellow reformer, Jindal.
After all, both Barack Obama and Arne Duncan have praised Bush's work on the issue, and outside a few radicals in the teacher's unions, Bush's reforms have proven tremendously popular in Florida.
So overall, Jeb gets high marks on this measure. One small negative, though? His wife tends to abhor politics and wives are becoming increasingly important on the campaign trail as a means of connecting with other, female voters. Jeb might miss that benefit.
Is Your Last Name "Bush" or "Paul"? Test: Yes, Jeb's last name is Bush. Uh oh.
Swiffer Score: As the question goes, if you were mopping the floor, would you want Jeb Bush's face on the pad, cleansing and shining it up?
Well, yes and no.
The yes is that Bush is a creative, political thinker who doesn't tolerate soundbite ideology and soundbite wars.
The no is that Bush is a Bush, and it's not easy to freshen a party's image with the defacto face of the party for the past twenty years.
Rosario Dawson Score: Jeb Bush is a white Republican over the age of 60. There's nothing demographically attractive about that unless you're running for office at The Villages in Florida.
What's especially brutal? He's a white Republican over the age of 60 who just happens to be a Bush, as well!
In short, the Swiffer Score and Rosario Dawson Score, working in concert, could be enough to sink his entire candidacy, or -- in more practical terms -- dissuade him from even running.
Guillotine Score: Jeb is American royalty so this analogy strikes closer to home for Jeb than others.
I spent quite a few minutes thinking about the following question: If Jeb and George W. were led to the guillotine in the French Revolution, which one would try harder to strike a deal to save their necks?
George just wants to have fun in life, but also seems more stubborn and self-assured in his convictions than Jeb. He'd stare down the brutal mob and go out in glory.
Meanwhile, Jeb seems more beholden to decorum and family nobility, but is also more likely to shift and play pragmatic.
It's a real brain-teaser (beats Cranium, anyway), and I really don't know the answer.
Regardless, conservatives don't really trust Jeb and for good reason -- he's not as conservative as they are, and before we get too detailed, even he doesn't really think he belongs in modern conservatism!
During the 2012 primary, he said, "I used to be a conservative, and I watch these debates and I'm wondering 'I don't think I've changed', but it's a little troubling."
So would Jeb go to the guillotine for his ideological beliefs or cut a deal?
Well, a governor gets things done -- even if they're not done exactly how they want.
|Jeb's Eric Schmidt Score is scary good (photo of Schmidt: Guillaume Paumier)|
Eric Schmidt Score: This is where Jeb really rocks it.
He has a lifetime of political and professional connections, forged by his family's time in the White House, his tenure as governor of Florida, and his vast array of business ventures and enterprises.
What's more? None of his friends really live below the poverty line. They're influential, smart, and enormously rich.
If there's one compelling argument for Jeb's candidacy, it's his Eric Schmidt score, and when someone rocks it out here, they just might rock themselves to the White House.
In fact, Jeb's Eric Schmidt score is so high that I'm going to give him extra credit.
Pixar Score: Jeb scores well with mainstream Republicans -- both young and old -- and also with more liberal Republicans.
But he struggles mightily with the grassroots. Part of that is ideological, but most of it comes from his blue blood and the fact that conservative activists feel they've been burned by two Bush presidencies.
To wit: grassroots conservatives continually vent about all the Bush appointees who've turned into wishy-washy duds. How many times have conservatives heard that some activist judge who just overturned an entire election was a "Bush appointee"? Lots and lots.
In other words, it's not just about the Bush presidencies, it's also about the Bush ecosystem. It's kind of like Apple, actually. The Bush ecosystem has given the party Karl Rove, the current bete noire of conservatives, Colin Powell, and David Souter.
So, yes, I think the hostility toward Jeb is so profound that there's a certain, passionate swath of primary voters who'll forever hate him. The question is whether that might be contagious and extend to more mainstream Republicans.
Jeb does, indeed, have a message that can win. But in the case of both a primary and general election, the messenger is the problem.
Robert Downey Jr. Score: He's got an impressive record and experience in business, politics, public service, and charitable activities.
Florida thrived while he was governor (the GDP grew from $420 million to $800 million when he left office), and he fundamentally reformed its educational system.
Professionally, he's done a little bit of everything. Real estate. Part owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Owner of a Panamanian footwear company. And there's much more.
But there's a cost to all his doings.
Any time you're involved in multiple business affairs with lots of money and greedy people, you're only about five inches away from a CNBC American Greed special (my new favorite show, by the way, if only because it makes me less sad that I'm a writer earning $0/hour right now).
Regardless, Jeb's got more of the right kind of experience than any other GOP candidate, and yes, even more than Hillary Clinton.
If you're looking for a president with a vast array of impressive experience, Jeb is your pick.
TOTAL SCORE: 52/100.
So those are your Top 5 GOP candidates. It's hard to imagine a GOP nominee that doesn't hail from this list of five.
Yeah, controversially, Paul Ryan isn't on the list, but I don't think he wants to be president, and even if he did, I don't think he'd make a very good candidate.
Meanwhile, Rand Paul will never be able to overcome his last name or the fact he's a white, male Republican from Kentucky. There are just too many other strong candidates without those massive liabilities.
On the bubble: Paul Ryan, Bob McDonnell, John Kasich, Kelly Ayotte, John Thune, Mike Pence, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Nikki Haley, Rick Santorum, and Ted Cruz.