We tend to rate candidates as being “first” or “second” tier based on their national recognition, their ability to raise money, and their propensity to capture a decent amount of support in any given primary poll. Now that Mitt Romney is out for 2016, what does it do to the field of candidates? Here is my own assessment, with which you’re sure to argue, of where we currently sit on the GOP side.

First Tier

Jeb Bush – As far as criteria goes, Bush meets all three. He’s got the recognition, the ability to raise money, and leads in many polls. He’s in the top tier without question.

Scott Walker – A new arrival to this level of national politics is Scott Walker. With mentions by Rush Limbaugh following a well-received speech in Iowa, Walker is now elbowing out a spot in the top tier. He’s got an ability to bridge the grassroots and establishment wings but my fear is he’s peaking too early and may get knocked down by other candidates.

Chris Christie – Barely holding on to this designation given his recent difficulties but he still maintains recognition, money in the bank, and good support in the polls. Plus, he’s an establishment favorite which could be the tie-breaker when it comes to fund raising.

Not Quite First Tier

Here is where it gets tricky and very subjective. I’ll lay out an argument for each candidate and you can feel free to dispute me.

Rand Paul – This is a tough one as Paul straddles the line. In fact, four or five months ago, I’d have called him top tier without reservation. However, the emergence of foreign policy as a brimming topic coupled with Paul’s inability to capture the limelight has bumped him down a notch.

Ted Cruz – Cruz could be arguably first or second tier depending on who you ask. He’s got a long way to go in terms of fund raising though he has massive Tea Party and grassroots support. His status is in limbo and could move up or down depending on how the race shakes out.

Marco Rubio – Rubio is close to brimming into the top tier status given how well he was received at the Koch brothers forum in January. Apparently he impressed many big name donors which would serve him well in the fund raising category. Unfortunately he misses the mark when it comes to the poll numbers right now.

Second Tier

Mike Huckabee – Huckabee meets many of the top tier criteria but I just can’t bring myself to put him there. He plays well in the south and some early primary states but he will have a tough time raising the money from big donors, which he proved in 2008. Due to that limitation alone, he’s peaked as a second tier candidate.

Ben Carson – Carson does well in many polls but his status as a non-politician and lack of recognition leaves him squarely in the second tier for now.

I didn’t mention Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal or John Kasich, because I see them bringing up the rear as a low second tier or third stringers. There are others as well but they’re barely cracking one percent of average polling so why waste the typing? Perry, Kasich, and Jindal have potential to move up in the field as time goes on.


  1. I’d say JEB and Rand are the only “tier” candidates. Christie and Huckabee are “tear” candidates. The rest are delusional “also rans.”

    • Clever.

      I think Rand is having a tough time at the moment. Perhaps the debates will give him a stage on which to shine but currently he’s getting lost in the shuffle and making unforced errors (e.g. vaccines).

      • Rand should have delivered a JEB message, that he would stand by some (any) ideals. Rand has been all over the place to pander to different constituencies, and he doesn’t seem to realize what it’s doing to him.

        As Dylan sang. . .

        “Now, the man on the stand he wants my vote.

        He’s a-runnin’ for office on the ballot note.

        He’s out there preachin’ in front of the steeple,

        Tellin’ me he loves all kinds-a people

        (He’s eatin’ bagels

        He’s eatin’ pizza

        He’s eatin’ chitlins

        He’s eatin’ bullsh*t!).”

      • I think Walker is too divisive as an extreme union-buster. While that’s popular with the base, it would not wear well during a long campaign,

        • But he won 3 times in Wisconsin, the birth place of employee unions. Michigan (!) just became right-to-work, Indiana, etc.. is it really that extreme? Many states are following suit to remain competitive.

          Much of the country (especially the south and mid-west) is entirely right-to-work and very hostile toward unions.

          Aren’t you the one who always says people like tough talk and action?

          • Sadly, I do think that is true. Most Americans would rather have a dictator than the annoying muddle we have in Washington. They don’t want to hear about issues–they don’t want to think, they don’t want to be bothered.

            During the Depression, many wanted FDR to just take over for the workers. Others wanted a fascist leader to put business leaders in control of everything (the very definition of fascism). Joe Kennedy famously said that he thought democracy was doomed, because it was so inefficient, at a time when Mussolini was making the trains run on time.

  2. The Taft Hartley was the beginning of the end for middle class Americans. Twenty four States use the right to work law. As a result, Right-to-work states do average job growth at twice the rate of non-right-to-work states. Companies come for the big profit that fill their coffer. Benefits for all workers are lessened.. It increases poverty for all working people. Low paid employees suddenly can’t buy the niceties of life. Can’t take vacations or buy that new car. Suddenly, told there is no longer a pension plan. North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana—are right-to-work states and they all have weak middle classes, with 60 percent of households below the national income average. It all adds up to Fat Cats and hungry babies.

Comments are closed.