This is not the primary we thought we would be having. But it’s the kind of primary we should have expected.
Every four years, Republican voters hope to get a new candidate vetted by debate and campaign who articulates conservative principles, recommends conservative policies, and demonstrates the qualities of a leader. Instead, we get one of the also-rans from last time.
Trump ran before. It was a joke, and over quick, but he did it. He got his name out there. He got a sense of how the game was played. So now he’s back and sucking the air out of the room. He may bully his way into the nomination. He may even troll his way into the White House (the Democrats are that weak). But what kind of President would he be? God alone knows. I won’t vote to find out.
What I wanted was a Governor with teeth, who had belligerently put forward the kind of policies that excite me. Who had a record of trimming Leviathan’s claws without apology. Rick Perry was such a fellow. So was Scott Walker. Now, I cast about for the candidates and I struggle to care. Below, a List of the Remaining, and whether I could vote for any of them.
- Jeb Bush. The Mitt Romney of 2016. The Establishment choice. Would he be better than any Democrat? Yes. But no more than his father and brother were, and I don’t think the party needs any more of that. No.
- Dr. Ben Carson. He seems a decent bloke. He’s got a soft-spoken demeanor that appeals in small doses. He gives good quote. But he just doesn’t seem Presidential. But that’s a very subjective standard, and so I withhold judgement. Maybe.
- Chris Christie. I used to love this guy. He was the kind of frame-shifting bellicose Republican whom more should be like. But now he seems less bellicose and more bullying. I question whether he’s really conservative or just plays one in New Jersey. And he sold us out in 2012. Maybe not deliberately, but he sold us out. I won’t trust him, and I won’t vote for him. No.
- Jim Gilmore. Who? Does this guy really have the guns for this? Is this a serious candidacy? Or his he trying to put a chit in for 2020? Maybe, I guess?
- Ted Cruz. The Brain in the race, and arguable the last true conservative standing. Maybe now he starts making some real moves. So far I’ve respected his strategy of staying out of Trump’s way and letting other chumps go after him. But I feel like he may need to take a few casual swipes just to remind people he’s in this. However, his policy statements are impeccable, and he’d make the Left furious. Yes.
- Lindsey Graham. Speaking of sellouts. Lindsey Graham reminds me of a stupider Bill Clinton. He’s not fit to lick Ted Cruz’s shoes, and he’s nobody’s idea of a President. No.
- Mike Huckabee. What is this, his third race now? Does this man not get hints? Does God need to write the words “THIS COUNTRY WILL NOT ELECT A MAN WITH A HILLBILLY SURNAME” in the sky before he stops? He’s only a social conservative, anyway. He’s never had a chance, he never will, and I’m not going to bother pretending otherwise. No.
- Bobby Jindal. I like Bobby Jindal. I really do. Maybe he’ll get Scott Walker’s spot in the big-kid debate. But he’s never quite risen to the occasion as a candidate. I feel like this is the next bit of scrim under the rudderless Trump bus. But if he somehow managed to overcome the odds? I could see no reason to refuse him. Yes.
- John Kasich. He’s not exactly what I had in mind, but he might do. Maybe he’d have some crossover centrist appeal. And maybe he’s just a poorer Jeb Bush. Maybe.
- George Pataki. Please. This guy stopped being a figure in national politics ages ago. He couldn’t win his home state if he gave out free gravy fries. This is a vanity run. No.
- Rand Paul. I was kind of hoping that this guy would be the saner version of his dad, that he would articulate the Libertarian vision in a way that GOP primary voters could get behind. Instead he’s chosen to focus on picking unnecessary fights, and then fight them poorly. That doesn’t bode well for the one-time Most Interesting Man in Politics. Yes, but Who Are We Kidding?
- Marco Rubio. The worst thing about Maro Rubio is he may end up the best bet Conservatives have. I can totally foresee a scenario under which we’re rallying behind this guy in South Carolina or Georgia or something to stop a juggernaut. I suppose I could hold my nose to vote for him, but only if he does something impressive. Otherwise he’ll just be a tanner George Bush. Maybe.
- Rick Santorum. Knock it off, Rick Santorum. You’re not going to win. Just because you were the last man standing against Romney last time doesn’t mean anyone wants to vote for you. See “Huckabee”.
- Carly Fiorina. It’s a measure of how well she’s done so far that CNN took the morning to swipe at her business record. So far, she’s the only one that’s tussled with Trump and come out on top. I have to respect that. It’s too early to tell yet, but she just might have what it takes. Yes.
So what does that leave us?
I will vote GOP without apology in 2016 for: Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina.
I can be persuaded to vote for: Ben Carson, Jim Gilmore, Jon Kasich, Marco Rubio.
I will vote Libertarian if faced with: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham Mike Huckabee, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump.
And if we remove the names of people who I don’t think have a prayer of getting the nod, that gives us:
Will Vote For: Cruz, Jindal, Fiorina
Could Vote For: Carson, Rubio
Nope: Bush, Christie, Trump.
Which means there are five scenarios under which I could care about GOP candidate, and three under which I will wash my hands of them.
I guess that means I’m no longer the guy who held his nose for Dole, Bush (the first time around), McCain, and Romney. But the campaign is young.