Rand Paul has the biggest family problem of anyone in the 2016 field

September 3

A member of Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Tex.) family was in the news again Tuesday. Unfortunately for the senator, it was not his two adorable daughters, made famous when he read them a bedtime story during his anti-Obamacare filibuster last fall. Instead, it was his father, Rafael.

The headline at BuzzFeed: "Ted Cruz's Dad: 'The Average Black Does Not' Understand The Minimum Wage Is Bad." The elder Cruz made the comments at a Republican meeting in Wisconsin last month. Nor was this the first time Rafael Cruz had said things that some (or most) Americans might find unappealing; he's reached the point of having his controversial remarks gathered into collections.

Happily for Ted Cruz, though, he's not the only one with a family member who might not be an asset on the campaign trail. And with basically everything else about the 2016 field already on focus, we decided it was time to evaluate the extent to which each candidate's family might help or hinder his or her chances.

This couldn't be more subjective, so allow us to articulate the standards we applied. The first metric is how much of an asset or liability the member of the family is likely to be, on a scale of 1 to 10. The second metric: The extent to which the candidate or his or her opponents are likely to employ the family member on the campaign trail. We tripled the asset/liability score (to give it more weight) and added in the likelihood, giving us our totals.

And here they are, from family as biggest liability to family as biggest asset...



Ron Paul. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

13th: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
Score: -15

Pro: His father, Ron Paul
Asset: 4/10. Likelihood: 10/10

Rand Paul owes his current position -- at least in some small measure -- to his father having gone before him. His initial campaign for the Senate, as we've mentioned before, leveraged Ron Paul's relationships and base of support. It's clear that Rand Paul will again hope to tap into that base for his presidential race. That base won't be quite as vehement and energized as it was for Ron Paul, it seems safe to assume, but it will still be a boost.

Con: His father, Ron Paul
Liability: 9/10. Likelihood: 10/10

And then there's the flip side. Ron Paul's willingness to stand on the outer edge of political rhetoric is a key reason he earned that enthusiastic support, but it also means that he keeps saying things that his son might find embarrassing. For example, his proclamation recently that the government knew exactly what would happen on 9/11. Having himself run for president twice, Ron Paul is a pretty well-known name. That's not helpful for his son.


12th: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.)
Score: -13

Pro: His daughters
Asset: 5/10. Likelihood: 6/10

Come on, this is cute.

In general, we're assigning an asset score of 5 to any and all cute kids. (Far be it from us to judge how cute those kids might be in relation to each other.) On the likelihood scale, things get different for the candidates. As that tweet demonstrates, Cruz probably won't be shy about getting those cute faces in front of cameras.

Con: His father, Rafael Cruz
Liability: 8/10. Likelihood: 10/10

Which will help offset his father. Less well known than Ron Paul, he's slightly less of a liability, in our estimation. But his comments will certainly come up.



(AFP/Getty Images)

11th: Jeb Bush (R)
Score: -8

Pro: His parents
Asset: 4/10. Likelihood: 8/10

George H. W. Bush, like most presidents, has gotten more popular since leaving office -- not that he was terribly unpopular when he was president. Barbara Bush, Jeb's mother, isn't the subject of much polling, but you'd be hard-pressed to find people who aren't fans. A Jeb Bush presidential campaign would almost certainly feature his parents at an event or two.

Con: His brother, former president George W. Bush
Liability: 6/10. Likelihood: 10/10

… but perhaps not his brother. George W. Bush's approval has increased since he left office, too, but he remains a tremendously polarizing figure. If the 2016 race involves issues of foreign policy like the stability of Iraq or discussions of economic strength, having the last name "Bush" won't help Jeb very much.


9th (tie): Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-Md.)
Score: 0

Chris Christie and Martin O'Malley have very nice families, we are sure. But they don't have adorable little kids, and they don't have any exotic older relatives. So: It's a wash.



(AP)

8th: Hillary Clinton (D)
Score: 14

Pro: Her husband
Asset: 8/10. Likelihood: 10/10

Speaking of popular former presidents, Bill Clinton is revered by Democrats and his tenure as president widely seen as a recent high point in American history. There's a 100 percent chance he'll hit the campaign trail, hoping to remind America of the last time a Clinton was in the White House.

Con: Her husband
Liability: 9/10. Likelihood: 10/10

As with Ron Paul, though, Bill has a downside. He was impeached for his affair with an intern, as Rand Paul has noted. Like George W. Bush, Clinton is deeply polarizing -- and in 2008, he was likely more of a liability for Hillary than an asset -- especially when things got off the rails in South Carolina.

Pro: Her grandkid
Asset: 5/10. Likelihood: 2/10

Then there's that Clinton grandchild, Chelsea's upcoming progeny -- the revelation of whom prompted a lot of how-will-this-affect-Hillary punditry. And: Who knows? It's unlikely that the kid will spend much time on the campaign trail, regardless.


6th (tie): Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.)
Score: 17

Pro: Their kids
Asset: 5/10. Likelihood: 2/10

Cute young kids get the standard 5-point score.


5th: Vice President Joe Biden (D)
Score: 22

Pro: His wife
Asset: 3/10. Likelihood: 6/10

Jill Biden, the vice president's wife, is a teacher who has kept her job while her husband serves in the Obama administration. She's apparently well-liked, and seems perfectly charming. But that probably doesn't help all that much.

Pro: His sons
Asset: 1/10. Likelihood: 4/10

Biden's kids are more of a mixed bag. Beau Biden is the attorney general of Delaware. His other son is a lawyer; his daughter does social work. Nice enough, apparently, but Beau's political background probably waters down the extent to which Biden's kids will help the campaign. They didn't make many appearances in 2008 or 2012, with the exception of Beau's deployment to Iraq with the Delaware National Guard in 2008.

Con: His nephew
Liability: 0/10. Likelihood: 0/10

Joe Biden has a nephew who is a DJ. We mention that solely because it is funny, not because it affects 2016.


4th: Ben Carson (R)
Score: 25

Pro: His mother
Asset: 6/10. Likelihood: 7/10

Ben Carson's mother, Sonya, was one of 24 children.

That's not a typo. 24. She married young and had limited education, as noted in biographies of Carson, and worked long hours to make her young family successful. It's a case study in the sort of resourcefulness that Carson argues is needed from Americans, meaning that Sonya Carson's story will likely become familiar to 2016 voters.



(AP Photo/Courtesy of the Ryan Family)

3rd: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
Score: 27

Pro: His wife
Asset: 3/10. Likelihood: 4/10

Ryan's wife, Janna, comes from a family of Democrats, a point that was made not infrequently in 2012. But that family-level bipartisanship doesn't seem to have done much to help Ryan's chances in 2012.

Pro: His kids
Asset: 4/10. Likelihood: 2/10

Janna and Paul do have three fairly young kids -- but not aw-look-how-cute little. They didn't make much of an appearance in 2012, either.



(Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

2nd: Mitt Romney (R)
Score: 29

Yes, yes, we know -- Mitt Romney insists that he's not going to run. Be that as it may.

Pro: His wife
Asset: 2/10. Likelihood: 6/10

You met Ann Romney in 2012, if you hadn't already met her in 2008. Ann appears to draw a more polarized response than Jill Biden, probably thanks in part to her 2012 convention speech.

Pro: His grandkids
Asset: 5/10. Likelihood: 2/10

Romney's sons can be similarly divisive -- but his grandkids are adorable and plentiful. They didn't play much of a role in 2012, but, given that the population continues to grow (it's now at 22), who knows what might happen in the event of a third Romney candidacy.


1st: Rick Santorum (R)
Score: 32

Pro: His kids
Asset: 8/10. Likelihood: 8/10

In 2012, Rick Santorum's daughter Bella rose to national attention for her hard-fought struggle to overcome a significant chromosomal abnormality she has had since birth. One one occasion during the Republican primary campaign that year, she was hospitalized, prompting Santorum to stop campaigning briefly.

Bella is now 6, and a well-known part of the Santorum family. Santorum has other kids, too, and his family is regularly on the campaign trail, but Bella's story is a particularly touching one which Santorum mentions often.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He previously wrote for The Wire, the news blog of The Atlantic magazine. He has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily, and the Huffington Post. Philip is based in New York City.
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