Goodbye, Mike Pence!
It continues to amaze me — no matter how long I cover this stuff — how quickly fortunes can change in national politics. Ten days ago, the Indiana governor was seen as a possible dark-horse presidential candidate in 2016, the sort of guy who could appeal to social and fiscal conservatives, had ties to Washington and/but was now a governor.
Today, the Republican is radioactive after botching the signing of Indiana’s religious freedom law and its aftermath . Rather than spending the next few months — or years — stoking talk about his prospects on the national stage, Pence and his team now have to spend all of their energy rehabbing his image in the state so he can win reelection in 2016.
Given that, we are taking Pence off our list of the 10 Republicans we consider most likely to wind up as the GOP’s presidential nominee against Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumed Democratic standard-bearer in 2016. He is replaced in our rankings by former Texas governor Rick Perry, who, if you are looking for a long-ish shot that no one is really talking about but has at least a puncher’s chance at the nomination, might fit the bill.
10. Perry: The former governor has an economic record in Texas that should be political gold. Of course, we said the same thing in 2012. Speaking of 2012, that’s Perry’s biggest problem: Can he convince Republican voters who watched him implode three years ago that he deserves a second chance?
9. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: Jindal is trying to find an issue on which he can break through and get more people to pay attention to him. He seized on the Indiana fight last week to go on a conservative talk-radio binge to proclaim himself the one true candidate in the developing race who has been on board with this issue for more than a week. Early returns would suggest that it didn’t take.
8. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee: Few Republicans were as vocal in support of Indiana’s religious freedom law over the past week as Jindal and Huckabee, who, of course, relies on the support of Christian conservatives and remains steadfastly opposed to gay marriage. That’s a nice niche, but we still haven’t seen him doing the things needed to put together a winning campaign.
7. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: No candidate’s fortunes have fallen as much as Christie’s have. And it’s not just in New Jersey. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last weekshowed that his unfavorable rating (41 percent) was slightly higher than his favorable rating (38 percent) . . . among Republicans.
6. Ohio Gov. John Kasich: Kasich leads! In Ohio! That’s the finding of a new Quinnipiac University poll , which shows Kasich ahead of all comers in his home state, with 20 percent of the vote. But that’s about the only poll in which you’ll see Kasich really register. For now, his candidacy is very much in the abstract. And with former Florida governor Jeb Bush in the race, is there really room for Kasich?
5. Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.): Cruz had to be absolutely elated with a Post-ABC poll that showed him running second in the GOP nominating contest , behind only Bush. Some of that rise is directly related to the coverage Cruz got by (smartly) being the first candidate to enter the presidential race. What remains to be seen: Can he expand beyond the 12-ish percent of the vote he’s likely to have right now in each of the early voting states.
4. Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.): Paul is expected to announce his candidacy Tuesday, which would make him the second major GOP candidate in the race, after Cruz. And these two have shown that they will tussle with each other .
3. Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.): Rubio will formally enter the race shortly after Paul — a week from Monday in Miami. Rubio seems to have concluded that he can raise the money he needs to mount a serious candidacy even with Bush in the running. And he has tremendous upside potential . The question is whether he turns into a star like Dirk Nowitzki or a bust like, say, Jan Vesely.
2. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: The Post-ABC poll showed Walker in third place, at 12 percent, but a new Fox News poll of GOP voters shows him in first place for the party’s nomination . What’s clear: His standing in the polls is pretty darn good for a guy who isn’t that well known. In fact, the 41 percent of Republicans who have no opinion of Walker in the Post-ABC poll is a higher figure than for any other major candidate.
1. Bush: The former Florida governor leads in the new Post-ABC poll, but he’s also got problems. The poll shows that 32 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents have an unfavorable opinion of him. Overall, his favorable/unfavorable split is 33/53 — 20 points underwater. There’s plenty of campaign ahead, but there’s something about Bush that is rubbing people the wrong way.
Aaron Blake contributed to this report.