Larry Sabato’s Updated GOP 2016 Presidential Primary Tiers…

Marco Rubio has been added to the top tier this month….

Our new ranking of the GOP contenders features a number of changes. In our first tier, “The Leading Contenders,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is now second and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is third, a reversal of their previous positions. The second tier, “The Outsiders,” has been reduced to just Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, with Cruz now ranked ahead of Paul.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich now leads the third tier, “The Governor Alternatives,” with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry ranked second. They both move ahead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Rejoining our list is Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who slots in at the tail end of that group. The new fourth tier, “Evangelical Favorites,” contains former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Dr. Ben Carson, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; the trio previously made up latter part of the second tier. Lastly, our old fourth tier is now the fifth tier, “The Gadflies and Golden Oldies,” and its order is unchanged.

First Tier: The Leading Contenders
CandidateKey Primary AdvantagesKey Primary Disadvantages
Jeb Bush
Ex-Governor, FL
•Conservative gubernatorial resume
•National Bush money and organization, has already raised huge sums
•Personifies establishment, which typically produces GOP nominees
•Bush fatigue is real
•Support for Common Core and immigration reform
•Personifies establishment, which grassroots loathes
Marco Rubio
Senator, FL
•Dynamic speaker and politician
•Potential appeal to party insiders and outsiders
•Went left on immigration, hurt him with base
•Increased stature in field will attract opposition attacks
Scott Walker
Governor, WI
•Heroic conservative credentials
•Checks boxes for many wings of party
•Already clear he’s not next Pawlenty — getting serious attention and early momentum
•Needs to raise mountains of $
•Criticism of legal immigration might scare party’s business wing
•Does lack of college degree matter? (We don’t think so)
•Needs to prove he knows foreign policy
Second Tier: The Outsiders
Ted Cruz
Senator, TX
•Dynamic debater and canny, often underestimated politician
•Anti-establishment nature plays well with base
•Hard for anyone to get to his right
•Too extreme?
•Disliked on both sides of the Senate aisle
•Strong Tea Party support ensures establishment resistance to candidacy
Rand Paul
Senator, KY
•Strong support from libertarian and Tea Party wings
•National ID and fundraising network; benefits from father’s previous efforts
•Hawks, rather than doves, in vogue in current GOP
•Association with out-of-mainstream father
•Might also be losing some of his father’s support by moderating


One thought on “Larry Sabato’s Updated GOP 2016 Presidential Primary Tiers…”

  1. Pretty much agree with this list.

    My only quibble is that I actually would rate Snyder,Huckabee and Santorum ahead of Jindal.

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