July 12th, 2020


Sorting The Republicans' 2016 Kingdom

Bill Whalen

By Bill Whalen

Published June 1, 2015

The GOP field continues to grow, by George (Pataki).

The GOP presidential field continues to swell, like Elvis' waistline in the 1970s.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki jumped into the fray on Thursday, a day after former Pennsylvania Sen. and 2012 contender Rick Santorum made his intentions known.

Does either candidate stand a chance of making it all the way to the nomination?

Don't bet on it. Pataki is the longest of long shots — he cut crime rates and taxes during three terms as head of the Empire State, but's also a Roosevelt Republican and social liberal. Santorum was the surprise winner in Iowa the last time caucus-goers voted. But this time around, it's a far more crowded field. There are at least three ways to sort the Republican candidates.

You can do it by national polls, such as this most recent one by Quinnipiac University.

Or you can look at what's going on in the early-primary, shaping/re-shaping states, such asthis CNN New Hampshire poll from earlier in May showing how various GOP contenders stack up versus Hillary Clinton.

Here's yet another way to divide the field: taxonomically — i.e., by the many phyla that exist within the political kingdom that is the Republican Party.

Here's my attempt at being a poor man's Linnaeus/Watson/Fleming and sorting the dozen-plus Republican hopefuls along more biological lines.

That would include:

Grow, Grow, Grow Your Boat. A group headed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Defining traits: lots of realpolitik speeches (at times, bordering on lecturing and scolding) about inclusiveness, outreach, making the party less monochromatic and the GOP brand less, shall we say, confrontational. In theory, this phylum is engineered to survive and flourish in both red and purple voting habitats. In Latin: Amici Latino

"State" Your Best Case. A group that features Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Chris Christie (though lately he's been more about national topics like entitlement reform), Pataki (he cites his record in response to 9/11), Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Defining traits: lots of talk about strong executive skills transferable to a leadership-starved Washington, banking on GOP voters' natural attraction to governors (Reagan, Bush 43) more so than sitting members of Congress (Dole, McCain). In Latin: Semper Provincials

Attack/Retreat. A group that includes Sen. Lindsey Graham and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Defining traits: the polar extremes of U.S. foreign policy as viewed through a Republican lens — no one rattles a saber quite like Graham (he think it's time for a new surge in Iraq), whereas the non-interventionist Paul would have you believe that it's his own party that paved the way for ISIS' land grab in Syria and Iraq (in his words, GOP hawks "created these people"). In Latin: Bellum Ostrichus Nukum Avoidum.

Got Them Blue-Collar Blues. A group that includes former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Defining traits: in addition to falling back on faith and moral code of conduct, candidates who, because they were raised in a working-class households in non-urban America, have unique insights into the economic and cultural concerns of everyday, church-going, abortion-loathing Fox-viewing Americans. Latin name: Paula Deena Maxima

Apple Pie/Humble Pie. A group that includes former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Defining traits: straight-talking candidates whose rags-to-riches lifestyles are the quintessential American dream — and whose dream is a Washington run by someone from the outside, with no governing experience. In Latin: Horatio Algera.

The Cochrane & Cockburn Crowd. In honor of Alexander Cochrane and George Cockburn (the British admirals who led the torching of the White House and U.S. Capitol in 1814), a group that includes Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and business mogul Donald Trump. Defining traits: bombast, bravado and the oft-stated belief that there are times when the only way to save the federal government is by blowing it up — the IRS, taxes, the Texas border, you name it. In Latin: Irritata Media Incredibla

So there's your Republican field.

Guess we could do the same for the Democrats. But given the low stature of Mrs. Clinton's rivals, wouldn't that be more like microbiology?

05/28/15: To Command Without Having Served
05/21/15: 2016: Do Looks Matter?
05/15/15: John Bolton's Swan Song

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Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he studies and writes on current events and political trends. In citing Whalen as one of its "top-ten" political reporters, The 1992 Media Guide said of his work: “The New York Times could trade six of its political writers for Whalen and still get a bargain.” During those years, Whalen also appeared frequently on C-SPAN, National Public Radio, and CNBC.