Some thoughts on the state of the 2016 GOP primary race after the two-day Republican Leadership Summit in New Hampshire:
1) Marco Rubio is clearly enjoying a moment. He is relaxed and funny in front of crowds, flying high after a well-received campaign announcement. In addition, Rubio appears to be winning growing support among some GOP establishment figures and opinion makers – the ones who worry about Jeb Bush’s dynastic problem, fear Scott Walker is not ready for prime time, and have given up on Chris Christie. But Rubio has to convince other Republicans who worry that he is too green for the top job, and he still has his record to contend with, when opponents take a very close look at his signature achievement, the Senate-passed Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill.
2) Scott Walker is steadier on his feet. The Wisconsin governor seemed a little wobbly for a time after his quick rise to GOP frontrunner following a similar Republican cattle call in Iowa in late January. Now Walker seems a little more comfortable, and his record of standing up to his state’s powerful Democratic-dominated public-sector unions has huge appeal among Republicans. But he still has to go beyond that record, to convince Republicans he has the knowledge and skills to apply his courage and determination to problems in Washington.
3) Chris Christie is poised to re-emerge after a number of early death pronouncements. There is a reason people liked the New Jersey governor before he became mired in the bridge scandal. Once a favorite of a lot of establishment GOP poobahs, Christie went down, down, down after problems at home and his decision (hesitation?) to hold off on campaigning while rivals got the jump on him. But Christie has an undeniable appeal to voters on the stump, and now that he is finally out on the stump, they’re getting a chance to see it. Look for his stock to rise.
4) Jeb Bush is a solid candidate running a solid campaign, but he is still stuck explaining why he is his own man and why another Bush should be running for president. Maybe he should just get on with it. Voters will work out the Bush issue in their own minds; Jeb’s job is to make the best case why he would be the best president. It might not work – the Bush problem might be insurmountable, given Republican voters’ intense yearning for something new – but Bush’s best option could be to campaign as his own man without continually reminding voters that he is his own man.
5) Ted Cruz is still Ted Cruz. A solid part of the Republican base likes him a lot, but it’s unclear how he would grow beyond that group.
6) Rand Paul’s appeal is as solid as ever, and his potential to transform himself into a general election candidate is as limited as ever.
7) Mike Huckabee doesn’t have the freshness that appealed to so many Republican voters in 2008. He’s as polished as ever – maybe even more so – but can he satisfy that voter desire for newness?
Read more at the Washington Examiner.