Decision 2016: Presidential Primary Power Rankings

The 2016 Presidential race is already underway.

November 2016 may be nineteen months away, but it is never too early to analyze the field of potential successors to President Obama. With the first candidate already declaring his intention to run for President, and several more expected to announce soon, this article will rank the potential candidates based on how likely they are to secure their respective party’s nomination for President.


The Democratic Primary: Primary or Coronation?


The biggest question about the Democratic primary so far has been, “Who will step up and challenge Hillary Clinton?” Unlike the GOP, the Democratic Party has very few members who have expressed interest in running for president in 2016. Hillary Clinton is seen as the clear front runner, and opposition has so far been very limited. This has concerned Democratic strategists who worry that the lack of a primary will leave Clinton unprepared for a bloody fight in the general election. The following are my power rankings for the 2016 Democratic Presidential Primaries.


1. Hillary Clinton: Ex Senator From NY- 

Strengths: Hillary Clinton benefits from widespread name recognition, and a powerful political machine built by Bill Clinton’s successful political career. The biggest issue for most candidates in primaries is a lack of popularity and name recognition, people often don’t know who they are, and so they get little support outside their hometown base. For Hillary Clinton this is not a problem as she is known by most American’s and is highly popular among Democrats.

Hillary Clinton’s greatest strength so far has been her ability to limit opposition in the primaries. She has the widespread support of establishment Democrats and few people have lined up to take her on. By limiting opposition, she can save money to spend during the general election.

She can also avoid having to withstand attacks from fellow Democrats, a problem often faced by Republican candidates. Her next strength is that she has great political experience. Having served as First Lady, U.S Senator, and U.S. Secretary of State, she will no doubt point to her experience as a key reason why she should receive the nomination for President. Her final big strength Is her ability to raise money. Hillary Clinton is a prolific fundraiser who has accumulated money that will be necessary to win the nomination. In an electoral age dominated by money, Clinton has a wide edge. She will likely outspend any opponent in campaign ads and marketing. All in all, Clinton is the Goliath in the race for the Democratic nomination in 2016.

Weaknesses: Hillary Clinton’s biggest liability so far has been herself. She has recently been the subject of a couple of scandals, the most recently involving her tenure as Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton while Secretary of State, used a personal email for government business, and then wiped her served and deleted her emails. Before that she was also criticized for accepting donations to her foundation from foreign governments. These scandals caused her to slip in favorability polls, but she has plenty of time to recover. Another weakness is her relative lack of appeal to the liberal wing of the democratic party. She has failed to gain the support of most liberals in the Democratic party, something that could come back to bite her if progressives convince Elizabeth Warren to run. Remember, Hillary Clinton was the favorite in 2008 but upstart grassroots candidate Barack Obama pulled off the upset, showing she is not unbeatable. Her final weakness is one she shares with Jeb Bush, her last name. The prospect of another Clinton turns off some voters who are hesitant to vote in another family dynasty.

Polls- The Real Clear Politics poll average has Clinton winning 60% of the Democratic Primary vote, a huge margin.

Campaign likelihood- Clinton recently purchased an office to use as her headquarters in Brooklyn Heights, NY. She is expected to announce her candidacy in the next 2 weeks.


2. Elizabeth Warren- Senator from Massachusetts:

Strengths: Elizabeth Warren’s greatest strength, should she run, is her popularity with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. She has become the darling of the left during her time in the Senate because of her constant attacks on Wall Street and big businesses. She has clearly positioned herself as an alternative to the relatively moderate Clinton. Much like Barack Obama in 2008, she has the potential to run a grassroots, high energy anti-establishment campaign. At the very least, a primary campaign from Warren would force Clinton to shift to the left so she not drive away liberal voters in the general should she win.

Weaknesses: Her attacks on Wall Street and big businesses could be a weakness as she would not receive much needed donations from those sources. Warren has already caused some banks to cut back donations to the Democratic Senate campaign fund. Given her smaller base, it would be hard for Warren to match Hilary Clinton’s spending power.

Polls: The Real Clear Politics average has Warren polling at about 12%, one point behind VP Biden.

Campaign Likelihood- Warren has repeatedly said she will not run for President in 2016. However liberal groups have continued to push her to run. It seems unlikely that Warren will run.


3. Vice-President Joe Biden- Ex-Senator from Vermont, current VP

Strengths: VPs are a common choice for Presidential nominations after the incumbent President has served two terms. Biden can point to his experience in the White House, as well as his long service in the US Senate to show that he would be experienced enough to be President. Biden also has a good character that helps him appeal to voters. His charismatic personality may help him secure some much needed votes if he runs.

Weaknesses: As Vice President, he would likely run on continuing Obama’s policies. If Obama’s policies remain unpopular and voters want change, it will help against Biden

Polls: The Real Clear Politics average has Biden polling at 13%, good for second behind Hilary Clinton.

Campaign Likelihood- Biden has publicly stated that there is a possibility he could run for President. He stated he would likely not decide until summer. However his lack of campaign preparation suggests he will probably not run.


“Break out your prayer books and pray for a miracle” candidates:

4. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)- 4%

5. Ex-Sen. Jim Webb (D-PA)-1%

6. Ex-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD)- 1%


The Republican Primary: Primary or Circus?


There is no lack of candidates who wish to receive the GOP 2016 Presidential nomination. The GOP faces a similar problem to that which it faced in 2012, a circus primary. With as many as 9 potential candidates receiving support in a recent Public Policy poll, the GOP primary has the potential to get ugly. Here are my GOP primary power rankings.


  1. Scott Walker- Governor of Wisconsin 

Strengths: Walker’s main strength is he is electable. Walker won three elections in four years as a Republican in a blue state which voted solidly for Obama twice. Walker is also the only Governor to have survived a recall election. Walker is seen as a candidate which can be the bridge between the establishment GOP, and the conservative wing. Walker also has the strength of being a Governor, the chief executive of his state. Walker has used this in speeches to show he would be an able leader of the country. Walker has shown skill in his speeches, delivering passionate, teleprompter-free talks which have resonated well with audiences. He has already showcased his conservative record while in office in Wisconsin, something very important in the more conservative GOP primary.

Weaknesses:Walker has flip-flopped on key issues such as immigration. It has been widely reported that Walker supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants while he was Milwaukee county executive, something that is a deal breaker with steadfast conservatives. He has since acknowledged changing his position on immigration, and has also been criticized for apparently changing his position on Federal Ethanol Mandates in order to please the voters of Iowa. Flip-flopping will be Walker’s biggest weakness as the debates begin and his views are further questioned.

Polls- Waker leads the Public Policy poll with 20% support.

Campaign Likelihood- Walker has hired a staff and made moves consistent with declaring a campaign. Walker 2016 is almost a sure bet.


2. Jeb Bush- Ex-Governor of Florida

Strengths: Jeb Bush has the strength of broad establishment backing, as he appears to be the moderate standard bearer. He is a good fundraiser, and like Clinton, has broad name recognition. He, like Walker, can point to experience running a state as Governor as proof he would make a good president. Bush also has the strength of holding a moderate position on issues like immigration and Common Core, he appeals to voters who believe the GOP must nominate an appealing moderate if they have any chance at winning in the General.

Weaknesses:Bush has two main weaknesses, the biggest being his name. Two Bushes have already gone through the White House, neither of which did a very good job and neither of which is very popular. Bush will have to run with the shadow of George Bush’s foreign policy and George H.W Bush’s one term presidency. The American people do not want a political dynasty and this will hurt Jeb Bush. His second weakness is his moderate policies, yes it’s both a strength and a weakness. Bush has angered many conservatives with his immigration polices, and if conservatives can finally consolidate around one candidate, he is in big trouble. The GOP primaries tend to be more conservative so that will have Bush at a disadvantage.

Polls: Bush polled at 17% in the Public Policy poll, he is in second place behind walker.

Campaign Likelihood- Bush has not declared but he formed an exploratory committee and is expected to announce his candidacy soon. He is also a sure bet to run.


3. Ted Cruz- Senator from Texas

Strengths: Ted Cruz has the strength of being the first candidate to declare his intention to run for President. This has allowed him to dominate the news and headlines, giving him much needed publicity. Cruz also has the strength of appearing to be the standard bearer for the conservative, Tea-Party backed wing of the GOP. Cruz has been blistering in his attacks and criticisms of Obama, specifically on immigration and ObamaCare. Cruz has been a vocal opponent of Obama’s policies and has not been afraid to buck even GOP leadership. He is also a very talented speaker that can fire up a crowd. This could all cumulate in Cruz riding a grassroots conservative wave to the nomination. Cruz won his Senate race in 2012 by way of an upset over an establishment backed candidate in the Texas GOP primary. So Cruz has experience fighting as an underdog.

Weaknesses:Cruz has a negative image. He took much of the blame when the Government shut down after his long speech on ObamaCare. He is seen as unreasonable and unwilling to compromise by many. Many GOP voters do not think he is capable of wining a general election, and so they hesitate to support him. His biggest weakness is having to overcome the bad first impression he made on the American people He also will struggle to expand support outside of his conservative base.

Polls: Cruz checked in at third with 16% in the Public Policy poll.

Campaign Likelihood- Already Declared.


4. Rand Paul- Senator from Kentucky

Strengths: Rand Paul has the strength of inheriting his father’s grassroots, Libertarian leaning, energetic base. Rand Paul has pushed Libertarian policies like relaxed drug laws, to appeal to younger voters. He has also made serious efforts to reach out to the African-American community, a bloc that typically votes overwhelming Democrat. His more broad appeal has helped him rise as a viable pick for many conservative voters who think Ted Cruz is too far right, as well as moderates who think his libertarianism makes sense.

Weaknesses: He has been criticized often for flip-flopping on foreign policy. He has been strongly criticized for abandoning the non-interventionist libertarian foreign policy of his father, Ron Paul. Paul will have to fight to define himself and stand out in the crowded field. He will have to figure out how to expand his support while not alienating his libertarian base. This was what limited his father’s success, inability to spread his support.

Polls: 10% support in the Public Policy poll.

Campaign Likelihood- Expected to announce on April 7th


5. Marco Rubio- Senator from Florida 

Strengths: Marco Rubio hails from the ever important state of Florida and he has been a constant critic of Obama’s foreign policy. His experience as a Senator and his Hispanic background could help him try to stage an upset campaign.

Weaknesses:Rubio’s stock crashed when he co sponsored immigration legislation in the Senate that was decried as amnesty by conservatives. His poll numbers tanked, and despite saying he’s learned better and changed his views, he has not been able to recover.

Polls: Polled at 6% in the Public Policy poll

Campaign Likelihood- Expected to announce April 13th.


“Break out your prayer books and pray for a miracle” candidates:

6. Dr. Ben Carson (R)- 10%

7. Ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR)- 6%

8. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ)- 4%

9. Ex-Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX)- 3%


“2016 – 2016 Democratic Presidential Nomination | RealClearPolitics.” RealClearPolitics. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.

“Cruz Enters Top Tier of GOP Hopefuls.” ‘Public Policy Polling’ Web. 7 Apr. 2015.

“Exclusive: Upset by Warren, U.S. Banks Debate Halting Some Campaign Donations.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 27 Mar. 2015. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.

“Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Signs Lease for Brooklyn Heights.” NY Daily News. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.


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