The Final Four of the GOP Presidential Election

Barb Wire

We started with 17, and officially there are still more than a dozen candidates running for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. However, 90 days out from the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses, the race is really down to its Final Four on the road to next year’s convention in Cleveland.

In alphabetical order, either Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Donald Trump is going to end up being the Republican nominee for this reason. They are the only four candidates who have established the base of support, resources, and voter enthusiasm necessary to not only sustain their candidacies, but actually grow them.

Every other campaign is at a point of diminishing returns, and therefore simply marking time before accepting the inevitable—they’re not going to be the nominee. It’s just a matter of how and when they choose to bow out, but GOP primary voters have spoken and the process has rendered its verdict.

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages our Final Four has standing between them and the nomination.

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Ben Carson

ADVANTAGES—A potent combination of astronomical likability numbers to go along with this cycle’s cherished outsider status…top-notch fundraiser…growing bolder on the issues as the campaign goes on…the most inspirational figure in the field.

DISADVANTAGES—Appeared out-of-his-depth on the issues as a frontrunner in the last debate, not even knowing the details of his own tax plan…yes, he raises a lot of money, but he spends a lot of money, too…his national campaign team does him no favors at times and is the worst at messaging among the top contenders…his reserved persona can come off as socially awkward to some.

WHAT HE MUST DO TO BE THE NOMINEE—His outstanding organization in Iowa is top-notch, but it’s also well ahead of what he has on the ground in the other crucial early states. He also may have the toughest task to close the sale of them all—convincing voters he has what it takes to be commander-in-chief.

Ted Cruz

ADVANTAGES—Nobody has better campaign infrastructure across the country when you look at his grassroots fundraising base combined with his network of volunteers and organization…no candidate knows the issues better…appears poised to do what no one has been able to do since Reagan: coalesce the bulk of the conservative grassroots behind one candidacy.

DISADVANTAGES—While his prodigious memory serves him well when it comes to substantive policy, it causes him to sound too rehearsed and wooden at times as a candidate…not even his detractors doubt his courage of conviction, but even some of his admirers are concerned about his ability to connect with the larger pool of less conservative voters in a general election.

WHAT MUST HE DO TO BE THE NOMINEE—Convince conservatives, who tend to be squeamish about the electability of their more principled candidates, that he is capable of being a national standard-bearer.

Marco Rubio

ADVANTAGES—He’s probably the most overall gifted politician in the field…his combination of likability, youth, knowledge, biography, and empathy makes him an ideal general election foil for a Hillary Clinton nominee…has assembled a low-burn rate campaign that has allowed him to wait out Jeb Bush’s implosion as the establishment frontrunner.

DISADVANTAGES—His support for unpopular amnesty, especially his joining the loathsome “gang of 8” two years ago, continues to hang over his candidacy…has disappointed the grassroots so often he’ll have to rely on the establishment to get the nomination…his organization in the early states before his home state of Florida is lagging behind his primary competitors.

WHAT MUST HE DO TO BE THE NOMINEE—Convince the establishment he is the only candidate that would even return their calls who has a chance of being the nominee, and then find a way to win back enough conservative grassroots support to form a winning coalition.

Donald Trump

ADVANTAGES—He’s held the consensus top spot in the media polling for several months now because of his ability to destroy false liberal media narratives…as a multi-billionaire can self-fund a campaign with almost limitless resources in relation to his competitors…seems able to “adapt” his issue positions at-will and not have voters hold him accountable for it.

DISADVANTAGES—While he remains the media polling frontrunner, his overall lead has declined despite receiving much more media coverage than any other candidate…has drawn unprecedented crowds on the stump, but how many of those people are actual GOP primary voters as opposed to gawkers, admirers, publicity hounds, etc. remains unclear…while his desire to not to over-managed by the dreaded GOP consultant class is commendable, his national campaign is mainly people who have little to no experience on this big of a stage.

WHAT MUST HE DO TO BE THE NOMINEE—He needs to avoid eventually getting squeezed between Carson’s popularity and Cruz coalescing conservatives. That means he needs to find a way to undermine Carson without hurting himself, while also championing other issues conservatives care about beyond illegal immigration.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Steve Deace
Steve Deace is one of the "Heavy Hundred" talk show hosts in America according Talkers Magazine. His influence in the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses has been profiled in much of the national media, and he's also a columnist for The Washington Times. His new book, out now and endorsed by a who's who of conservative leaders, is titled Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.

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