As the traditional party of free enterprise, it only makes sense to measure Republican presidential candidates like any other business. If each candidate’s campaign were a business, they would likely employ an analysis to determine their strengths, weaknesses opportunities and threats (SWOT). While this analysis may not be exhaustive and will focus on the top four candidates, it can serve as a starting point for voters who are weighing so many priorities.
Obvious strengths are his cachet of wealth, fame and outsider credibility. His sharp tongue has cut through the wilderness of media bias straight to the top of the polls. He clearly has executive experience, just not the sort that a governor would have. That counts as currency when the electorate is turned off by career politicians.
Trump’s bluntness is a strength and a weakness at the same time, polarizing the electorate to attract inordinate numbers of disaffected GOP voters, but alienating others giving him high negatives like Hillary Clinton. This is reminiscent of other recent political outsiders like Herman Cain, Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura. The problem with the genre of candidate is that voters, when push comes to shove, usually want someone with hands-on experience in government. Because of the widespread frustration, however, this cycle is proving to be anything but usual.
Trump’s opportunity is to wage a war of attrition against campaigns like Cruz and Carson that appeal as outsider candidates, which can give him a clearer path to the nomination than he already has, as his lead is consistent, but not impregnable. His opportunity is to paint the Democrat nominee as the Washington insider, who has consistently failed our country, and stirred up this anti-establishment uprising.
That leads us to the threat: Trump himself. The Donald has traveled a long, winding road of positions to make it to where he currently is, and because of the same spotlight that boosts his name identification with voters, it is very well documented. An assortment of clips from the recent or distant past could create a cascading effect when the Democrats mobilize their high-dollar attack machine. Let’s not forget the last wealthy business executive the GOP nominated had the baggage of so many unpopular positions, and the class warfare attack that was fully exploited in a time of economic malaise.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Strengths include his outspoken conservatism, making him unique as an outsider with a foot in both elected politics and the grassroots. As the son of a Cuban immigrant, he is not as vulnerable to the same attacks on immigration that Donald Trump would be. Cruz has movement conservative credentials and is highly regarded by the tea party.
That outsider, tea party credibility hurts him in D.C., and costs him funding and supporters that other candidates enjoy. The reality is that he is still a freshman senator, and vulnerable to the same criticisms of inexperience that Barack Obama was. These factors could create a fissure in the party that drives business oriented Republicans to the sidelines or worse.
Opportunities are plentiful, as the base that won midterm elections in 2010 and 2014 would be validated, and Cruz could appeal to Hispanics in ways that no Republican has before. He also cultivates the remnants of moral majority voters that were otherwise uninspired by Mitt Romney. Pundits are generally bullish on Cruz’s stock rising.
Threats are obvious, as Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson have the sort of overlapping supporters that Cruz currently lacks. Numerically, Cruz is in the same position that Santorum was in back in 2012, meaning that without another candidate’s supporters, he can be cancelled out by another rival’s comparable appeal.
Dr. Ben Carson
Strengths are his outsider status, his inspiring life story and his sincerity. Voters that didn’t like Trump’s bravado and still distrust professional politicians tend to go toward Dr. Carson.
Dr. Carson lacks the executive experience that Trump has from business or that a governor would have. This makes some doubt his ability to be effective in not only his chances to beat the Democrat machine that elected Obama, but the execution of the job itself. Sadly, even a brain surgeon may not be able to fix a dysfunctional Washington. In being so soft-spoken, he doesn’t project the same enthusiasm as his rivals.
Dr. Carson unquestionably appeals to African-American voters, and could drive enough a wedge into the Democrat coalition to make it impossible for them to win. If Dr. Carson could break down the barrier that has existed between black voters and the GOP for decades, it could be a monumental shift in how those voters perceive the Republican Party, and could potentially bridge the divide. On the other hand, the same Christian voters that propelled Carson now appear to prefer Sen. Cruz as the evangelical alternative to Trump.
The threat to Dr. Carson’s campaign is that he can’t break through with so much competition. He is not the most popular outsider, and while in a strong position, he has not had a breakout. Dr. Carson is at risk of fading as Gov. Walker did, never quite consolidating his gains.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Sen. Rubio is the optimistic, fast on his feet young face of the establishment candidates. His appeal is potentially greater among Hispanics, and stands as one of the most articulate foreign policy candidates. His youthful charisma could be the Kennedy to Hillary’s Nixon.
Unfortunately, he has the albatross of standing with Senator Chuck Schumer (R-N.Y.) to induce another huge wave of immigration, making him unpalatable to most Trump and Cruz supporters. This entreaty to gain Hispanic votes for the GOP has crippled him in the primary, making it very difficult for him to unite the party. He also is vulnerable to the one-term Senator charge the same as Cruz and Rubio, and certainly lacks executive experience.
His opportunity is to maximize his appeal to Hispanic voters to win states like Nevada and Colorado, and to be to them what President Obama was to African-American voters. His charms would certainly play better to voters than scandal plagued Democrats, and he obviously has an edge in the most crucial battleground state of Florida. He also serves as the last, best hope for the non-outsider constituencies of the primary.
Sen. Rubio is threatened by Governor Jeb Bush. Two Floridians may cancel each other out, and divide the non-outsider vote. Unless he can bridge the gap between Trump and Bush’s respective voters, his candidacy may not go the distance.
For supporters of former Gov. Bush (R-Fla.), Gov. Christie (R-N.J.), former Gov. Huckabee (R-Ark.) Gov. Kasich (R-Ohio), former Gov. George Pataki (R-N.Y.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) or Carly Fiorina, the following must be true: each candidate has strengths and appeal, but has either topped out or hasn’t broken through.
The fact is, not a single vote has been cast, and a surge could change the playing field at any time. As of right now, the under ten percent block of candidates are suffering for want of funding and attention. The RealClearPolitics average shows that the combined support of the aforementioned candidates are around 20 percent. As some begin to fall away, it will be interesting to see where their support will go, and how or if it will elevate some of the current second and bottom tier candidates.
This is a guest post by Dustin Howard contributing editor at the Americans for Limited Government.