Larry Sabato’s revised 2016 presidential field … Jeb moves to top

Larry Sabato's Crystal BallBy Lynn R. Mitchell

The University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato has come out with the latest Crystal Ball analysis of the 2016 presidential lineup for Republicans and, not surprisingly, it centers mostly around the only candidate to (almost) announce so far, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (who, technically, is surveying the landscape — political code for “he’s running”).

Sabato, long-time director of the U.Va. Center for Politics, noted the turtle mix-up that occurred over the holidays with Jeb Bush’s announcement which shot him to the top of the list, although he did not have far to go because he had been near the top of the list for a while.

From Dr. Sabato (see The Republican White House field is scrambled earlier than expected):

Well, that didn’t last long! By that, we mean our pre-Christmas ordering of the GOP presidential field. We shouldn’t be surprised. Politics never takes a long holiday break anymore.

First prize for early maneuvering goes to Jeb Bush. His unexpected, all-but-in announcement on Dec. 16 stunned his competitors and the political community. Bush didn’t just accelerate the entire process, including forthcoming announcements by rivals, but he also gained a leg up in conventional wisdom’s positioning.

The accompanying graphic shows only one First Tier candidate (as of now) — Jeb:

So for the first time in a while, we elevate a candidate to the First Tier of the Crystal Ball’s GOP rankings for president. Jeb Bush fills a long-established vacuum. Our decision is tentative; his poll ratings are still underwhelming, and Bush is a shaky frontrunner. Yet Bush is No. 1 on a giant roster as we begin the long roller-coaster process of picking the party nominees over the next year and a half.

With further commentary about Jeb and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who quit his Fox News show last week to explore a presidential run (“explore,” another of those political-speak words that basically says, “I’m running), Dr. Sabato added a bit a humor concerning New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the Dallas Cowboys (he says there was “vigorous debate” — oh, to be a fly on the wall listening to that!):

A tongue-in-cheek postscript: After a vigorous debate, the Crystal Ball team has decided not to demote Chris Christie to a lower tier. Christie’s over-the-top performance in Jerry Jones’ box last weekend, with his bear-hugging of Jones and his jumping up and down while squealing like a schoolgirl, infuriated and disgusted millions (our considered estimate). Still, it would be probably unwise, though somewhat just, to take out the nation’s massive dislike of the Dallas Cowboys on Christie. Yet Christie’s demonstrated aversion to Detroit, and his snubbing of New Jersey-area home teams, may earn him the voters’ rebuke in the Lions’ Michigan, the Giants’ and Jets’ New York, and the Eagles’ Pennsylvania.

This is truly the beginning of a long journey that will have more ups and downs than Rt. 250 in West Virginia. Hang on … it’s going to be a fabulous ride!

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