Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball ranks GOP, Dem 2016 presidential contenders

Larry Sabato's Crystal BallBy Lynn R. Mitchell

If it’s Thursday, it’s time for Sabato’s Crystal Ball and time for this political junkie to get a needed fix.

The University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato’s weekly report is out and, in the list of Republican 2016 presidential contenders, Jeb Bush still tops the Top Tier. In this issue, Dr. Sabato also covers the Democratic presidential field.

Sabato’s “First Tier: The Leading Contenders” consists of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio. All have proven leadership and solid conservative credentials but history has shown voters usually go for candidates who have been governors which bodes well for Bush and Walker. Not as much so for U.S. senators which is something that could affect Rubio, not to mention that his presence in the Senate is badly needed at this time.

Sabato’s “Second Tier: The Outsiders” is made up of Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and Rick Santorum. Again the senators on the list — Paul and Cruz — are at a disadvantage from a historical point of view. Huckabee is considered by some to be more on a book tour rather than seriously chasing presidential dreams, and Carson has made controversial remarks that some consider remove him from serious consideration. Santorum just seems to round out the “I’ve run before” field.

Sabato has his “Third Tier: The Governor Alternatives,” and perhaps the most surprising name there is New Jersey’s Chris Christie whom many considered would be the front runner in 2016.  The faux “Bridge-gate” hurt him but he also has competition for the establishment support. As Sabato notes, Christie seems to be sliding backward instead of gaining momentum. Rounding out the Third Tier are Ohio’s John Kasich, Indiana’s Mike Pence, Texas’ Rick Perry, and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal.

There is a familiar name for Virginians on the Fourth Tier with former Governor Jim Gilmore who has always been a favorite of mine because of his national security concerns, his work illuminating terrorism concerns and getting them out front and center, and his service as RNC chairman during the George W. Bush administration. Add to that his Henrico County blue collar roots, service in the military, determination to enter UVa law school — his life story has been an inspiration. His win as governor helped sweep in a Top 3 Republican slate in 1998. Unfortunately, his run for president, like a similar one eight years ago, does not have the momentum to raise much money or an organization of nationwide supporters. Rounding out the Fourth Tier are Lindsey Graham, Carly Fiornia, Peter King, George Pataki, Bob Ehrlich, and John Bolton.

There is no mention of Donald Trump in the batch of Republican names even though he formed a presidential exploratory committee on Wednesday. Few take Trump seriously as a candidate — he is an anti-establishment contender in an establishment world of business, money, and success — but he is definitely an entertainer. He turned down another season of “The Apprentice” — could he be lining up a reality show featuring his presidential run? Stay tuned.

Ironically, another Virginian makes the Fourth Tier of the Democratic contenders. Populist and former U.S. Senator Jim Webb — the Republican, Democrat, Republican, Democrat — has tossed his name out there with the same negative results that follow Jim Gilmore: no money, no nationwide supporter base, not much name recognition. His switch between political parties leaves an impression that he is not a reliable candidate.

Hillary continues as the undisputed frontrunner for Democrats. Email-gate? Bengazi screw-up? Clinton scandals? Her unwavering support from Dems reminds of the little kid who sticks his fingers in his ears and chants, “La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. I can’t hear you!”

The Democratic Second Tier is made up of Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, both seen as bridesmaids with little likelihood of becoming the bride of 2016. John Kerry, described by a consultant as still hungry to be president after losing in 2004 to George W. Bush, is the lone name on the Third Tier. The Four Tier, in addition to Webb, is made up of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Fifth Tier is made up of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Managing Editor Kyle Kondike also has an intriguing study of Ohio’s shifting voter demography (see Ohio Senate: The Last Ride of the Appalachian Democrat).

Now I’ve had my morning political junkie fix and can move on with my day. Enjoy!

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