Who Do You Like? RNC Offers 32 Presidential Picks

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With the midterm elections barely in our rearview mirror, the Republican National Committee is eager to capitalize on the nation’s shocking conservative energy. Looking ahead to what many people perceive as an inevitable showdown with Hillary Clinton, the RNC has released a list of 32 names they feel represent the party’s best chance of success. Among the names are few surprises, though it is certainly a much larger list than many might have suspected.

In the mix, we can already see the choices that conservative voters will need to make in the coming months. The establishment Republicans seem to be balanced by those more inclined to Tea Party, hardline conservative values, giving voters a good selection as we slowly engage the 2016 electoral season. On the former side, we have Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Newt Gingrich. Representing the latter, we have Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Sarah Palin. We also have strongly religious candidates like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. And we have familiar faces like Rick Perry and Herman Cain alongside newcomers like Dr. Ben Carson.

It’s early days yet, but only a handful of these prospective nominees have made an impact in the polls. That could certainly change in the months to come, but early momentum can mean a lot when it comes to a political race that will be as hard fought and important as this one. The polls give a very slim lead to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, with Bush trailing closely behind. Huckabee, Christie, and Ryan round out the top five. Even in this microcosm, disparate conservative philosophies abound.

In the Washington Examiner yesterday, author Philip Klein made his case that Republicans have to nominate a true conservative if they want to take the White House in 2016. His argument – that moderate Republicans wind up spending too much of the campaign trying to convince the base that, no, really, they believe in conservative values – is a compelling one. Certainly, America’s conservative base was not enamored with either Mitt Romney nor John McCain.

On the other hand, there is some benefit to running a moderate. Less likely to get stuck in a thorny situation based around one Biblical proclamation or another, less likely to be seen as a wackjob by independents, and more likely to attract big business campaign dollars, a moderate Republican could represent the party’s best chances of defeating a perceived populist like Clinton. Running someone unwilling or unable to appeal to the average American could be a colossal mistake.

So what’s the answer? There’s more to it than just philosophical differences, of course. Each candidate has strengths and weaknesses that have little to do with policy and more to do with experience, charisma, and political savvy. If you had the power to wave a magic wand and pick the 2016 Republican candidate, who would you pick out of this list and why?

The full RNC List:

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

Businessman Herman Cain

Dr. Ben Carson

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

Ohio Gov. John Kasich

New York Rep. Peter King

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul

Former Rep. Ron Paul
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence

Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott

South Dakota Sen. John Thune

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Former Florida Rep. Allen West