Where Do They Fall? The 3 Categories of 2016 Candidates


Written by Steven Deace

As we await Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is about to become the 16th and likely final GOP presidential candidate, the 2016 field is just about set.

It’s a strong field in terms of resume and talent. Perhaps the strongest the Republican Party has ever had. This only makes it harder for conservatives to discern who’s who and whom to support, especially coming off several cycles where the pickings were slim if you were a movement conservative.

Hopefully we’re about to change that.

Between our in-depth presidential profiles here at Conservative Review, as well as the unique behind-the-scenes access to the process that living in Iowa provides me, the candidates are clearly falling into one of three categories regarding message and how they would govern if elected to the White House:

1. Change Agents

Description: These are candidates that represent a paradigm shift in some way. Perhaps they plan on commandeering the bully pulpit to communicate a transformative message? Maybe they represent a paradigm-shifting constituency? Or it could be they have a message/persona that represents a departure from the status quo.

The kind of voters they appeal to: Those who are more than just frustrated with the current direction of the country, but are looking for someone to communicate a message or advance a policy that is dramatically different. These voters tend to be less party people and more movement-oriented. They also don’t really seem to care what the media thinks, even Fox News, about their candidates. In fact, the collective disdain of the media might even further cement their support for a given candidate. They’re looking for a president who doesn’t just move the needle, but moves the center back to the right after the age of Obama.

Candidates in this category (in alphabetical order): Ben Carson is trying to transcend the two-party duopoly…Ted Cruz is out to prove Republicans are losing because they’ve abandoned full-spectrum, movement conservativism…Mike Huckabee wants to command the bully pulpit to call America back to her spiritual roots… Bobby Jindal is fearlessly running on controversial issues most Republicans want to abandon…Rick Santorum’s focus on the family…though he’s softened his father’s revolution considerably, Rand Paul still represents a constituency that wants to overhaul the size and role of government in our lives…Donald Trump is the quintessential protest candidate.

2. Reformers

Description: These candidates focus more on good, common sense government than ideology. That isn’t to say they’re not ideological, but they believe they can only be ideological up until the point it gets in the way of what they see as responsible governance. Instead of running on issues, these candidates are running on resume. While Change Agents emphasize vision and values, Reformers stress accomplishment and/or policy.

The kind of voters they appeal to: Those who believe the system is still salvageable with the right manager. Or who want to avoid all-out civil war within the Republican Party by finding a candidate who may not be the boldest, but instead the most amenable to all sides (they assume that’s still possible). Reformers also appeal to conservatives who think the American people will not elect a true movement conservative as president.

Candidates in this category (in alphabetical order): Carly Fiorina has a paper-thin political resume, but she sounds like an articulate GOP governor when she speaks…Rick Perry has an impressive Texas story to tell…Marco Rubio has taken the establishment position on amnesty and marriage, and the conservative position on nearly everything else in an attempt to please all sides…Scott Walker is trying to run for president on his many policy triumphs in Wisconsin.

3. Progressives

Description: These are the candidates who believe “you have to lose the primary to win the general election.” They see the issues in the party platform the conservative base cares the most about as needless distractions at best, or impeding the winning of elections at worst. They’re not having an existential debate with the Left, only one of dueling vested interests. Since they accept many of the Left’s worldview premises and are therefore progressives themselves, their big dispute with the Left is whether to empower corporations (their interests) or government (the Left’s interests).

The kind of voters they appeal to: Party loyalists whose credo is “a bad Republican is still better than a good Democrat.” Those who believe the conservative base has gone Colonel Kurtz. Voters that aren’t ideologically driven but driven by celebrity, polls, and “electability.” Progressives who want to see more public-private partnerships on implementing policy as opposed to the pure statism advocated by Obama.

Candidates in this category (in alphabetical order): Jeb Bush is the legacy pick here, since his family has represented this faction of the party for almost five decades…Chris Christie is already using the tried and true “we need both parties to work together” progressive GOP talking point…it’s self-explanatory why Lindsey Graham is here…John Kasich literally believes that God is a Marxist.

These are the players, and now we’ll see how the environment determines who eventually wins the game.

First published at Conservative Review.