With little more than a month to go before the formal start of the 2016 presidential campaign, the once sprawling, unwieldy field of GOP candidates has largely sorted itself out into three distinct groups:
- The five-man “In-Crowd” of resourceful and well-positioned rivals led by billionaire Donald Trump. Any one of them still has a shot at snaring the GOP presidential nomination by next spring.
- The five “Fast Faders” who either had their moment in the sun before falling far behind in the polls or who never stood a chance of winning from the beginning but decided to hold on in any case.
- The five “Drop-Outs” who decided to pull the plug on their campaigns even before the first vote was cast in next year’s primaries and caucuses. This group includes a few who looked to be real contenders for a while, but who ran into trouble raising money or sustaining voter interest.
Explanations for why a handful of Republicans made the first cut heading into the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses – the official start of the campaign – while the others have stumbled or fallen away are varied. But it often came down to whether they could withstand the blistering attacks from Trump, who has turned out to be a powerful conservative force and a master of distortions and cheap shots.
Trump at one time or another blasted most of his rivals – retaliating for a perceived slight or insulting them when he thought they might pose a threat to his front-runner status.
So here’s the Fiscal Times ranking of the GOP field.
|THE GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES: IN & OUT|
|Donald Trump, Billionaire businessman and reality TV showman||It's tempting to say that Trump needs to avoid alienating voters with divisive and frequently false rhetoric, but in truth, the more outrageous he is in his attacks , the more disaffected Republican primary voters seem to flock to his campaign events.|
|Ted Cruz, junior Senator from Texas||Cruz has run this race like a marathoner confident that he’ll have the kick he needs to separate himself from the rest of the pack in the home stretch. He runs second only to Trump nationally, and holds a strong lead in Iowa. He has studiously avoided clashing with Trump.|
|Sen. Marco Rubio, junior senator from Florida||Rubio, the son of Cuban refugees, has promised to provide a new generation of leadership and is well positioned if Trump or Ben Carson stumble. But he may find it hard to get past Cruz, another young conservative with sharp elbows. Trump Says Rubio is “soft” on immigration.|
|Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and conservative author||An intriguing question is how Carson is still in the hunt for the nomination after stumbling so badly over the facts of his life story and knowing so little about foreign policy and national security. Trump has blasted him for being “very weak” on immigration and misrepresenting his life story.|
|Chris Christie, New Jersey governor||Christie seems to have put the Bridgegate scandal behind him and regained his footing after a brutally tough year of campaigning. The tough talking former federal prosecutor is putting all his chips on the table in New Hampshire, but Trump says Christie has presided over a “disaster state.”|
|Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania Senator||Trump once called him a “loser” but hasn’t gone after him much this year.|
|Carly Fiorina, former tech CEO||Trump famously criticized her face and said she was a “terrible” CEO at Hewlett-Packard.|
|Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor.||Since Huckabee has praised Trump and essentially conceded his own loss, Trump has left him alone.|
|John Kasich, the hyperactive Ohio governor.||Trump tweeted Kasich is "a dummy" and "one of the worst candidates in history."|
|Rand Paul, the libertarian senator from Kentucky.||Trump dismissed Paul's campaign as a "total mess," and repeatedly urged him to get out of the race.|
|Rick Perry-former governor of Texas, was an early dropout.||Trump said he wore glasses so he'd look smarter.|
|Scott Walker, Wisconsin gov, an early Tea Party favorite.||Trump said he mishandled the state budget and left Wisconsin “in turmoil.”|
|Bobby Jindal, Louisiana's 'wonky' governor.||Trump mocked the ‘lightweight gov at less than 1 percent in the polls.”|
|Lindsey Graham, Senate defense hawk||Trump gave out Graham’s cell phone number after Graham called him a “jackass.”|
|George Pataki, former N.Y. governor||Trump: Pataki “needs a brain surgeon” after Pataki skered Trump's proposed Muslim ban.|