All The Republican Presidential Candidates, Ranked!


It's been a long time since the Republican race for President has been this crowded with qualified candidates. Unlike the last round (when the candidates were Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and, uh, who was that third guy?), there are at least three solid contenders for the GOP nomination this year — and a slew of other maybes running as well.

In fact, there are so many candidates, it can get a little hard to keep track. To help make sense of them all, we talked to Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, who ranked the candidates based on their chances. 

From the heavy hitters to the oddballs, here's who's most likely to be on the ballot against Hillary (and yes, it will be Hillary) come November.
Advertisement
His Rank: #1
“Of all the Republicans, he probably has the best chance against Clinton,” Kondik says. And while he hasn't formally thrown his hat in the ring, he's been busy building up a giant campaign operation that makes it virtually certain he'll run.

Claim to Fame:

His family name. His father and brother have both been President, and Jeb Bush has been around long enough to be synonymous with the concept of political establishment. He was a two-turn governor in crucial swing-state Florida. He's married to a Mexican woman and speaks Spanish pretty well, which could help his appeal among Latino voters.

Biggest Stumbling block:
Once again, his family name. The prospect of another Clinton-Bush race has some ready to give up on voting altogether. “It would be pretty uncomfortable to have two dynasties going against each other,” Kondik says.

What He's Done:
Bush seems less conservative than candidates like Ted Cruz — he's publicly praised President Obama when they've agreed. And, while recently, he's said he opposed Obama's executive action on immigration, he's supported giving legal status to undocumented people in the past. When looking at why it lost the last election, the GOP has listed failure to support immigration reform as one of the big reasons.
His Rank: #2
Walker is stronger than you might expect. The Wisconsin Governor has won three elections in four years, including a recall in 2012. He's also rumored to have the support of the billionaire Koch Brothers, which would help.

Claim to Fame:
He's gone hard against unions — and won. In 2011 he signed a law that effectively ended collective bargaining for public employees in the state. The move led to massive protests and a failed attempt to vote him out of office mid-term, but beating back the recall made him look seriously popular.

Biggest Stumbling block:
He once said his showdown with thousands of angry educators and nurses prepared him to deal with ISIS, so he's not a whiz at international relations. Walker is ambitious, but this is his first national election, so he could flame out. 

What He's Done:
Lots. Walker has been very effective in pursuing his conservative agenda. Beyond the union-busting, in just four years, he's signed laws that drastically cut reproductive health care access, made it legal to carry concealed weapons in the state, proposed drug tests for welfare applicants, and proposed a $300 million cut to the state’s flagship university.
His Rank: #3
Rubio's chances are pretty good. He has the shiny hair and delivery of a strong presidential candidate, and has recently caught the eye of billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who could seriously help his funding.

Claim to Fame:
On paper, Rubio's resume looks a lot like Obama's when he entered the 2008 race: a short tenure in the Senate, not many marquee legislative accomplishments, an eye-catching speech at a party convention. He’s the youngest Republican candidate, he’s the child of Cuban immigrants, and he has a talent for public speaking, especially when he makes it personal, as he did in his 2012 speech at the Republican National Convention. He likes hip-hop and says he and Pitbull are friends, which means he’s cooler than most members of Congress (if still not actually cool).

Biggest Stumbling Block:
He doesn’t actually have much popular support yet, and Bush is the better known candidate from Florida. 

What He's Done: 
Rubio put a lot of effort into coming up with an immigration reform bill that could survive his own party, but he came up short. He's also taking a stand against President Obama's recent moves to improve diplomacy with Cuba, and he thinks the U.S. military should intervene more heavily in the Middle East. He's less obviously extreme than a lot of his opponents, which is an advantage, but apart from that, he may be best known for losing control of his thirst during a State of the Union response. (Watch it here.)
Advertisement
His Rank: #4
Slim. "He has narrow appeal to evangelical voters," Kondik says, but so do candidates like Ted Cruz.

Claim to Fame:

Huckabee had a show on Fox News until earlier this year, so he may already have strong support from your elderly relatives.

Biggest Stumbling Block:

He said he believes that being gay is a choice, like drinking or swearing. And, he complained in January about "trashy" New York women who swear too much. That might make him a little out of step with millennial voters (or most Americans).

What He's Done:
He signed an increase in Arkansas's minimum wage back in 2006, and he was Governor when the state passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004.
His Rank: #5
Cruz, a Senator from Texas, is a Tea Party conservative, but he's not very popular within his party. That means that while he's got some vocal fans, it's hard to imagine a road for him all the way to the White House.

Claim to Fame:
He once read Green Eggs and Ham on the floor of the Senate. He also wants to repeal "every single word" of President Obama's healthcare reform.

Biggest Stumbling Block:
"People just don't like him very much," says Kondik. Without fans, it's hard to raise the money needed for a long primary season.

What He's Done:
He once gave a 31-hour floor speech as a statement against Obamacare (that's when he read Dr. Seuss).
Advertisement
His Rank: #6
Rand Paul is, as many like to say, the most "interesting" candidate in the race. But, while that means his policies don't conform exactly to the Conservative party line, it also means he stands basically zero chance of winning a national election.

Claim to Fame:
He's the son of Libertarian hero and perennial Presidential candidate Ron Paul, and shares some, though not all, of his dad's views. His support of privacy laws and non-interventionist foreign policy also wins over a more liberal contingent – he got a standing ovation after a speech at Berkeley last year.

Biggest Stumbling Block:
The GOP is usually very pro-military, pro-intervention, which makes Paul's foreign policy stance a problem area in his party. He's also just too niche: as Kondik says, "Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are not the kind of candidates who usually win presidential nominations." 

What He's Done:
Like Cruz, Paul also gave a marathon speech on the Senate Floor. Paul spent more than 12 hours speaking out against President Obama's policy on drone killings. He's also a strong supporter of criminal justice reform.
His Rank: #7
Once upon a time, Chris Christie would have been near the top of this list, but a steady stream of scandals and his reputation as a bully have sapped his momentum.

Claim to Fame:
Christie is the twice-elected GOP governor of New Jersey, a typically very Democratic state, which he'd say shows his bipartisan appeal. He's also an aggressive fundraiser and head of the Republican Governors' Association. And, he adores Bruce Springsteen.

Biggest Stumbling Block:
He's still facing scrutiny over allegations that he used the power of his office to punish political opponents — most notably, by shutting down the George Washington Bridge and causing a traffic nightmare.

What He's Done:
He presided over the rebuilding of the Jersey Shore after 2012's Hurricane Sandy — working with the Obama Administration, which initially won him plaudits (recently, less so). He signed a ban on gay "conversion therapy," which won approval across the aisle. 
Her Rank: #8
She's never held public office (and her last run at one ended...badly).

Claim to Fame: 
Fiorina had an accomplished career in business, culminating when she was the CEO of Hewlitt-Packard. She also ran against California Senator Barbara Boxer in 2010 – and became most famous for making really weird demon sheep ads.

Biggest Stumbling Block: 
Lack of experience. The GOP, says Kondik, "would like to be able to present a more diverse group of candidates," but in a year with so many options, she's just not qualified enough.

What She's Done: 
See above: demon sheep. (It's at 2:21 in this video.)
Advertisement
His Rank: #9
He has no experience in office, and he's so economically and socially conservative that he makes Ted Cruz look a little liberal.

Claim to Fame: 
Carson, who's African-American, compared Obamacare to slavery in a 2013 speech.

Biggest Stumbling Block: 
He's a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, and while politics isn't brain surgery, it takes a different set of skills. He's also so against abortion, gay rights, immigration reform and "big government" that he's fringe as a Republican.

What He's Done: 
He was, by all accounts, a very good surgeon.
Advertisement