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Previewing the Possible 2016 Republican Presidential Field

The 2016 Republican field will likely be large, but I’m reasonably confident that this won’t happen:

With a field so large, many candidates won’t be able to count on consolidated support from their home states [bold mine-DL]. There could be two candidates each from Florida, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.

This is technically possible, but it is very unlikely that there will be two from any of these states. That by itself suggests that the field of declared candidates will be smaller than the list of those mentioned in the article. Bush and Rubio aren’t going to run against each other. Apart from the personal and political ties that make this unlikely, Rubio needs Bush to stay out if he is going to have the slightest chance of raising enough funds early on. By the same token, a Rubio candidacy would probably siphon off enough support from Bush to undermine his chances. If Wisconsin and Ohio produce any declared candidates, they are more likely going to be the governors of those states, and Ryan and Portman would have no reason to run against other Republicans from their own state. Assuming Perry runs, Cruz might jump into the race just to be annoying, but it’s hard to see how there would be enough space for both of them in what will still be a crowded field.

The problem isn’t just that they would split supporters from their home states, but that they appeal to very similar constituencies outside their states. It would be one thing these pairs represented dramatically different parts of the GOP, but in each case their bases of support overlap to a large degree. There isn’t room for two Texan socially conservative foreign policy hard-liners, just as there isn’t room for two Floridian pro-immigration “reform conservatives,” and so on. If both would-be candidates from any of these states run they are both bound to be much less successful. Both in each state should be able to see that they would be cannibalizing one another in the primaries, which is why many of them aren’t going to declare. That will leave us with a less interesting, but also less unwieldy field of candidates than many are expecting.

Incidentally, this is one reason why I now suspect that Rubio will end up deciding not to run for president for 2016. That will deprive us of the potentially interesting and entertaining clash between Rubio and Paul that Ross Douthat outlines here. It will also unfortunately help to boost a Jeb Bush candidacy that doesn’t make a lot of sense but which seems more likely to happen all the time. For his part, that would allow Rubio to concentrate on his role in the Senate and to focus his attention on his re-election campaign for the Senate, which he is by no means certain to win anyway. Likewise, I expect Portman and Ryan to defer to the governors in their states. The 2016 Republican seems set up to be mostly filled with governors and ex-governors.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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