As we head into the weekend, perhaps we could all use a little perspective.
Is Donald Trump the front-runner? Sure. He’s dominating the polls right now. Does Jeb Bush seem to be the establishment’s pick? Based on early fundraising, that appears to be the case.
But this race isn’t over. We’re not down to two or three candidates. Far from it.
At this point in the 2008 election, Rudy Giuliani was the presumptive nominee. He led every poll and had the general backing of the establishment.
Then he lost Iowa. And New Hampshire. And he never recovered.
Here are three GOP candidates running for President who still have a shot at the nomination:
1.) Marco Rubio
Rubio’s inability to rise in the polls is a little concerning, but it’s early. He currently remains a top 5 or 6 candidate — according to the latest RealClearPolitics average, Rubio is averaging 7.3 percent in national polls, placing behind Trump, Bush, Carson, and Walker, respectively. In Iowa, he’s polling respectably in sixth at 7 percent, but he’s a complete non-factor at the moment in both New Hampshire and South Carolina.
But again, it’s early. Rubio has raised a lot of money, and he’s put together a solid campaign team. There’s a lot of time.
And in an article in Politico earlier this week, Rubio’s team seemed to prefer not being a front-runner:
“Show me the candidate who was first place in August who ended up winning in February,” said Terry Sullivan, Rubio’s campaign manager, after an event at a downtown coffee shop Tuesday. “What’s hot in the summer isn’t in winter.”
Sullivan’s is a simple strategy to leave Republicans in early states, doted on far more by other candidates to this point, wanting more of Rubio — recognizing that, however many waves may come, the one you want to ride won’t crest until December or January.
This may turn out to be an effective strategy. As we’ve documented here at ThePulse2016, Rubio is a solid conservative with an impressive ability to communicate his principles. But if he’s going to win the nomination, Iowa seems to be an almost must-win state for him, especially given his low polling numbers in other early states.
2.) Rick Santorum
I’ve read a lot of early skepticism of Santorum’s bid, even from reputable sources, and I think that’s a mistake. Santorum is a very impressive grassroots campaigner, and, lest we forget, he did win the 2012 Iowa Caucus. He could certainly do it again.
Is it a long shot bid? Sure. But social conservatives really like Santorum, as well they should. Santorum has consistently defended life, marriage, and religious liberty. He has never wavered on any of those issues. And in 2016, much more so than in 2012, Santorum is demonstrating that he’s not a one-trick pony — he has been much more outspoken on non-social issues, including foreign policy, immigration, and economic issues.
The best argument for Santorum having a shot in 2016… is that Santorum had a shot in 2012. He stagnated at 1 or 2 percent in the polls for almost the duration of the 2012 cycle before surging prior to Iowa and giving Romney a run for his money. He can absolutely compete for the nomination again.
3.) Rick Perry
Everyone is saying Rick Perry is done. He’s out of money. He’s not catching on. It’s over.
The Huffington Post gleefully wrote up his obituary earlier today:
Coming off his embarrassingly disastrous “oops” run for the presidency four years ago, Rick Perry announced this week that most staffers will no longer receive salaries due to much lower than expected financial donations in his current crawl to the highest office in the land. Political pundits view this as the beginning of the end for Perry in the crowded Republican Presidential sweepstakes. So Rick Perry, say bye bye. We hardly knew you following your divisive and exclusionary tactics last time around.
But it’s not over.
Perry has made it clear that he feels called to run for President, and his staff is known for being fiercely loyal. And he’s making it clear to the national media, even if they’re not listening: he’s not quitting anytime soon.
With money running low, Perry is testing the limits of eschewing political expediency.
It is true that the three super PACs supporting Perry, which Perry referred to in our interview as “our super PAC,” have raised roughly $17 million to keep his presidential bid afloat.
And, to reporters after his soapbox speech, Perry bluntly attempted to downplay his fundraising woes, saying, “I think most of you are making a little bit too much ado about this story.”
“So you’re not going anywhere?” one reporter followed up.
“Oh yeah, I’m going to go a lot of places,” Perry quipped.
Rick Perry is far too likable, far too charismatic, and far too smart — yes, smart — to be counted out just yet.
Jon Schweppe is Deputy Director of Communications for American Principles in Action.