06. Trey Gowdy


Chris and Jeb

Originally not even on my radar, U.S. Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina made a real name for himself in the past year with his fiery questioning of many Obama Administration officials on everything from Benghazi to the IRS Scandals to ObamaCare to ICE. No one in Congress has set a room on fire quite like Gowdy when facing off with the likes of Lois Lerner, John Koskinen, and Jonathan Gruber. His doggedness in seeking plain-spoken answers from those prone to avoiding anything like that has put most of the mainstream media to shame for lacking that simple quest for truth.

Trey GowdyGowdy has solid conservative creds and his media profile has risen with his energetic Q and As of stubborn politicians and bureaucrats has lent him populist appeal. Beyond that, though, his political resume is a bit thin, serving three terms thus far in Congress.

As someone in a very safe GOP district, he might be better off making a bid for Speaker of the House, given party dissatisfaction with non-stop pre-emptive compromiser John A. Boehner, the current Speaker. Yet that could be harder than running for president, in some respects.

Even so, due to his youth (he’s only 50 and would be 52 by 2016) he might be better off following one of two alternative paths. On the one hand, he could stay in the House and build his resume there, hoping to become Speaker one day.

The other alternative is to play the role of back-up VP choice to whoever gets the nomination, if he likes that candidate’s chances to win. If Rubio and Jindal were to both say no to being someone else’s running mate, a person would be hard pressed to find a more fiery debater than Gowdy.

Will he run in 2016? Probably not. But boy, do I like this guy.

And that just leaves us with the final five… the folks I believe are the best qualified to make a serious run for the top of the GOP ticket, have a decent chance to win the nomination, would have enough chutzpah to win, and then would actually govern as conservatives if elected, rather than as status-quo RINOs.

Get ready: my Top 5 is on the way.

7. Herman Cain


Chris and Jeb

Herman Cain was, for quite a while in 2012, my favorite candidate in the GOP field. The man has excellent communication abilities, well beyond that of Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry. Furthermore, he was a candidate with real ideas about what he’d like to do with the office of the presidency, had he achieved it … which is more than the last couple GOP nominees can claim. His 9-9-9 Plan wasn’t necessarily as appealing as various flat tax or fair tax plans, but at least it was an original idea.

Herman CainFurthermore, he’s already been vetted by his previous campaign. We know where the weaknesses lay and what they are and there ought to be no new surprises with him. That’s always a plus.

Cain is not a professional politician but primarily holds a lot of private sector experience and, best of all, we know his stances on issues. He grades out favorably in that respect. That is seen as a hindrance by some, and it’s partly why he’s only at number seven on my list.

The biggest deficit with Cain, though, is age. He’ll be 70 in late 2015. which would make him older than Hillary Clinton by two years. Since many are already questioning Hillary’s age-appropriateness, it’s only fair to question it for a man two years older than her.

That said, Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was sworn in to his first term, and he turned out all right. That said, Cain would be 71 by the time he’d be sworn in as president, assuming he won, and that’s getting up there.

I fear that Cain’s best chance came and went in 2012. When he allowed trumped-up harassment charges drive him from the race, I fear he may have closed the book on his best and last chance to secure the nomination. It’s too bad, too, because I think he’d do quite well with the office, had he ever achieved it.

Still, you never can tell. If Cain runs and if he catches fire, he still has a strong upside. Pair him with a younger conservative like Bobby Jindal, and you never know…

08. Bobby Jindal


Chris and Jeb

When it comes to presidential candidates, I always tend to favor those who have experience as a governor first. Why? Because although the office of president is much, much larger in scale, a sitting state governor’s responsibilities as the chief executive of a state is the closest one can get in terms of fitting into the office of the US President.

Bobby JindalA Senator or Rep. can resist all compromise if they choose, push for measures that have no chance of passing, and generally still be considered effective. A governor cannot afford that luxury and remain in office. A governor has to lead, and do so in a manner that produces consensus. It’s not so much about compromise per se as it is about learning statesmanship.

On that basis, Bobby Jindal reaches into the Top 10, coming in at the number eight spot in my personal book. His record as governor is surprisingly good, considering the struggles the state of Louisiana has endured in the wake of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the aftermath of which was still in effect when he won his 2007 election to his first term as governor.

In 2008, only about a year into his tenure, his response to Hurricane Gustav was widely praised on both sides of the political aisle as being much more effective than the 2005 Katrina response. The plus side of Jindal is that he has governed as a reliable, Reagan-style conservative, something the GOP is in sore need of.

On the negative side is Jindal’s inability, to date, to connect with a national audience. His response to President Obama’s national address to a joint session of Congress in 2009, he was widely perceived to have botched the job.

Yet that is all “inside baseball” a Beltway concern. If his record so far in Louisiana means anything, and it ought to, he is far more reliable as a defender of conservatism than Jeb Bush or Chris Christie … by far.

As a contrast to Sarah Palin, who possesses similar conservative credentials, Jindal is fulfilling his commitments. He declined a possible 2012 run against Obama, despite pressure from the party’s conservative elements to run. He was rewarded with a landslide 2011 re-election. His term ends in 2015, so he’d be free to run for the GOP top spot in 2016. The real question is if he could attract enough interest.

While he has great credentials, his communication skills on the national stage and in question and whether he could survive a debate against more-seasoned opponents both inside the GOP and out, is also open to question. But Jindal is only 44 in 2015, which means he’d be 45 in 2016. This coming election cycle is by far not his only shot; he might make a savvy choice as a fallback running mate, if the party’s nominee fails to connect with a more obvious choice like Marco Rubio.

But Jindal can afford to wait for his hour to come ’round for the White House. As one of the fresh, young faces of the GOP, he could be better off adding a US Senate run to his resume, if one of the seats becomes open. That could happen. Louisiana’s new senior senator, David Vitter, is considering a run to replace Jindal in 2015, leaving Jindal the obvious favorite to replace him in the Senate should Jindal decide to bypass a 2016 White House run.

And who knows? That might be the best way to go for Jindal. He could expand his Washington resume, and be far more prepared for a White House bid in the 2020s. He might need that sort of experience to fulfill the promise his values and voting record demonstrate he is capable of achieving.

09. Marco Rubio


Chris and Jeb

Extremely recently, Florida Senator and Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio seemed destined to run for President, or at least snag the VP slot, in 2016. He heroically forced former RINO Florida Governor Charlie Crist to out himself as not only a RINO, but a full-on liberal. Saving the Florida GOP from itself, he won a three-way race in Florida to secure his current seat in the Senate, a race that made the Democrat come in a very distant third.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio
Florida Senator Marco Rubio

Once he actually won, the love-fest was on and he was declared the darling of the GOP. He was all set to be the GOP and Tea Party rock star.

Then he took office and started voting.

Turns out Senator Rubio governed from his Senate seat closer to John McCain than John Barrasso. The biggest sticking point has been his decision to join the infamous “Gang of Eight,” a group of senators who broker compromises without even debating conflicting principles, usually to the extreme benefit of Democrats and liberal causes.

That’s not the sort of candidate the Florida Tea Party thought they were supporting. It’s not the guy Sarah Palin endorsed. But his participation in the Gang of Eight has seen him drop out of the national conservative dialogue as a “likely 2016 presidential nominee” to become more of an afterthought at best, and someone who may even see the Tea Party seek to replace him in 2018 when he’s up for re-election.

Is all this deserved? Partially. His decision to sit on the Gang of Eight for Immigration Reform won him no new admirers while costing him many admirers who had previously been on-board with him. Outside of immigration, Rubio has been a reliable conservative, but he has been schooled by fellow freshman Texas Senator Ted Cruz on style points.

Beyond those perceptions, Rubio’s been doing damage control ever since, and while he’s young and perhaps learned his lesson about being too quick to compromise… and compromise is inevitable when you’re in a legislative body instead of an executive position like governor, if you hope to get anything done… the sheen is almost certainly off the rose for Senator Rubio.

While he could recover, the best bet for Rubio would be to latch on as a VP candidate to someone else at the top of a GOP ticket. As a Florida Senator, he’d be an attractive running mate for the heart and electoral votes of that red-leaning-purplish state, and if the ticket he’s a part of wins, it would be a great training ground for a future top-of-ticket run, where he’d hopefully feel freer to hold to the values he ran on.

But it’s a sad set of missteps and missed opportunities. Six to nine months ago, he’d have easily made my Top Five list.

10. Mary Fallin


Chris and Jeb

Imagine if Parks and Recreation character Leslie Knope were a Republican from Oklahoma: she’d be Mary Fallin. Fallin has worked in the Oklahoma Department of Tourism/Recreation, Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, and Oklahoma Office of Personnel Management, also worked in the private sector, and has held the office of Lieutenant Governor under two different governors, won election to US Congress, and became the first female governor ever elected to office in Oklahoma, all well before she turned 60, which she’ll do later this year.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin

The only troubling aspect of Fallin as a contender is that she’s not really that tested on the national stage, and she has some skeletons in the closet, including rumors of an alleged affair in 1998 that could be dredged up to haunt her.

Her biggest pre-gubernatorial accomplishment was writing a strong anti-stalking bill that became law. She’s held to generally conservative values, though that’s not very hard in Oklahoma, and so far has settled budget discrepancies via budget cuts, streamlining, and “modernizing government.”

Of course, even that raises concerns for some, since “modernizing government” is old Clinton Era-speak for expanding government. The biggest shock is how little we know of her after so many years in public life.

Unlikely as a top-of-the-ticket candidate, Fallin would make an intriguing pick as someone else’s running mate, depending on electoral demographics at the top of the ticket. She is, however, the first person who’d get knocked down a spot on my list if Scott Walker proves adept on the national stage.

11. Scott Walker


Chris and Jeb

Quick quiz: name the only sitting governor in American history ever to survive a recall election. If your mind went to anywhere other than Wisconsin in 2012, you’re wrong. Scott Walker is the only one to do it so far. And in a purely purple state that Barack Obama won in both 2008 and 2012. Not a bad starting point, since the focus of the recall enacted against him was: budget cuts.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Even more impressive is that Walker not only survived the recall, but increased his margin of victory from his initial 2010 victory, rising from 52 percent voting for him to 53 percent voting for him. That’s unheard of in a recall election circumstance.

And despite pressure and media outrage, Walker continues to govern as a full conservative, not just a budgetary one. Walker is pursuing a conservative social agenda as well as a budgetary one, on most issues.

Plus, his modest cost reforms actually saved the jobs of thousands of teachers who opposed those very reforms and led them to try to recall him.

As a result, Walker is now filling the profile in the GOP landscape that Rick Perry once held; only he’s pulling off his GOP miracle in a purple state Obama won both times, not a solid-red state like Texas.

But with Walker comes the same questions about him that the nation asked about Perry in 2012. Is he ready for the national scrutiny he’d face if nominated? Can he withstand the national GOP urge to bow and scrape at Hillary’s feet, and instead actually take her head-on, on the issues, in a debate?

That’s an unknown, so I’m placing Walker at number 11 on my list, if only because of the question marks. He’s probably my top so-called “dark horse candidate” for 2016, because if he chooses to run and proves himself adept, he could easily leap into the Top 5. But not just yet.

12. Rick Perry


Chris and Jeb

Once upon a time, I was a Rick Perry type of guy. He seemed to “get it,” and has been better for Texas as governor than W. ever was. Plus, Texas is generally a good state to have in your electoral college tally. However…

Texas Governor Rick Perry
Texas Governor Rick Perry

The only problem I really have with Rick Perry is that his 2012 run was an utter disaster. While he may hold the right values, he can’t communicate them effectively. And that’s almost as bad as having the wrong values. Whoever wins the GOP nod is gonna have to face Shrill Hill, the Porcelain President-in-Waiting, who can get away with saying “What does it matter?” about Benghazi and still be in the national dialogue for 2016.

There are people who have the right values, as Perry does, who will be far more effective than he’s proven to be thus far at actually articulating and communicating those values. Perry’s skill-set for running an effective and winning campaign is suspect because of his deficiencies in this regard.

While he’s not running for re-election as Texas Governor, thus clearing his schedule for another White House bid, my prediction is 2012 left too sour a taste in most people’s mouths and Perry will be overlooked by a number of more-appealing candidates with better skills in public speaking, debates, and out-n-out truth-telling.

I don’t think he’ll last long in 2016. But maybe he’ll surprise me. My doubts about him, though, are what place him this low on my list.

Even so, yes, he’d still be better than Jeb Bush or Chris Christie.

13. Condoleeza Rice


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GOP think-tankers who concentrate primarily on foreign policy would love to see Condoleeza Rice run for president. And in light of the past five-plus years under the Obama administration’s blunders, who wouldn’t rejoice to see her foreign policy acumen once again leading the nation?

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice

But it’s going to be 2016, not September 11, 2001.

And like it or not, that’s the problem.

Condoleeza Rice proved herself and her ability to lead under fire, beginning in the first George W. Bush term as the president’s foreign policy adviser before being promoted to Secretary of State after General Colin Powell left the administration for its second term.

Unlike the man she replaced (Powell), Rice has proven not to be so addicted to the national spotlight that she’d cozy up to whoever’s in power. She doesn’t seek out seats at Democratic events as Powell does. And those are both good and important qualities.

The trouble comes in when you look beyond foreign policy. Despite serving in the Bush Administration until the bitter end, a full eight years in the public eye, and another five-plus years having passed since then, the most we know about Ms. Rice outside of a foreign policy setting is that she’d dearly love to replace Roger Goodell as the commissioner of the National Football League someday.

That’s great, but foreign policy and football alone do not a president make. The big fear seems to be that if she ever revealed her domestic policy stances, she’d come across sounding more like Barack Obama, rather than George W. Bush… to say nothing of a real small-government conservative like Ronald Reagan.

What’s with the guessing game? Sure, she’s in the private sector again (more or less, if you count academia as the private sector), but after twelve years one should expect to know whether she believes in limited or expansive government; whether she favors budget cuts and tax reform over budgeting by continuing resolutions and out-of-control spending; let alone whether, as a woman, she supports or opposes the Roe v. Wade decision and/or same-sex unions.

The fact that the most we know about her outside of foreign policy is based off what smart people speculate about her, rather than anything she herself has written or said, is precisely why she’s appearing outside of the top dozen slots in my list. Condoleeza Rice brings a ton of qualifications to bear if she were ever to run for the presidency; but unless she’s willing to open up, make her views known, and defend them, moderates and conservatives alike can only view her with mistrust, not knowing whether she’d be an ally or an adversary if elected.

Next, we’ll move on to our select “dirty dozen” names. I hate putting them down in order like I am, because new information comes to light all the time and someone you once viewed as relatively conservative can prove unreliable with a single key vote. (Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan, anyone?)

14. Sarah Palin


Chris and Jeb


Among GOP loyalists starved for genuine conservative voices, Sarah Palin was once a nearly singular ray of hope.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

The former Governor of Alaska emerged from somewhere near 30 Days of Night territory to be unveiled in 2008 as uber-RINO John McCain’s running mate against Barack Obama’s run for a first term. With her address to the GOP faithful at that year’s convention, her plain-spoken, bedrock conservative values lit enthusiasm into a moribund GOP ticket that year that reminded everyone of Bob Dole’s “It’s my turn” run against Bill Clinton in 1996.

If Ms. Palin had been at the top of the ticket, instead of the bottom, history may have played out differently, or at least more closely. With her soccer-mom values and her core conservatism, she immediately became the target of the mainstream media giants, who determined to take her down, even if it meant condemning her for things they themselves endorsed. And that’s exactly what they did.

Be that as it may, Palin is not now, and may never be, ready to run for the White House at the top of the ticket. The reason why has little to do with what the media did to her, and everything with what she did to herself. The first crack in the veneer was her decision to step down as Alaska Governor. No matter what reasons she cited about how it would be better for Alaskans, and how she’d wield more power as a “free agent,” the fact remains that when the pressure cooker arrived, she opted out of an elected office the people of Alaska voted her into, and that raises serious concerns about her ability to stand up to the pressures a White House victory would place her under.

In her current role as GOP kingmaker and de-facto leader of the conservative wing of the Tea Party Movement, Palin has proven herself better than the average GOP Power Player when it comes to identifying winning conservative candidates and championing their cause.

Without Palin’s help and support, current voices like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio (who admittedly fluffed it on immigration), might never have made it to the Senate to become the loud voices against compromise of values before a shot is even fired that they’ve become.

Palin’s star was a genie in a bottle; her best moment came at the 2008 GOP Convention and then it fizzled. She’s better-suited now to the role of inspirational conservative king-maker (and queen-maker), welcoming genuine conservatives back to prominence in the GOP. Hopefully her efforts won’t be in vain, but yes, even now, damaged as she is for her own run at the White House, Sarah Palin would indeed be far superior to Jeb Bush or Chris Christie as the 2016 GOP Presidential Nominee.

But there are better options.

15. Tim Scott


Chris and Jeb

One spot up from Mia Love is newly-minted GOP Senator Tim Scott. He is already a history-maker.

Sen. Tim Scott
Sen. Tim Scott

Sen. Scott is currently the only U.S. Senator of African-American background serving in the U.S. Senate at the time I write this, and he’s also only the seventh such person to serve of that cultural background, in all of U.S. Senate history. Appointed by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to replace Jim DeMint, who retired to serve at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, Scott is currently serving an interim appointment. In November 2013, he will face a special election to fill out the balance of his predecessor’s term.

Those years will be critical for Sen. Scott. He has not racked up a significant track record in the U.S. Senate quite yet, and he’ll need to show in November that he can win the trust of the voters, rather than just the trust of their state’s governor. And of course, in 2016, he’ll face a second election, this time for his own full six-year term.

Let’s face it: while Senator Tim Scott is more experienced than Mia Love at this point, he’s also too inexperienced to be a serious contender for the 2016 presidential race. If he wins back-to-back elections to the U.S. Senate seat in South Carolina, that will be a significant boost to his qualifications

What that means is, if Senator Scott holds the conservative line over the next few years (above and beyond winning two elections), he will start to look attractive in 2020 or 2024, much like Mia Love.

But early reports on him are hopeful. He has declared himself to hold many of the conservative values Jim DeMint held, and so long as he avoids following the example of the senior senator from his home state, Lindsey Graham, he ought to do just fine.

We’ll see what two elections and a lot more experience bring his way, but he is a name to watch. Maybe not for 2016, but definitely for the years beyond then.

16. Mia Love


Chris and Jeb

Coming in at the bottom of my list, for now, is one of the politicians I have the highest hopes for, but not in 2016. Down the line, however, in 2024 or beyond, Saratoga Springs, Utah, mayor Mia Love shows exceptional promise. And at the age of only 37, she has plenty of time to mature into a future White House run.

Ms. Love has all the right conservative positions on the issues; favoring fiscal discipline, personal responsibility and limited government, she is also pro-life, a supporter of 2nd Amendment gun rights, domestic energy exploration, and favors local control over Federal control on issues like education and land use. She is, by these positions, an impressive Constitutionalist.

Mia Love

In addition to her relative youth, Love’s minority statuses (she’s black, a woman, and a Morman) would prove a cure to many of the perceived negative stereotypes of the GOP on a national scale. However, before she can run for the White House, she still has some things to prove.

Although winning a local mayoral election is nice, she lost narrowly her first campaign for a U.S. Congressional seat in 2012, and has announced her intention in 2014 to run again. After losing by a mere 768 votes out of over 245,000 cast, she seems well-positioned to win the rematch in the relatively conservative state of Utah. But that will be her first litmus test; to win that U.S. Congressional seat in 2014. If she fails a second time, her career could falter before it’s really begun.

However, if she wins a couple terms to U.S. Congress, her next step would be to prove she can win a statewide office in her home state. That means a successful run for governor or U.S. Senate would have to precede any bid for national office.

That means a commitment of the next ten to twelve years of her career to building up her political resume, before a White House run would seem a wise risk. That’s not a negative, though. Along the way, she’d gain a lot of political experience that would properly prepare her for a future White House bid.

By the time Love reaches her fifth decade of life, if all goes well for her, she should be well-prepared for the national stage.

While most folks on this list will be ready for a White House run a lot sooner than Love, if her conservative credentials remain as sterling ten to twenty years from now as they are today, she could pose a brilliant challenge to whomever the Democrats are running, when Love’s hour in the national spotlight finally comes round.

Still, realistically, that’s a long way off and she has much yet to prove, in terms of her political acumen and her ability to win elections without sacrificing her conservative values the way so many do to “get ahead.”

But currently, we at WonderfulPessiment.com wish her much success in the future.

16 Conservative Names for 2016 and Beyond … Who Aren’t Chris Christie or Jeb Bush

Chris and Jeb
Hey all.

I know it’s a bit early to start handicapping the 2016 race, but someone has to replace Barack Obama in three years or so, and since the mainstream media is all about Hillary Rodham Clinton, I thought now would be a good time to start a list of names who show White House potential for 2016 or beyond.

Chris Christie

Those who follow this blog know that I’m a bit discouraged with the GOP of late; it’s not been a friendly place for conservatives for a while now, and given our White House success in recent years (four out of the last six presidential elections have been won by Dems), I think it’s time to start trumpeting some support for folks I think could win.

Now, when I say “win,” I’m not talking like GOP loyalists who love East Coast RINOs. I’m talking about conservatives. Genuine conservatives with a track record to back them up. Some of the names and faces you’ll see in this series are very fresh. Some are more familiar.

And I’m not going out on a limb to declare any of them “the next Reagan.” They’ll have to prove that to me.

But before the mainstream media drowns out all other candidates with repeated choruses supporting their favorite RINOs who are almost guaranteed to lose (or make a GOP win into a loss by governing like Democrats), it’s time to do some “shock and awe” at what a wonderful bench of conservatives we currently have.

Most of these names are folks with experience, or, in the case of a couple names, those who show great promise.

I’ll dedicate a separate post in this series to each of them. And I’m calling this series, “16 Conservative Names for 2016 and Beyond … Who Aren’t Chris Christie or Jeb Bush.”

Jeb Bush

Now, some GOP loyalists may wonder, “What’s wrong with Christie and Bush?”

It’s simple. They aren’t conservatives. They’re fails, win or lose, for the conservative cause.

“But… but… you want to win, don’t you?”

I do. That’s the point. And considering I’ve been contemplating voting third-party for the first time in my life if either Chris Christie or Jeb Bush gets the GOP nod, I’m out to promote names I would be willing to vote for.

All sixteen of these names are way better than Barack Obama. And even the least experienced of them would still be an improvement over Chris Christie or Jeb Bush.

So, get ready, folks. I’ll be writing this only as I can, but soon, you’ll all know these 16 conservative names who I think are great candidates for the White House … either in 2016 or beyond.

No one has ever been fondly remembered for being a wonderful pessimist. –Ronald Reagan