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.