There are two things we’re looking for in the ideal Republican Party nominee for president in 2016.
The first is integrity. I define integrity as a consistency in two areas: Right belief and right behavior. Now, notice I didn’t say perfection. No one is perfect, which is why we need a Savior. However, consistency is attainable for those who seek to live a life of integrity.
Candidates also need to possess the necessary skill set to confront the spirit of the age.
And that means when you broadly look at the long view of a candidate’s career you see far more of “well done, good and faithful servant” than “what in the Sam Hill was he thinking.” Our in-depth presidential profiles, featured exclusively here at Conservative Review, are as good a source as any you’ll find when it comes to learning which GOP presidential hopefuls have been conservatives with integrity.
Candidates also need to possess the necessary skill set to confront the spirit of the age. A few months ago I wrote about what that skill set entails and came up with eight criteria. For the purpose of this exercise, we will only look at seven of them since many of the campaigns haven’t filled out their staffs yet (it would be unfair to judge them on “personnel is policy”).
Based on what we know about the 2016 candidates thus far, here’s how I would rate them on those skills:
Command of the Bully Pulpit
1. Mike Huckabee — He’s the best and most winsome communicator the GOP has.
2. Ted Cruz — Fearless and knows the other side’s arguments better than they do.
3. Donald Trump — This is the skill that has vaulted him to the forefront at the moment.
4. Marco Rubio — Nobody in the GOP connects better with voters on an individual level.
5. Carly Fiorina — She’s one of the best candidates in the race at staying on message.
Quick on Their Feet
1. Ted Cruz — Has prodigious recall ability so he’s rarely caught flat-footed.
2. Mike Huckabee — His broadcasting background helps immensely here.
3. Donald Trump — Sometimes he’s too quick on his feet and that causes him trouble.
4. Carly Fiorina — Excellent at turning around false premises.
5. Bobby Jindal — Has improved immensely as a speaker.
Makes the Main Thing the Main Thing
1. Ted Cruz — At times he’s so on message he comes across as robotic.
2. Scott Walker — Given all the battles he’s already fought he should excel here.
3. Mike Huckabee — When he’s on point nobody’s better.
4. Bobby Jindal — He was the first to correctly focus on religious liberty.
5. Carly Fiorina — I’ve yet to see her distracted by shiny objects.
No one has stood up bolder against the two-part duopoly in D.C.
Knows Their Audience
1. Ted Cruz — Every time he opens his mouth the party platform comes out.
2. Bobby Jindal — Goes aggressively after the issues the base cares the most about.
3. Mike Huckabee — He knows his audience but he needs to broaden it.
4. Donald Trump — His single-minded focus on illegal immigration was a master stroke.
5. Scott Walker — Correctly moved to the Right on illegal immigration and marriage.
Is Willing to Do Hard Things
1. Scott Walker — Has fought and won battles most Republicans run and hide from.
2. Ted Cruz — No one has stood up bolder against the two-part duopoly in D.C.
3. Mike Huckabee — Stood up for Todd Akin and Chick-fil-A when no one else would.
4. Bobby Jindal — He’s done it quietly, but his resume stacks up nicely to even Walker’s.
5. Ben Carson — Takes the fight against the welfare state to the Left on its own turf.
Must Be Persuasive
1. Mike Huckabee — Has a knack for taking divisive issues and softening the blow.
2. Ben Carson — He’s energizing people who have previously given up on the process.
3. Ted Cruz — Of course a former national debate champion should score highly here.
4. Marco Rubio — Even when you disagree with him you empathize with him.
5. Carly Fiorina — Uses her femininity to her advantage without pandering.
It’s obvious he’s willing to “burn it down” to win.
The Eye of the Tiger
1. Donald Trump — It’s obvious he’s willing to “burn it down” to win.
2. Ted Cruz — He’d be #1 here if not for Trump’s overt ruthlessness.
3. Scott Walker — By defying the donor class he clearly wants to win.
4. Bobby Jindal — On the most contentious issues he shows the fire in the belly.
5. Chris Christie — His ambition has driven him to ignore his many skeptics.
Before overreacting to this assessment (although it’s probably already too late for that), keep in mind it’s still early and the campaign is just getting going for many candidates. At the very least, this hopefully provides a framework to help the vetting process along. And remember: No amount of skill compensates for a lack of integrity, so this assessment should be considered in light of each candidate’s proven records.
There’s no point electing a skilled politician who doesn’t share your convictions.
Steve Deace is a nationally-syndicated talk show host and also the author of the new book “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can “like” him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.