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The New York Times celebrated St Patrick’s Day not with a wearin’ of the green, but instead with a wary look at the long shots in the Republican presidential field. Chief among “The Grey Lady’s” concerns: what it dubs “the Ben Carson movement” — the support surrounding the pediatric neurosurgeon seeking the presidency in what the Times deems a political insurrection.
The question: is 2016 going to be a repeat of 2012, when a series of movement GOP candidates had their 15 minutes of fame, yet the contest still ultimately went to the establishment candidate? Or, will outsiders like Carson change the script? And, if they can’t change the outcome, are they are a benefit or a liability to whoever gets the nod?
If you look at the recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that asked GOP voters to rate the candidates, Carson was in the middle of the pack: 41% said they could support him, placing him seventh out of 14 (behind Rubio, Walker, Huckabee, Bush, Paul, and Perry; ahead of Cruz, Santorum, Jindal, Christie, Trump, Graham, and Fiorina).
But is Ben Carson and the non-establishment portion of the field the GOP’s biggest headache at this moment, as the Times fears?
Here are some other potential concerns:
1) Jeb Bush’s numbers don’t improve (49% of Republicans in the aforementioned poll would support him — fourth behind Rubio, Walker and Huckabee); 42% won’t (a number topped only by Christie, Graham and Trump). Back in December, 63% of Republicans said they could back Bush. Suppose Bush gets the nomination but the base is even less enthused than it is now. That spells trouble.
2) Scott Walker’s gaffes become a running story. The Wisconsin governor’s stumbled on evolution and ISIS; he didn’t exactly shine at the Club for Growth’s annual meeting. For all the attributes (anti-establishment, working class), the impression of not ready for prime time could derail the express. Suppose Walker gets the nomination, despite the occasional blunders. Will independent voters give him the benefit of the doubt?
3) The Field vs. Congress. Beating up on the Obama Administration is a given; so too, Hillary Clinton. But what about the Republican Congress? Will candidates embrace or distance themselves from the GOP budget blueprint? Will the GOP senators in the 2016 field ever find a budget to their liking? The same dynamic returns this fall, when the GOP Congress has to settle on a policy and political approach to raising the debt ceiling. One other wild card: if and when President Obama gets a chance to make a Supreme Court pick.
Anything else I’m missing?