Insiders: Look to Florida for Strongest 2016 GOP Candidate
The strongest GOP presidential nominee in 2016 will come from Florida, according to the latest National Journal Political Insiders Poll. But Republicans and Democrats don't agree if that person is Sen. Marco Rubio or former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Among Democrats, Bush received a near majority of the votes, 47 percent, among the eight choices presented. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie received the second most tallies, at 28 percent, and no other contender managed to receive more than 15 percent of the vote share.
Who would be the strongest Republican presidential nominee in 2016?
"Last name may scare some but he is experienced, moderate and not just a white boy," said one Democrat of Bush.
Added another, "If his name was Jeb Anything-Else, he would have been elected president last night."
Bush was considered a successful two-term governor of Florida, and, perhaps more importantly, is a moderate on immigration reform like his brother, George W. Bush.
But among Republicans, Rubio was the clear choice, earning 40 percent of the vote. Bush finished second among the GOP Insiders, while no other candidate cleared 10 percent of the share.
"It's not just that our party has to reach beyond old white males," one Republican said. "More fundamentally, we talk in terms of policies and numbers instead of addressing people's real-life concerns. Rubio is the only one on the list who does that persuasively and relatably."
Said another Republican, "The Latino Republican version of Obama/Kennedy -- he inspires, he's handsome, and what's not to like?"
Interestingly, Paul Ryan failed to receive more than a few votes among the Insiders - for perspective, he received about as many votes as failed 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum. The Wisconsin congressman is the closest thing the party has to a next-in-line successor, although it's not clear if he will run for president again.
If his prospects have cooled among Republicans, it's in part because many in the party have decided it needs to nominate a minority candidate to attract minority votes -- the inability of Mitt Romney to do so was ultimately a fatal flaw.
"Time for something other than a two-white-guy ticket," said one GOP Insider.
Christie also failed to impress, grabbing only 9 percent of the vote among Republicans. His poor showing could be attributable his socially moderate views, or the praise he heaped upon President Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy just a week before the election. In any case, some GOP Insiders still see him as a strong leader.
"Perception is that he's a strong leader who knows what he wants to do and goes forward to get it done like Teddy Roosevelt," according to one Republican. "If he fails, he at least gave it his best shot."