(Note: an updated Power ranking is available here)The day that the 2012 presidential election ended, the 2016 one began. Politicians are politicians regardless of political affiliation. It's rare that a politician runs on a presidential ticket without having thought or dreamed about it years in advance. The Republicans who rank highest on this list are current fixtures in the top ranks of 2016 polling and have made it abundantly clear they are thinking about running through their actions, if not by their words. Those at the bottom have not made major national moves yet but could easily rise on this list if they start to. Others - like Sarah Palin and Condi Rice - score well in polls, but are not considered likely to run and do not show up at all in this initial list. So, let's take a look at where things stand now, and conservative perspectives on each candidate.
10. Susana Martinez - New MexicoSusana Martinez is a longtime district attorney and the current governor of New Mexico. Martinez made her presence known at the 2012 Republican National Convention when she gave a speech reminiscing about her mid-1990s party switch from Democrat to Republican. A solid conservative with a non-confrontational style, Martinez is popular in Democratic-leaning New Mexico and could build a strong coalition withing the GOP and in a general election. She would be the highest profile Latina to ever run for office. Similar to: Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker.
9. Scott Walker - WisconsinConservatives looking for major flaws with the current governor of Wisconsin are in for a long search. After initially winning office in 2010, Walker improved on his numbers - and embarrassed labor unions and the Democrats in the state - by winning a 2012 recall election by an even greater margin. The recall was an attempt by Big Labor to punish Walker for his successful budget moves. Walker is low-key, but a highly effective reformer and solution-savvy. Similar to: Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan.
8. Rick Santorum - PennsylvaniaAs the last real challenge to Mitt Romney during the 2012 primary, Rick Santorum attracted a coalition of social-issue conservatives. He is very likely to run in 2016, but attempts to maintain momentum from his 2012 run have not gone well. He does not score high in most polling, a sign that his 2012 run may have been more of a last man standing scenario. Santorum would likely try to run on social issues once again and could make an impact if the other candidates focus primarily on the economy, jobs, and healthcare. Similar to: Mike Huckabee.
7. Bobby Jindal - LouisianaThe current Louisiana governor and former congressman has long been a favorite of conservatives. But Jindal has never quite recovered from his disastrous 2009 speech when he awkwardly gave the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address. Conservative across the board, Jindal has a great life story that could connect with voters. Similar to: Susana Martinez, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker.
6. Paul Ryan - WisconsinMitt Romney's 2012 running-mate is well-liked and lands on the list given his position in the last campaign. But Paul Ryan is iffy on a run. A budget expert, Ryan is perhaps too wonky in a world that is more interested in personality and flair than seriousness and qualifications. Does Ryan have the fire to mount a major campaign for President? Does he even want to? Similar to: Scott Walker.
5. Jeb Bush - FloridaLet's be honest: Americans love dynasties. And while the "not another Bush" sentiment appears high, the George W. Bush presidency might be known as "the good old days" by the time 2016 comes around. (And W.'s favorability continues to rise.) The tea party is not thrilled with Jeb, and Jeb is not thrilled with the tea party. But Bush was a solid and popular governor of Florida with strong ties to the Hispanic community. Similar to: George W. Bush, Mitt Romney.
4. Ted Cruz - TexasIs the Canadian-born Ted Cruz eligible for higher office? He thinks so, and we think so too. And though the jokes will fly about both his Canadian birth and his Hispanic heritage, the former Texas Solicitor General and current US Senator is known for his gifted speaking style, debate skills, and tea party affiliation. He is a close ally to Sarah Palin and is one of the few national politicians to publicly embrace her. That is a major endorsement he could use should he decide to run. He was first elected to the US Senate in 2012, leaving many to speculate he will not run given his short time in office. But his resume is stacked, and his following is growing. Similar to: Sarah Palin, Rand Paul.
3. Rand Paul - KentuckyRand Paul has seen his star quickly rise with his willingness to directly battle the Obama administration. His father, Ron Paul, remains both a strength and weakness. A strength for his built in base, a weakness because the GOP has suffered from Ron Paul fatigue over the decades. But Rand holds his own politically and is impressive in debates and with the grasp of the facts. His poll numbers are an an upward trend as he manages to fiercely defend the Constitution while not alienating large portions of voters like his father. Similar to: Ted Cruz.
2. Chris Christie - New JerseyThe "outspoken" Governor of New Jersey is almost as certain to run for the Presidency as Paul and Rubio are. He is expected to win re-election easily in 2013 by playing the role of anti-politician and opposing both parties. Chris Christie's major problem is when he picks a fight with Republicans, it's the conservative side he is battling. Conservatives question if he would actually be willing to attack Hillary Clinton, should she run. Still, people like his style and he could take the Romney route as voters might see him as "most electable." Similar to: Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich.
1. Marco Rubio - FloridaWhile Marco Rubio was once the clear frontrunner, and though he remains a slight number one now, his stock has fallen on his push for ill-received immigration reform. While we have mixed feelings about the bill - mainly due to who else signed on and who would be enforcing it - Rubio is one of the few politicians seeking a solution that could actually become law. His attempt to make progress on a number of legislative items shows his desire to accomplish something major ahead of 2016. Rubio still has the ability to attract large swaths of voters from all corners of the Republican Party, but he is losing some ground to Paul and Cruz among conservatives at this point. Similar to: Susana Martinez, Ted Cruz.
This is the 1st edition 2016 Power Rankings. Continue to the 2nd Edition Power Rankings