In February, I offered odds on the Republican presidential contest. The field of candidates has evolved since then, and the number of genuinely possible winners has narrowed.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who officially launched his candidacy this week, is no longer the front-runner, although he’s still in the top tier. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have leapfrogged Bush in what remains a wide-open contest.
The field of serious candidates now stands at eight, and I’ll pit my odds against rival offerings in London, Las Vegas or the Iowa futures market.
Scott Walker: 3-to-1. He has yet to officially declare his candidacy, but he is the frontrunner in the Iowa caucuses, and he polls well in a range of states from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. Walker’s a favorite of Charles and David Koch, but can he handle the intense scrutiny of a presidential run?
Marco Rubio: 4-to-1. If Walker has won the first six months of the “invisible primary,” the Florida senator has been gaining ground. With youth, good looks and charm, he’s the 21st century Republican answer to John F. Kennedy. But his Senate record is empty, and questions about his personal finances and ethics will persist (look for the Bush camp to savage him in the months ahead). Florida holds a winner-take-all primary March 15. Either Rubio or Bush will still be viable on March 16 – but not both.
Jeb Bush: 5-to-1. Bush has had a bad year so far, marked by his inability to clear the crowded Republican field or to shake the tarnish of his brother’s presidency. He has the time and resources to bounce back but faces big tactical decisions: Should he compete in Iowa, where he could finish fifth? And does he then have to win New Hampshire?
John Kasich: 7-to-1. This assumes the Ohio governor’s charm and knowledge will trump his flakiness; it’ll be a close call. He is suspect to many conservatives — he expanded Medicaid for the poor under Obamacare — but Kasich has first-rate strategists, and the former chairman of the House Budget Committee is better versed in national and global issues than Walker.
Ted Cruz: 8-to-1. He’s tough, although anathema to more mainstream Republicans. If he scores an early upset in Iowa, he will become a contender. If he waits for later contests, it won’t happen.
Rand Paul: 10-to-1. He has expanded the libertarian brand more in rhetoric than in reality. He could win one of the early races, such as the Nevada primary. If he won another, it would rattle the Republican foreign policy establishment, many of whom would prefer even Hillary Clinton to the Kentucky lawmaker.
Mike Huckabee: 20-to-1. The only genuine right-wing populist in the field, the Baptist preacher has traction on the religious right. But Huckabee will be money-starved and has little potential to broaden his support.
Perry: 25-to-1. The best retail politician in the field, he still suffers from his dreadful performance in the 2012 primaries; an indictment in Texas, which he’ll probably beat, doesn’t help.
There are others who won’t win the nomination but can influence agendas and results. Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP, gets elite media attention but isn’t making nearly the mark in polls and with the grassroots that neurosurgeon Ben Carson has despite his many gaffes. Similarly, Lindsey Graham, the hawkish South Carolina senator, will contribute to the party debate. (New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who only two years ago was considered the most compelling figure in the party, has more baggage than United Airlines.)
Want a 30-to-1 long-shot? A protracted, inconclusive race forces the party to turn to the tried: Mitt Romney.
Contact Mr. Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org.