- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2014

In its latest breakdown of the 2016 GOP presidential sweepstakes, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics says Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is the person to beat in the GOP nomination race.

Kyle Kondik, Larry J. Sabato and Geoffrey Kelly write that Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie round out the “first tier” of candidates at this point in time.

They say that Mr. Walker continues to gets top billing in their early rankings because of his “Blue state electoral success and conservative bona fides” — though they question how he would perform in a national campaign.

“Walker’s potential as a candidate comes in part because, as a governor, he doesn’t have to weigh in all the time on divisive national issues — something he won’t necessarily be able to get away with in 2015 if he becomes a candidate,” they wrote. “It seems like an odd comparison, but Walker might end up being like Gov. Rick Perry, who had all the makings of being a great candidate until he actually became one.”

Mr. Christie, meanwhile, dropped down a peg in the rankings — thanks to the George Washington Bridge scandal, which has tarnished his image.

“We suspect the so-called establishment would prefer Christie, provided his candidacy is not, pardon the pun, a Bridge Too Far,” they said. “The Bush family, and many others, wanted Christie to run in 2012, but he demurred. If Christie is not a viable candidate in 2016, there are rumors that former [Florida] Gov. Jeb Bush, son and brother to presidents, would consider entering the contest. The same might be true of [Wisconsin} Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s former running mate who is widely respected in GOP circles.”

Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are ranked in the “second tier” of potential GOP presidential candidates.

Mr. Bush, Mr. Ryan, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are considered “Wild Cards,” while former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Mr. Perry are labeled “Also-Rans.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has fallen off the list.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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