Sabato’s Crystal Ball: GOP Presidential Tiers

Director over the Center of Politics at UVA and frequent cable news commentator Larry Sabato is out with his latest “Crystal Ball” prognostications on the growing field of potential Republican presidential candidates, with tectonic shifts after the surprise move by Jeb Bush just before Christmas.

With the domino effect now in motion, Sabato has ranked the likelihood of each among the long list of GOP potentials in becoming their party’s nominee in 2016. And it comes as no surprise that Jeb’s chess game has put him in place as the only ‘frontrunner’ in Tier 1.

CIB1121914-Jeb-BushThe prevailing wisdom concerning Jeb’s timetable was that he would continue to quietly explore his options until offering a final pronouncement on his intentions in the late Winter or early Spring time. But when he dropped the electoral bomb on December 16th, the move shifted the clock for everyone in both parties.


In Tier 2, dubbed the ‘The Other Big Boys’, Sabato lists Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. Scott Walker, and Gov. CIB010915-100-PaulCIB010915-100-ChristieCIB010915-100-WalkerChris Christie, all of whom have been making moves on the chess board for months. Paul declared his intentions for the White House well before the midterm when he began seeking counsel on how to run both for Senate and President simultaneously. While Walker quietly began head-hunting for national staff immediately after his huge re-election victory in Wisconsin. Finally, Christie has been laying groundwork for years, but has been fighting off scandals in recent months which threaten to knock him out of the race before it even starts.

Sabato’s Tier 3, ‘The Outsiders’, is comprised of Sen. Ted Cruz, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Ben CIB010915-100-CruzCIB010915-100-CarsonCIB010915-100-HuckabeeCarson. The moniker most likely refers to this group’s reputation as non-Beltway insiders whose anti-Washington, populist rhetoric defines them more than anything else. But that outsider status also presents major obstacles in terms of big donor fundraising, which has always been an insider’s game.

The 4th and 5th Tiers pull in the remaining among the usual suspects including Mitt Romney (primarily CIB010915-100-PerryCIB010915-100-JindalCIB010915-100-Romneybecause he is considered likely to stay out of the race), Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. John Kasich, Gov. Rick Snyder, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Gov. Rick Perry, and former Sen. Rick Santorum.

Sabato’s 6th and 7th Tiers include everyone else whose only chance at the nomination would come if all other candidates dropped out.