Carville: Handicapping the GOP for 2016

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Anyone who loves politics and horse racing is out to try and handicap anything this week. My favorite Saturday, outside any Saturday that Louisiana State University plays football, is the Kentucky Derby. It might not be very fashionable these days to be a horse degenerate, but that’s what I am. Thinking about the up and coming presidential election, I will use some horse racing analogies to talk about 2016.

On the Democratic side, there has never been a more non-incumbent prohibitive favorite than Hillary Clinton. Seems to me the best horse analogy would be Secretariat running in the Belmont Stakes in 1973, who went off a 1-10 favorite and won by 31 lengths. Not much interest there, but there’s a lot of interest on the Republican side.

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The truth of the matter is that most good handicappers don’t look at the field and put their mark by the horses they think can win. Best practice says you go throughout the field and throw out the horses that cannot win.

In doing this, smart handicappers will look at each horse to see if it’s capable of going the distance, they will see if the horse’s degree and pedigree lends itself to being able to win the Derby.

A candidate that can win the Republican nomination, at least since 1944 — with the possible, and I mean possible, exception of 1964, with the nomination of Barry Goldwater — has always been easy to predict at this point in the cycle: it was the one who had the capacity to raise the most money and who had the ability to draw across wide sections of the Republican Party to grab support.

The Republicans never nominate against (again, with the possible exception of 1964) the mainstream of their party.

Given this, I think we can throw out Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Which leaves us former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. I am torn as to where to put my own governor, Bobby Jindal; I tend to throw him out of the running because most nominees for president have had national stature at this point, which it seems he’s is missing, but I might include him in a small play to hit a jackpot.

As for Gov. Huckabee, he is built more like what handicappers call a “rabbit” — he could jump out to a quick lead, but isn’t likely to hold on for the whole race. Sen. Rubio ... well, let’s say he was declared ineligible because his jockey didn’t have the correct papers. In terms of Gov. Bush, we don’t even know if he will be running, and the April 20 New York Times story about his financial dealings post-governorship have caused quite a stir among the commentariat. Gov. Walker can mold himself more in the mainstream, but I am completely uncertain as to his ability to run on a track in a race of this magnitude and duration.

Gov. Perry has a big advantage, in that he has been around the track once and he knows what the track is like. The only problem for him is that it is the same track he essentially finished last on.

Gov. Perry can raise a bucket load of money without even trying and Gov. Perry, unlike Walker, has got a compelling economic story to tell. And I think he’s more electable. So I think if I went to the window right now, I would bet the exacta on Bush, Perry.

Carville is a political contributor for Fox News. He also serves as a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife, Republican strategist Mary Matalin. Their book Love and War is in stores now. His column will appear twice a month in The Hill.

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