GOP’s New Year's resolutions
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As the calendar turns to 2015, GOP presidential candidates are gaming out how they can get their best shot at winning the nomination. 

But each has roadblocks in their path, so here are The Hill’s suggestions for resolutions each should make if they want to improve their chances.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R): Reach out to the base

Bush has jumped to the lead in national primary polls and become an instant favorite of the donor class following his December announcement that he would “actively explore” the possibility of a presidential campaign.


But he faces resistance among conservative activists thanks to his immigration and education views — some prominent Republicans in early states like Iowa are already lambasting his stances. 

He’ll need to do a lot of work to assure them and other GOP voters he’s a true conservative if he wants to be the nominee.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle Fauci on Tucker Carlson vaccine comments: 'Typical crazy conspiracy theory' MORE (R-Ky.): Convince Republicans you can be trusted on foreign policy

Republican strategists and activists, both in D.C. and in early-voting states, often sing Paul’s praises in private conversations — before adding the caveat that they don’t feel comfortable with his foreign policy positions.

Paul showed a deft touch in his recent fight with Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference Senators reintroduce bill to block NATO withdrawal New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations MORE (R-Fla.) over Cuba policy — but his earlier responses on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria didn’t help him with more hawkish GOP base voters. 

If Paul can convince enough of those voters that he’s not an isolationist like father without alienating the more libertarian base he’s inherited from former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), he could be well positioned for a real run at the GOP nomination.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): Get out of Bush’s shadow

Rubio had a good 2014, emerging as a leading foreign policy critic of the Obama administration and recovering somewhat with the GOP base from his push for comprehensive immigration reform. 

But Bush’s moves toward a campaign have put his former protégé in a bit of a bind.

Rubio has insisted Bush’s decision will have no bearing on his own. Still, if he runs, he’ll have to prove he can both raise enough money without the donors who overlap with Bush and find space in a crowded field with candidates competing both for the establishment mantle and for the insurgent title. His recent moves on Cuba and fight with Paul are a good start as he seeks to become the foreign policy hawk in the field. 

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzUS has seen 45 mass shootings in the past month The Hill's 12:30 Report: Nearly half of U.S. adults partially or fully vaccinated Cruz no longer wearing mask in Capitol MORE (R-Texas): Grow your appeal past hard-line activists

 Cruz has been the belle of the conservative ball for the last two years, but he routinely struggles in both national and early primary state polls by failing to grow his appeal past hard-line Tea Party and religious conservative activists. 

Cruz has positioned himself well to be the insurgent candidate and is guaranteed to make a lot of noise in the primary, as he holds other candidates’ feet to the fire. But he needs to figure out a way to broaden his appeal to slightly less conservative voters and convince them he can win a general election if he wants a real shot at the nomination. 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R): Hip check Jeb

Christie had been the clear front-runner to win the backing of more centrist business conservatives and big donors before Bush made his move toward a run. 

The two face some similar problems with the base — but Bush is more likely to quickly sow up more of the big donors needed to power a national campaign.

Christie will likely have to convince GOP power brokers that he’s the most electable candidate in the field — and that he can go toe-to-toe with Bush and win both on policy and on personal campaign style. The New Jersey governor has the big, brash personality that could help him do so.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R): Show you’re serious

Huckabee has polled well in Iowa, where he launched his 2008 campaign with a caucus win, and has built a strong national following with his Fox News show. If he runs, he’ll have to be taken seriously. But that’s a big if. 

The former governor has made a lot of moves toward a potential run, but he has made it clear he won’t run if he can’t raise the money — and some believe he’s still more interested in boosting his personal media empire by keeping his name in the news than actually preparing for another presidential run. 

If he’s serious about a campaign, he’ll have to make some moves soon toward locking in some big donors.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R): Get past ‘oops’

Perry has been working hard since his disastrous 2012 presidential campaign to improve his campaign skills and broaden his knowledge base into areas he hasn’t dealt with as governor. 

He’s also spent a ton of time in early-voting states like Iowa, putting in the boot leather he didn’t last time, and he can point to the Lone Star State’s economic growth as a reason to vote for him.

But Perry is going to have to do a lot to get past his 2012 “oops” debate moment and overall lackluster campaign, especially with a press corps eagerly watching for any slipups or gaffes from the outgoing governor. Only time will tell whether he’ll be able to do so.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R): Find some elbow room

Walker is coming off a big reelection win and remains beloved by some Republicans for his anti-union stances.

Nonetheless, he’s failed to generate a ton of early buzz in the presidential field, remaining relatively mum about a presidential campaign since his win.

If he’s going to become a major player, Walker — along with other GOP governors like Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, Ohio’s John Kasich and Indiana’s Mike Pence — will have to figure out a way to draw more attention to himself despite not being on the radar of the East Coast-based national media. Plus, he’ll need to start building a donor network large enough to sustain a campaign. He will have to spend a lot of time in Iowa wooing voters one-on-one.

Ben Carson: Prove you have staying power

Carson has enjoyed a recent spike in his national and early-state poll numbers, as more Republicans hear about him. The conservative neurosurgeon’s no-nonsense style has proven especially popular with Tea Party activists and religious conservatives. 

But Carson has never run for office before and has already shown a penchant for controversial statements. The big question this year will be whether he can sustain his early momentum and prove himself a serious player in the presidential race.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.): Make lightning strike twice

Santorum surged at just the right time in 2012, as an Iowa GOP base still dissatisfied with eventual nominee Mitt Romney landed on him as their best alternate.

However, his glory was short-lived as he fell flat in South Carolina a few weeks later and never fully recovered.