The GOP senators hoping for a promotion to the White House
© Greg Nash

This piece is the third installment in a four-part series examining Republican candidates for president. The first and second installments can be found here and here, respectively.

Being a sitting United States senator is now thought to be a distinct disadvantage to becoming president of the United States. The U.S. Congress is much maligned and wildly unpopular and even though you may be a member of the "world's most exclusive club," it doesn't seem to help you in advancing your career.


Having said this, it should be noted that Presidents Kennedy and Obama went directly from the Senate to the White House. And President Nixon had been a senator in recent political memory. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Lindsey Graham: 'Graham wants to bring back 1950s McCarthyism' Meghan McCain knocks Lindsey Graham for defending Trump's tweets: 'This is not the person I used to know' MORE (R-Ariz.) were nominated by the GOP as sitting senators. With the legislative branch being held in such "minimum high regard," it is fashionable today to think that holding a Senate seat is actually a disqualification — but this has not stopped four Republican senators from attempting to reach the highest office in the land.

Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGoogle official denies allegations of ties to China The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Cruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book MORE of Texas was the very first to announce. He did this at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. This was the home of the late Jerry Falwell, evangelical superhero. Cruz's campaign is rooted in the fervent belief that the reason Republicans lose presidential elections is that they are not conservative enough.

He is an unabashed right winger who devoutly is convinced that all you have to do is motivate your base; that there are enough of them and you will win. His base consists of evangelical conservatives who have been sitting at home or staying away and he and only he can get them to participate and ultimately, vote. Cruz is the Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) of 2016. Goldwater did get nominated in 1964; however, in the general election, he carried only six states.

Cruz has already demonstrated that his supporters can raise big bucks. Four "independent" PACs supporting his candidacy have already raised $31 million. That was in a single week. Cruz is in it to the end, but the question is: Does his polarizing and uncompromising style and philosophy alienate so many that he becomes a constant irritant rather than a serious contender?

Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate ratifies long-stalled tax treaty On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses The buck stops here: How to restore accountability to the federal regulatory system MORE of Kentucky is taking a different tack. Like Cruz, he took on the party establishment and won, but he wants to broaden and enlarge his party. This libertarian Tea Party candidate makes a deliberate effort to talk to black voters. J.C. Watts (Okla.), an African-American Republican who served in Congress, is supporting Paul and spoke at his announcement. Paul's "new way" campaign is a dramatic departure from conventional GOP thinking. He advocates less punitive drug laws, vigorous oversight of intelligence agencies and less military intervention.

Paul is positioning himself as the inclusive candidate, going to places that Republicans usually shun. For example, this week he is starting his Iowa campaign in Iowa City, a liberal bastion. Rand Paul is not Ron Paul. He hopes to inherit his father's fervent following, but at the very same time not be viewed as a wacko or a fringe candidate. Paul wants you to believe he can be nominated and, better yet, elected.

Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants Lawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei MORE of Florida is set to announce next week. He is young and the term "charismatic" is very often attached to his name. His views on immigration might make him unable to be nominated, but he speaks well and his Cuban ancestry is a definite plus in presenting a different GOP face to the nation. He will be on everybody's veep short list.

Rubio is giving up his chance for reelection to the Senate. That takes guts and he may get points for that gamble. Being from the third most-populated state, with all of its electoral votes, can't hurt. But I don't see Rubio lasting the marathon for the nomination.

Finally, Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet Why Trump's bigoted tropes won't work in 2020 The Memo: Toxic 2020 is unavoidable conclusion from Trump tweets MORE of South Carolina. Graham is the ultimate legislator. He served in the U.S. House (from 1994 to 2002) and was elected to the Senate in 2002. A sharp lawyer's mind and a glib delivery set him apart. He is a quotable daring showman. He is John McCain's best friend.

He has committed three visible sins which I believe rank-and-file Republican delegates will not forgive him for. First, he pushed for former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to be McCain's running mate in 2008 and, worse than that, he voted for two of President Obama's Supreme Court nominees: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Graham likes the verbal sparring that goes with a campaign. He enjoys the limelight and air time. He is a facile and entertaining performer. But do not confuse this with being a serious contender. He is a substantive, smart and savvy politician, but in no way does he have a chance to be nominated in Cleveland in the summer of 2016. Oh, one more point: Republicans have South Carolina locked up and it will never be considered a swing state.

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.