The Republican 'others' of 2016
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This piece is the last installment in a four-part series examining Republican candidates for president. The first, second and third installments can be found here, here and here, respectively.

Look — it's a free country. And wasn't everyone told when they were growing up that they too could one day become president of the United States? Now that dream today is not restricted by race, gender or any other disqualifying characteristic. So you can't really blame someone for going for the ultimate prize, even if at first glance it appears to be a far-out fantasy.

The aspirants who fall in this category I have labeled "The Others." All of them are extreme long shots and if you were a gambler the odds would definitely not be in your favor. But in the immortal words from "Casey at the Bat": "Hope springs eternal."


Let's start off with Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE. He would like that. He is affectionately called "The Donald." Now here's a guy who has a very high opinion of himself. The problem with his candidacy is that this opinion is held by very few other living, breathing humans. You might remember in 2013 that The Donald toyed with running in 2014. What is most remembered about that exercise is his constant questioning of President Obama's place of birth. He made a few trips to New Hampshire and then dropped out of sight.

Let's be clear: This foray is simply a giant publicity stunt. This is a person who is totally obsessed by elevating his brand, notorious and blemished as it is. I must confess that I would enjoy seeing him appear at debates because he will say anything about anyone and everyone. At a minimum, he would be highly entertaining. But that is not a qualification for president. Trump is a caricature of himself. He borders on being a buffoon. Suffice it to say, he is not serious and should not be taken seriously.

Dr. Ben CarsonBen CarsonRepublicans are the 21st-century Know-Nothing Party Sunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Government indoctrination, whether 'critical' or 'patriotic,' is wrong MORE is an interesting and intriguing candidate. An African-American pediatric surgeon who practiced medicine at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University, his life story is inspiring — right out of Horatio Alger. He has a rigid survival-of-the-fittest, rugged individualist personal philosophy and doctrine. One could compare him to Alan Keyes of yesteryear. But he is a much more soft-spoken and milder and less outrageous version.

The Republican party has trouble with African-Americans and Carson's presence demonstrates that the GOP can attract an unlikely candidate who does not shy away from the label. Carson does have a propensity to occasionally say things he later has to clarify or apologize for. He has never run for political office before, and this he considers a plus.

Someone who has never stopped running for political office is Rick Santorum. Santorum was a senator from Pennsylvania. Previously he had been a House member. Four years ago, he made his mark — sartorially. He popularized the sleeveless sweater. He also won the Iowa caucus. He is positioning himself as someone who can appeal to working-class, blue-collar types who can't identify with country club Republicans (i.e., former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush).

Santorum also is unabashed about bringing religion and his personal faith into the national discussion. He fervently and sincerely believes his spiritual persona should set him apart from the rest of the field. The problem with Santorum's candidacy is that it's been a very long time since he has been elected to anything (2000) and he doesn't have the look or feel of a winner.

Carly Fiorina did not win in her only attempt to gain political office (a U.S. Senate seat in California), but that has not deterred her from trying again. The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HP) is now running for president of the United States of America. She is the only female in the Republican field. She resents the suggestion that she really is running for vice president or the Cabinet. She has been the most constant critic of Hillary Clinton, but that can't be the sole basis for her candidacy.

Her record as chief executive of HP has been the subject of much review and the record is not good. She was fired for poor performance and before that, she laid off thousands of workers. Fiorina is from the state with the largest number of electoral votes — California, with 55 — and that could be considered a major asset. But nobody is saying that Fiorina delivers California in 2016. This candidacy seems to be an ego trip. Maybe she has too much free time.

Peter King, the congressman from New York, has made at least eight trips to New Hampshire. The Long Island representative has made a name for himself on matters of homeland security. He is smart and quotable, but there does not seem to be any noticeable potential for substantial support. His intelligence and candor would class up the field and his independent thinking would be a definite breath of fresh air.

Finally, there are two others who probably should be mentioned. James Gilmore III — he really should drop the III; it's unnecessary and a little bit too Charlottesville, Va. for me — the former governor and attorney general of Virginia and former chair of the Republican National Committee. Gilmore ran for president for a brief second eight years ago. I don't see why this time should be any different.

Even equally irrational is the candidacy of former congressman and one-term governor of Maryland, Bob Ehrlich. Both these individuals obviously miss the action and have devoted years to significant public service, but they have no apparent national following.

This article would not be complete without remarking on one quadrennial candidate who falls into the ridiculous category. Four years ago, when I was in the Live Free or Die State, you could not miss one individual lurking around with a devilish grin on his face and a boot on his head. His name was Vermin Supreme.

In the first-in-the-nation primary, all you need is to pay the filing fee to be on the ballot. Supreme's campaign platform consists of the pledge to give everyone a free pony. He received 43 votes in 2012. I would very much like to meet those 43 people and have a few words with them. As I said at the start of this column, it is a free country. Let me add: and anyone can run. And this year, they are.

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