The perfect Republican candidate for president, two leading conservatives suggested, might be like Frankenstein: cobbled together from bits and pieces taken from other candidates in the crowded field.
That suggestion came amid growing consensus within the conservative establishment as to who the strongest candidates might be, if not which issues they ought to be emphasizing.
Arthur C. Brooks of the free market-oriented American Enterprise Institute singled out former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. He took care to add that all Republican senators in the field should, by virtue of their office, be included in that top tier.
Bill Kristol, the neoconservative editor of the Weekly Standard, also named Rubio, Walker, and Bush, throwing in Ohio Governor John Kasich for good measure. (One notable absence from these lists? Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Kristol highlighted “the failure of Rand Paul,” saying that despite ably presenting his ideas, “there’s just not much purchase there” with ordinary voters.)
But if the field itself is taking shape, the issues that will define it remain uncertain. Kristol and Brooks spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Sunday, in a panel on conservatism and the 2016 election, moderated by the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart. Both were optimistic about the prospects for conservatism in the presidential election, but for very different reasons.