The Republican field this election season is perhaps the greatest pool of talent we’ve ever had. After years of speculation as to which of the clearly rising stars of the party were going to take the plunge and become actual candidates, Ted Cruz suddenly jumped into the empty pool way back on March 23. He didn’t even form an exploratory committee. He just decided to run, and he ran.
Soon he had company; by the end of May there were a total of eight candidates in the race. Then, somehow, they just kept coming. One after the other. Now, inexplicably, there are sixteen—no, wait—seventeen.
We’re pretty sure that’s all of them on the Republican side, though.
Although the Democrats and the media seem overly enamored of the expression “clown car” to describe the group—especially Chris Matthews, from whom it is especially biting due to his uncanny resemblance to a carnival barker—the truth is such a deep bench has given the Republicans a dazzling array of choices. Within those seventeen candidates is a treasure trove of attributes the GOP has only been able to dream of for decades. This week I’m not going to spend the column focusing on one candidate, for good or ill, or rehashing the recent friction between this candidate and that, or between candidates and media, or candidates and those running on the other side. Instead, I’m going to show you how fortunate we are this time to have such people to pick from—instead of to pick on and pick apart.
There is a wealth of political experience: four governors, five former governors, four Senators, and one former Senator. There are two superstars from the world of business. If you are looking for brains, we have a neurosurgeon (no pun intended, there), a Rhodes Scholar, and an ophthalmologist. We have people with BA’s, BS’s, MA’s, MBA’s, and a bunch of JD’s. We even have a candidate with no college degree—but he’s been elected three times in four years, so that doesn’t seem to have created an electability problem.
Our candidates are a festival of firsts and bests: first man to separate conjoined twins; first woman to head a Fortune 20 company; first Hispanic to clerk for a Supreme Court Justice; first Cuban-American Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives; youngest president of the University of Louisiana system; first governor to create a statewide Internet policy; first Hispanic, youngest, and longest-serving Solicitor General in Texas history; and the first New York governor since FDR to be elected from outside New York City.
There are Catholics and a variety of Protestants. There is even an ordained minister. They have experienced things that tested their faith severely. Ted Cruz’s dad left him and his mom when Ted was three, but experienced a Christian conversion that brought him to his knees and back to his family. Ben Carson’s mother raised her children without a husband, yet both men emerged with a strong and pervasive faith that sustains them to this day. Carly Fiorina lost a daughter to addiction. Lindsay Graham lost his parents in his early twenties, while he was in college; he later adopted his younger sister to make her eligible for his military benefits. John Kasich’s parents were killed by a drunk driver when he was an adult. Everyone knows that Rick Santorum has a special-needs child that wasn’t supposed to live long enough to have a life worth living. Bella is seven now, and Santorum is a better man because of her. Hardship breeds resilience, and our candidates have been tested and are still standing.
Three of our candidates were in the armed forces. Jim Gilmore was in the Army, Military Intelligence, while Lindsay Graham and Rick Perry both served in the Air Force. Chris Christie has prosecuted terrorists. Rick Santorum sat on the Senate Armed Services Committee for eight years. George Pataki and Jim Gilmore were governors during the 9/11 attacks (of New York and Virginia, respectively), and Carly Fiorina held the highest civilian clearance, as a member of the Central Intelligence Agency’s External Advisory Board.
They are no strangers to business and budgets, either. Bobby Jindal had created three businesses before he graduated from high school and became the youngest president of the University of Louisiana system. Donald Trump has made nine billion (with a “b”) dollars as a real estate developer and tycoon. Carly Fiorina climbed the corporate ladder from an office secretary to CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Rand Paul runs his own medical practice. Jeb Bush has also been a real estate developer, like Trump, and a CEO, like Fiorina. Rick Santorum has been running a movie company while we weren’t paying attention. Mike Huckabee founded and ran a TV station in Arkansas. And, unbeknownst to most Americans, John Kasich spent 7 years as the management director at Lehman Brothers.
Finally, just to rub it in the face of the DNC, our candidate pool is diverse—in race, religion, ethnicity, gender, region, educational backgrounds, life histories, and age. Our candidate pool spans generations, while theirs concentrates in the post-retirement quadrant. On virtually any metric you choose, at least one of our candidates bests all of theirs—unless you count high-level wife or number of American citizens killed due to cabinet-level incompetence.
Be proud, Republicans, and pick well. It would be a shame to waste this opportunity.