Republicans say their long list of 2016 hopefuls is among the deepest, most diverse group in recent history without a clear frontrunner.
“This is the most open field we’ve ever seen,” one GOP strategist told The Hill.
That means there will be a narrow path to victory for many of the candidates, as they fight for the money, media, and voters they’ll need in the win-early-or-go-home battle royale.
The Hill spoke to more than a half-dozen Republican strategists to find out where the top names currently rank. Here’s their take.
THE BIG THREE
These candidates will leverage strong donor bases and have the most potential to bridge the establishment vs. conservative gap.
Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.)
Paul would not have been in the top tier just a few months ago, but since then he’s become a media sensation. He’s as comfortable bashing the president for his immigration executive actions on Fox News as he is joking about pot with Bill Maher on HBO’s “Real Time.”
In addition to inheriting his father’s campaign infrastructure, he’s moved early and aggressively to build his own from Silicon Valley to Washington.
Paul’s Libertarian streak could appeal to young voters who have tilted Democratic in recent years. And out of the top tier of establishment contenders, he has the best chance of winning the Iowa caucuses, which would make him the unquestioned frontrunner.
“Paul supporters always do more with less,” one strategist said. But it doesn’t look like he’ll have to this time around.