For many Republicans, 2016 is the year where the GOP gets to have its fair shot at making history with its presidential preference. By all measures, this year's field is among the most crowded in history, and surely its most diverse.
Former Virginia Governor and 2012 GOP Vice Presidential nominee Bob McDonnell is a natural frontrunner for his party's nomination in 2016. He secured the endorsement of Mitt Romney and has hired many former Romney operatives, allowing McDonnell to surpass many of his opponents in fundraising. McDonnell, who says that he will compete in each of the January primary contests, has had few gaffes on the trail and is believed by Republican operatives to be a top-choice candidate for the post.
Chris Christie, in his second term as New Jersey's governor is giving Bob McDonnell a run for his money for the Republican nomination. Christie has focused his campaign efforts on New Hampshire, where he hopes to stave off the "candidate backed by corn" in Iowa. With a lot of support, comes a lot of enemies as well, and Christie has made some in the Republican Party's religious wing. Before his closer-than-expected re-election in 2013 over former Governor and State Senator Richard Codey, same sex marriage was passed in New Jersey. Fearing retribution from liberals and moderates in an off-year election cycle, Christie largely ignored the issue, refusing to attend fundraisers and other events promoting the illegalization of marriage equality. Despite this setback, Christie has raised the most out of any contender, leads national polls, but struggles in early state polls.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez squeaked out a re-election victory in 2014 and has been on the campaign trail for president ever since. Despite lower name recognition than McDonnell or Christie, Martinez has been the most active candidate, hoping to pull a "Santorum" in states like Iowa because of her staunchly conservative position on social issues. Martinez has been a leading figure in the attempts to overturn same-sex marriage and civil unions in western states. In 2014, the National Organization of Marriage named Martinez "Governor of the Year."
Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan tossed his hat into the presidential ring shortly after his opponent Susana Martinez. But Ryan's controversial budgets and campaign finance scandals have served his campaign major setbacks. Recently, Republican insiders in Washington were surveyed, and agreed that Ryan was the most likely to drop out of the race before the first contest.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul generates much money and buzz, but little substantive support in terms of endorsements or recent polls given to likely Republican primary voters. Many expect that Paul will fare just slightly better than his father, Ron Paul
Eric Cantor did not run and threw his support to Governor McDonnell. Senator Marco Rubio had planned to run, but serious campaign finance allegations and other issues stopped the bid. Senators John Thune, Kelly Ayotte and Governors Bobby Jindal, Jan Brewer, Nikki Haley and Rick Scott declared a lack of interest in running for the position.
Stay tuned for results from the 2015 Iowa Straw Poll and a newer look at our Democratic candidates!