An unofficial, layman's take on some of
the candidates' pluses and minuses
Floridians, both Democrats and Republicans, often say he ran a helluva good state as governor. He has experience and would enter with a built-in infrastructure. But many view him as bought and paid for by the big money Republican establishment and its pet interests. Reality check: Anyone who says "I'm putting on my big boy pants" and "I'm my own man," raises the question in the minds of voters.
Ben Carson (R)
Outsider, calm demeanor, sense of humor. The worst they could find is that he wasn't as bad of a kid in middle school as he'd once said? Nobody doubts his intellect. But Americans wonder if a doctor has the leadership skills and brand of smarts necessary to run the country.
Plainspoken and direct; praised by some Democrats as a fair boss. Pragmatic. Been-there-done-that as a state chief executive. Some Repubs don't consider him conservative enough on key issues. Some view him as a bully who's full of hot air.
In many ways, the most experienced politician in the field. A survivor. Knows all the players. Moves easily in the right circles. Cool cucumber and smooth operator. Has a loyal core of supporters. Attracts the big money. Knows whose closet, besides her own, has skeletons. She's bogged down by real, not imagined, missteps. Americans most frequently think of her as a "liar." Her inside polling shows most Americans do care about Benghazi. Reality check: For her, the best headline at the end of the FBI investigation still isn't good: Hillary not indicted for her rogue email practices and allegations of endangering national security and circumventing public information laws.
Intellectual. Relishes going against the grain. Skilled at making his case and answering tough questions with better answers. Sometimes it's too rehearsed--like a Baptist preacher. His own party is working against him.
Carly Fiorina (R)
Business sense and confidence. She's right: a debate between her and Hillary would be fiery. She makes passionate and well-thought out speeches, and gives intelligent answers to questions on complex issues. But they can sound like lectures and diatribes.
Mike Huckabee (R)
A pleasant demeanor; all around nice guy. Experienced as a state chief executive. The former Arkansas governor isn't as well known as one might expect, especially after his years on Fox News.
John Kasich (R)
Also an experienced state executive as governor of Ohio. Proven to take on tough conservative issues such as welfare reform and balanced budget. But viewed as supporting Obamacare, and some don't like his past ties to the banking industry.
Martin O'Malley (D)
He's 53 on January 18: the youngest in the field of top Democrats (15 years younger than Hillary, and Bernie is old enough to be his father). Dems like his social positions. Like the other two top Democrats, he's a career politician. Another former governor with state chief executive experience. His governorship is nothing to brag about.
Rand Paul (R)
Viewed as an outsider. It takes guts to buck the crowd and invite the ire of your colleagues for what you think is right. As a doctor, he has a more diverse perspective on some issues than a typical politician does. Some of his libertarian views set him apart. They also make him unpopular among many Repubs. He registers low on charm and diplomacy.
Marco Rubio (R)
Great at explaining his positions clearly and in a nutshell. Many like the idea of a Rubio. Perceived by some as not too far inside the party, not too far outside; juuuust right. He'd be 45 when taking office; some say it's too much too soon (Teddy Roosevelt was the youngest incoming President at 42.) Some view him as shaky on the trust scale.
Bernie Sanders (D)
Not for sale, so don't bother. Says what he thinks. Self-deprecating humor. Many Americans like the free lunch he offers up. He's the antithesis of a corporate interest candidate. He doesn't hesitate to take on big money powers. He'd be 75, the oldest incoming president by about 5 years (Reagan was 16 days shy of his 70th birthday). Americans unlikely to elect an elderly white male socialist, but you never know. Even his supporters know deep in their hearts that the free lunch really does come with a bill. Reality check: Bernie is a career politician, having spent 45 years in politics-- though most never heard of him until this campaign.
Speaks with passion on his passions. Lawyer by training. Early to recognize the Islamic extremist threat. Expresses family values that his Repub supporters love. But he's not well known, and many who do know him consider him too much of a Republican party insider.
Donald Trump (R)
By far the most captivating, dynamic presence in the field. How did a billionaire convince so many that he's closest to being a man of the people? Voters believe he'll get it done and work for them, not paid interests. Appeals to Democrats, Republicans and independents. Also offends constituents in all three groups. If he makes bad decisions, it won't be because he's on the take. Some think he's too dictatorial. Americans wonder would he be too brash or rash on globally crucial matters?