If there’s one thing you can say about the 2016 Republican presidential field, it is this: It is going to be huge.
There are as many as 23 names on some long (long) lists of potential candidates. That’s twice(!) as many people as have run for the GOP nomination in any previous campaign. Now, not all of those “candidates” will actually run — Sen. Bob Corker and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, both of Tennessee, don’t make much sense as presidential candidates, to name just two — but a huge field of serious contenders remains.
Although all won’t make the race, the fact that there are so many credible potential candidates speaks to the key dynamic of the coming Republican race: There is no true front-runner.
You can make the case for Jeb Bush as the top dog. Or Chris Christie. Or, as we have in the ratings below, Rand Paul. But you can unmake each of the cases — including ours — pretty easily. When national polls put the leading contender at 15 percent, you know the word “front-runner” doesn’t mean much.
Given that, the prevailing sentiment among ambitious Republicans looking at 2016 is “Why not me?” As in, if the best-known potential candidates are polling only in the mid-teens (at best), why the heck shouldn’t I run and just see what happens? That attitude is affirmed by what happened in the 2012 primary fight, a remarkably fluid contest in which previously unknown candidates such as Herman Cain got their moment(s) in the national spotlight.