Who will be the Republican presidential nominee?

This article appears in the Election 2016 feature series. View the full series.

About three months ago I predicted that Donald Trump would fade from the presidential race before long. I was wrong, but I was in good company, as many other pundits made the same prediction.

Trump has demonstrated staying power and has now been joined by Dr. Ben Carson as another unlikely candidate heading up the pack.

What is interesting to me is the contrast between these two front runners. While both are non-establishment candidates, which seems to be the preference among the Republican base, their personalities and approaches to the race are dramatically different. It seems clear now that the attraction to Trump is his projection of strength and even certainty in his statements about his ability to do the job. He is seen as a winner who will bring victory to the United States in every area, perhaps particularly in terms of financial growth. He is fond of calling those he doesn’t like, losers -- and who wants to be a loser?

In contrast, Carson is soft-spoken and more thoughtful. While he makes statements that appear outrageous to many, he says them in a calm and soothing voice that somehow makes them seem reasonable. His strength is, of course, the evangelical Christian community, which seems to be embracing him as their candidate, especially in Iowa.

With that entire context in mind, I am ready to make another (perhaps foolish) prediction about where the Republican presidential race is heading. In fact, I am once again going to predict the demise of Trump and the number two candidate in the race, Carson, as well.

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I believe we are finally beginning to see some cracks in the Trump campaign. The latest Iowa poll shows for the first time that Trump is trailing in Iowa. One wonders how this winner is going to deal with not being number one, especially if he should lose Iowa to Carson.

Carson has a devoted following but seems to have a ceiling. One has to question what other states he can actually win. The early primary state of South Carolina would seem to be a good prospect with lots of evangelical Christians. Yet Trump is still showing a significant lead in that state.

Therefore, it is my contention that some other Republican will overtake the front runners and actually win the nomination. It no longer appears that former Gov. Jeb Bush will be that candidate. His candidacy just does not seem to be gaining traction, and he has been forced to restructure his entire campaign.

It appears to me that the most likely breakout candidates are Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Of the two, I believe that Rubio will ultimately be the Republican nominee for the 2016 presidential race. Both candidates are showing signs of life in the most recent polls.

They now seem to be hovering in the low double-digits in many polls.

Cruz is still following the strategy that as Trump fades, he will pick up his supporters. He may pick up some, but Trump supporters may not be so predictable.

My suspicion is that as attention is diverted from the Trump phenomenon, more attention will be directed at the young charismatic senator from Florida. This is one reason why Bush has started attacking his one-time protégé heavily.

Currently the votes are scattered around a large field of Republican presidential candidates. Trump and Carson together do not generally reach 50 percent of the electorate. Rubio will become the establishment candidate, and the establishment will finally be able to have an impact in getting him to the nomination. As the field narrows, more supporters will find their way to Rubio as they search for someone who can be elected president.

Rubio is considered to be a formidable candidate in the general election. He has excellent debating skills. He has the possibility of picking up a chunk of the Latino vote. He likely gives the Republicans their best chance of victory in November. Historically, Republicans have eventually coalesced around the candidate considered the strongest in the field. This year is not likely to be an exception. 


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