In 1980, the Republicans saw six members of Congress run for president. They were joined by three former governors and the former congressman turned United Nations ambassador turned envoy to China turned RNC chairman turned CIA Director George H.W. Bush. Ronald Reagan, the former governor of California, won that year and picked Bush as his running mate. The 2016 Republican primary has the deepest bench of candidates since that year.
Jeb Bush is the former governor of Florida turned education advocate. Ben Carson is a former neurosurgeon whose biography is so notable it was turned into a movie. Chris Christie is in his second term as governor of New Jersey, which is an amazing feat for any Republican. Ted Cruz is the leader of the conservative movement in Washington from his perch in the Senate.
Carly Fiorina is the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Jim Gilmore is the former governor of Virginia and had a successful career as a U.S. Army counterintelligence agent. Lindsey Graham served 33 years in the Air Force and Reserves, was a Clinton impeachment manager in the House of Representatives, and now serves South Carolina in the Senate.
Mike Huckabee is the former governor of Arkansas who turned a previous bid for the presidency into a successful television and radio career. Bobby Jindal is finishing his second term as governor of Louisiana and may be the smartest man to run for president in the past 100 years. John Kasich just destroyed the Ohio Democratic Party with his reelection to that state's governor's mansion and, uniquely among the Republicans, believes Jesus told him to expand government and anyone who does not like Obamacare is most likely destined for hellfire.
George Pataki is the former governor of New York and will be a former presidential candidate before this year is out. Rand Paul is both a doctor and a senator from Kentucky who has taken his father, Ron's, political base as his own and built a successful political machine. Rick Perry served as a C-130 pilot in the Air Force before becoming the longest serving governor of Texas and created 1.5 million jobs in his state, while the rest of the nation combined lost 400,000.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who was the runner-up in the Republican presidential cycle of 2012, is back again as a voice for blue-collar voters.
Marco Rubio, the former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and a current U.S. senator, continues to impress both average voters and billionaire donors within the Republican Party. Scott Walker is the guy the base wants to love. He won three times in very blue Wisconsin — twice as governor and once by beating a recall led by leftwing activists.
More than 450 words in, we finally get to the man all of the candidates above are fretting about. That would be Donald John Trump Sr. On paper, Trump should not be an issue for any of these candidates, given his background.
Trump is on record supporting a Canadian-style universal health care system. He received several deferments to avoid the Vietnam War. His company reportedly hired illegal aliens. He has had several businesses go bankrupt. He has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats and their causes, including a good bit of money to Hillary Clinton. He previously has been in favor of abortion rights and told MSNBC's Thomas Roberts that he is "evolving" on the issue of gay marriage.
But Trump has something these other candidates are struggling to find: voice. Given his past, he may not really believe some of what he is saying. But you would be hard-pressed to think it. Trump speaks with a passion, clarity and bluntness that are refreshing in an age of cynical politics. The salesman knows what he is selling, even if no one else really does.
Republican mega-donors are whining that Trump might get on the debate stage. Instead of trying to shut up Donald Trump, they should instead push the other Republicans to tell us, with passion, what they believe. Clarity and conviction trump, well, Trump.
To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.