The ’16 Field

This graph from a Manu Raju article at Politico on Ted Cruz’ potential Leader of the Opposition role on immigration reform sure got my attention this morning:

“Every leading GOP 2016-er is supporting comprehensive immigration reform,” said one Texas Republican source who knows Cruz well and asked not to be identified. “The worst secret in D.C. is Cruz is going to run for president, and he’s going to lean in hard against immigration to separate himself from all other 2016-ers.”

Oh brother. We’ve all been led to believe the 2012 Republican presidential field’s zaniness was an aberration mainly caused by the unwillingness of the Great Big Adults of the GOP to take on an incumbent president. But look at how the early field for ’16 is beginning the shape up. The “moderate” is Marco Rubio, the Tea Party darling who called Jim DeMint his “best friend” (other than his wife). The “centrist” is Rand Paul. And holding down the dominant conservative pole position is Ted Cruz.

Yeah, there are other potential candidates like Jeb Bush, who reappeared in public recently with a book on immigration policy that was distinctly to the right of where Rubio has landed. Some still see Chris Christie or Bob McDonnell as lively possibilities, but only after they perform the Romney Crawl to the right to become acceptable to the conservative movement. Bobby Jindal is not looking all that good at the moment. Obviously a lot could happen over the next couple of years before the ’16 competition gets serious. But the fact that Rubio, Paul and Cruz are presently the hot items is a pretty serious indication that there won’t be some automatic “move to the center” for the GOP in 2016, and in fact, the pressure could continue to be in the opposite direction.

UPDATE: Those scoffing at the idea that the GOP is continuing to move to the Right should check out the letter from Rand Paul–up until now generally counted as a staunch ally of Marco Rubio in supporting comprehensive immigration reform–to Harry Reid demanding a slowdown of immigration legislation until the “national security” issues raised by the Boston bombing can be addressed.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.