2016 GOP frontrunner anyone’s guess

There is 16 months before the 2016 election, but the silly season already is in full force. It is foolish to put much weight into who leads the polls at this point.

If Hillary Clinton gets the nomination for the Democratic ticket, it will be one of the few instances when a Democrat frontrunner gets the nod. As for the GOP, you need only recall the circus before the 2012 election when every Tom, Dick and Harry took a turn as the party frontrunner.

This batch of candidates is creating another circus. Rick Santorum, a long shot at best, admitted he can only win if he avoids saying “crazy stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with anything.”

Other GOP candidates apparently don’t see it that way. Donald Trump climbed atop the GOP polls by making outlandish statements and attacking everyone in sight, including all GOP candidates. The more ridiculous his statement, the more he rises in the polls. He has been called a buffoon and a bombastic windbag — and that is only from the Republicans.

While having Trump to run against is every Democratic candidate’s dream, the fact is it most likely is not going to happen.

As former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough admitted, Trump’s lead in the polls is a sign of the weakness of the Republican Party today. Trump holds a 58 percent unfavorable rating amongst GOP voters.

Nevertheless, 52 percent of Republican voters say they do not want him to drop out, and 15 percent say they would welcome his candidacy as an independent. It must say something about a block of voters that wants a man to stay in the race when they view him unfavorably.

Surely, Republicans will come to their senses soon. But stranger things have happened, like a former WWE wrestler becoming governor of Minnesota.

In the meantime, “The Donald” will cause considerable grief to both the GOP establishment and the party’s far right wing. He will keep the spotlight off more palatable candidates for a while longer. The other candidates will blast Trump with every barrel of verbal buckshot they can muster.

They will find it too easy to take pot shots at Trump and neglect real policy stances.

What we can expect are more repulsive statements from Mike Huckabee such as his “marching Israel to the oven” comment. Even Fox News with its low bar has taken Huckabee to task for his statement.

Once Trump is revealed as the emperor without clothes, who will forge to the top? While Democrats will sorely miss Trump, there is the possibility Texas Senator Ted Cruz might soar to the top of the GOP list.

If you think Donald Trump upsets the mainstream GOP, wait till Cruz makes a move in the polls. After all, he is the most disliked man in Congress, and that is true even when only Congressional Republicans are polled.

Sen. Rand Paul would be a fascinating candidate, but he is caught between a rock and a hard place. To become electable, he must move away from many of his libertarian positions, which would only make him look like another flip-flopping Mitt Romney. But Sen. Paul has already begun walking back on a number of his statements, so we’ll see if he can contend.

Jeb Bush has the high-roller backing, though he is not exciting the conservative base since Gov. Christie is all but toast in the race, leaving only Scott Walker and Marco Rubio as the prime alternatives to Bush for the mainstream Republicans.

While it is too early to project a nominee, my best guess would be either Jeb Bush or Gov. Scott Walker. Bush is the mainstream’s favorite, but Walker has support among mainstream Republicans as well as tea party members. Walker is also the favorite of the Koch brothers and their money machine.

One thing is for certain: This silly season will be entertaining.

Michael Adkins is the former chair of the Hancock County Democratic Party. He lives in Greenfield.