Republicans Expect Long, Expensive 2016 Presidential Battle

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas kicked off in recent days what is likely to be the longest, most expensive and perhaps most contentious Republican Party presidential battle in history

The Cruz announcement signals the beginning of an intense period of activity as other candidates prepare to jump into the race while others still pondering a run for the White House assess levels of support and their ability to raise funds.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is at or near the top of most polls among the Republican contenders. But Bush told voters in Georgia he’s aware he will have to overcome the doubts of conservative activists.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell worked on the 2008 McCain-Palin campaign. He picked Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Florida Senator Marco Rubio as the top Republican contenders so far who will appeal to Republican primary voters.

“They are looking for three things," he said. "They want someone who can win the White House in 2016. They want a strong leader and they want someone who is going to do what they say they are going to do and not just sell campaign rhetoric to win the nomination.”

Bush is a favorite of the party’s establishment wing while Cruz wants to become the champion of Tea Party activists and social conservatives.

O’Connell said the various Republican contenders will be looking to appeal to various groups with the Republican Party who play key roles in the nominating process.

“It is a very complicated mosaic," he said. "We have four main types of voters. There are the moderate or establishment voters, which are about 40 to 45 percent of the party. We have what are known as grass roots conservatives or the media likes to call them Tea Party. They are about 20 to 25 percent of the party.

"We have social conservatives, which are about 18 to 20 percent of the party," O'Connell said. "They are strongly against abortion and they are strongly against gay marriage. And then we have this libertarian strain, which is about ten to 15 percent of the party and they just don’t like the government whatsoever.”

Read more from Jim Malone at Voice of America 

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Analysis & Political Strategy