Politics & Policy

A Report Card on the Presidential Candidates

Clinton campaigns in Salem, N.H. (Darren McCollester/Getty)

We are just weeks away from the first 2016 presidential caucuses and primaries, but at least on the Republican side of the aisle there are millions of voters just like me: thoroughly undecided.

Every candidate has virtues and certainly they all have flaws. The candidates most ideologically in line with a free market/limited government philosophy, often seem to lack the political skills or that crucial X factor of “likability” that swung the last two elections in President Obama’s direction and the two before that in George W. Bush’s favor. ‎How does one weigh a candidate’s fealty to the core conservative principles we care most about (needed to govern effectively) with electability (necessary to govern at all)?

This calculus is for all voters to decide for themselves, but at least there is now an online tool to help people make more informed judgments about each candidate’s ‎assets and liabilities.

A new group on the political landscape, Leadership Project for America, offers just that. LPA consists of leading political and policy experts on the right. (For full disclosure, I am proud to be one of many advisers to LPA.) The LPA has created a one of a kind online Leadership Matrix. This matrix evaluates all the presidential candidates (Republicans and Democrats) on vital criteria — key aspects of diplomacy and policy, personal character and principled leadership, as well as support for key issues that are distinctly and uniquely American, such as free enterprise, strong national security, and American exceptionalism.

#related#All of the current Republican and Democratic candidates are graded ‎on the LPA report card at leadershippac.org. Some of the criteria are objective — such as how much spending they have voted for in Congress or what taxes they have supported. Some of the criteria are subjective, such as effective leadership skills. Everyone will quibble with the scores (including the candidates themselves). But this is still the most useful report card out there.

With a few exceptions, all the Republicans do well with high or above-average grades. Alas, all of the Democrats, including Hillary, are crowded on the other side of the spectrum.

I don’t agree with all the grades. Trump deserves far better than an F and Rand Paul much better than a C, but LPA is a tough grader.

#share#Religious conservatives may complain that the grading is skewed toward economic, not values issues. This is partly by design. One of the founders of LPA, Peter Morse, notes that “the free market economic issues are what bind us all together as a party.” But there are metrics on the values issues too. Under the category ‎”American Exceptionalism,” candidates are scored based on their philosophical “belief in community, opportunity, family, faith.”

Every voter — or at least every undecided voter — should check out the LPA matrix. It’s user friendly and a quick read. And it’s worth the time given that this is one the biggest decisions we will ever make for our country.

Candidate                  Grade

Jeb Bush                      B+

Ben Carson                  B-

Chris Christie               D

Hillary Clinton             F

Ted Cruz                      B

Carly Fiorina                B-

Lindsey Graham          C+

Mike Huckabee            D

John Kasich                 C+

Martin O’Malley          F

Rand Paul                     C

Marco Rubio                A-

Bernie Sanders             F

Rick Santorum             C+

Donald Trump              F

Source: Leadershippac.org

Stephen Moore is an economic consultant with Freedom Works and served as a senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign. His new book with Arthur Laffer is Trumponomics: Inside the America First Strategy to Revive the Economy.

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