In the summer of 2011, the GOP candidate sitting on top of the polls was Texas Governor Rick Perry. By October of 2011, it was Herman Cain who was leading the polls with Mitt Romney in second. Rick Perry went into a freefall after his “Oops” moment at one of the what seemed like 1000 GOP debates.

Two candidates in the summer of 2011 were languishing at the bottom of the polls: Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Both of whom went on to win primary season races. Santorum won the Iowa caucuses, and Gingrich won the South Carolina primary.

As we head into the first GOP debate and into the fall when people will really start to pay attention to the race, it will be interesting to see where the polls start to move. For the last several weeks there have been several tiers of candidates according to the numbers:

  • Top Tier
    Donald Trump
    Jeb Bush
    Scott Walker
  • Second Tier
    Marco Rubio
    Mike Huckabee
    Rand Paul
    Ben Carson
    Ted Cruz
  • Third Tier
    Rick Perry
    Chris Christie
    John Kasich
    Bobby Jindal
    Rick Santorum
    Carly Fiorina
    George Pataki

It’s within that bottom tier where I think there may be 2-3 candidates who may be doing much better in the late fall than they are here in late summer.

1. Rick Perry – Perry surprisingly sits this low. I suspect that a good portion of that lack of support stems from the fact this is his second time around and his fall was so spectacular in 2011 that GOP voters are thinking he may have to sell himself again. He’s been the fiercest critic of Donald Trump, but it hasn’t helped much. Still, Rick Perry boasts a very impressive record as Governor and as more people start paying attention, they’ll get to see that. On everything from jobs to education, Texas is very impressive.

The only downside for Perry is this is a very good GOP field and others ahead of him in the polls right now such as Rubio, Walker, and Paul are getting plenty of the attention Perry might have attracted otherwise.

2. Chris Christie – I know this will get some darts thrown my way. I’m not saying Christie wins the nomination. I am merely suggesting he’s in a better position in several months than he is now. Christie is spending some money aggressively on ads, and he is using his experience as a federal prosecutor to make his case for being somebody voters can trust on national security. He has the “straight talk” people find appealing with Donald Trump but can offer more substance behind it.

Christie’s downside are some of the positions he has had to take on issues like gun control being a Governor in a northeast state, and primary voters are not going to forget him getting chummy with President Obama and eviscerating Congressional Republicans over Hurricane Sandy relief.

3. Carly Fiorina – Of all the candidates who are languishing near the bottom of the polls (she’s currently behind Rick Santorum in the RCP polling average), Fiorina is one of the most impressive. She’s excellent in interviews and knows the issues and policies up and down. There is never any hesitation when she speaks, and she has largely trained her sights not on other Republicans, but on Hillary Clinton alone. And she has pulled no punches when doing so.

Her downside is that she has no government experience she can point to (and while it may appeal to some people that she’s not in government, people react better to executives – ie, Governors who have a record to point to) and people will be sure to bring up her tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard despite it not being as bad as people seem to think.

Several months is a lifetime in politics and voters are often fickle. The candidate near the bottom of the pile right now could be the favorite by December. Time will tell.


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