Walker, Paul, and Huckabee sit atop a very early Iowa poll:
I finally sat myself down and watched that Scott Walker speech from last week that everyone is raving about. If this was the standout speech, I sure made the right decision in not subjecting myself to the rest of them. It was little more than a series of red-meat appetizers and entrees: Wisconsin defunded Planned Parenthood, said no to Obamacare, passed some kind of law against “frivolous” lawsuits, and moved to crack down on voter “fraud””—all of that besides, of course, his big move, busting the public-employee unions. There wasn’t a single concrete idea about addressing any of the major problems the country faces. …
He’s gained [in Iowa] because those items— kicking Planned Parenthood, denying your own citizens subsidized health-care coverage, pretending that voter fraud is a thing—are what pass for ideas in today’s GOP. Walker is even more vacuous on foreign policy, as Martha Raddatz revealed yesterday, twisting him around like a pretzel with a couple of mildly tough questions on Syria. The Democratic Party has its problems, but at least Democrats are talking about middle-class wage stagnation, which is the country’s core economic quandary.
Matt Latimer expects Christie to benefit:
In fact, right after his tweak of Jeb, Mitt Romney headed to a dinner with the “fresh face” he apparently had in mind: the New Jersey governor. Many would-be Romney donors are reportedly following his lead. Should he enter the race, the Christie campaign strategy is not a mystery: To let everyone take whacks at Bush while Christie clings to the most valuable quality in all of presidential politics: being underestimated. The New Jersey governor shares many of Jeb Bush’s strengths: experience running a complicated, politically diverse state; an appeal to moderates; and with his proximity to New York, ready access to big-dollar donors. But he also has a few traits that seem to be notably absent from the third would-be President Bush: a crackling speaking style and a reputation for ruthlessness.
Jennifer Rubin downplays Christie’s chances:
Sources in the donor community say that large numbers of freed up former Romney donors, especially outside the Northeast, are steering away from the camp of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (Christie took another hit when, not long after an earnest appeal in the Freedom Summit, he clocked in at 6 percent in the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg’s Iowa poll – with a 54 percent unfavorable rating.)
Paul Mirengoff looks at the big picture:
[T]he main effect of Romney’s non-entry may be to move the race more quickly to where it probably would have been after the early going — a field dominated by an “establishment” candidate (now probably Bush), a Tea Party favorite or two (probably Cruz and/or Paul), a “bridge candidate or two (say Walker and/or Rubio), and maybe Mike Huckabee if he retains his popularity among evangelicals.
Nate Cohn argues along the same lines:
There is one crucial respect in which the race has not changed. The main challenge to Mr. Bush will be from his right, from a candidate with appeal to the party’s conservative grass roots yet with enough appeal to the establishment to secure the resources necessary to win the nomination.
Mitt Romney was hoping to be that candidate. The position remains open.