3. Rand Paul: We are increasingly convinced that the Kentucky Senator will wind up being the prime mover in this race — he will act and the other candidates will react. That’s already happened on drones, and Christie’s comments on libertarianism were quite clearly aimed at Paul. Paul has a real case to make that he is the only candidate who can change and expand the Republican coalition nationally.
2. Chris Christie: The New Jersey governor’s condemnation of the creeping libertarianism within the GOP proves two things: (1) He’s running for president and (2) He will do so as a defense-defending hawk in the mold of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The question for Christie is whether he is another incarnation of Rudy Giuliani (tough-talking hawk whose moderate credentials doomed him) or a whole new — and more successful — model for GOP candidate. Time will tell — but he’s definitely running.
1. Marco Rubio: Rubio has taken a hit for his support of comprehensive immigration reform. But it’s far from a political death blow. His efforts on abortion legislation and defunding Obamacare are clear attempts to re-bolster his conservative bona fides in advance of a 2016 bid. The Florida Senator isn’t as strong a front-runner today as he has been in the past, but he still looks like the best bet — not named Jeb Bush — at the moment.