Grading the GOP field after New Hampshire confab

The Republican Leadership Summit in New Hampshire this past weekend served as something of a try out for a dozen potential Republican candidates for president. You can view the speeches of all 12 candidates here.

The performance by the top tier candidates - Bush, Rubio, and Walker - were received with varying degrees of enthusiasm by the crowd. Others, like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, scored well also.

Byron York breaks down a few of the performances:

1) Marco Rubio is clearly enjoying a moment. He is relaxed and funny in front of crowds, flying high after a well-received campaign announcement. In addition, Rubio appears to be winning growing support among some GOP establishment figures and opinion makers — the ones who worry about Jeb Bush's dynastic problem, fear Scott Walker is not ready for prime time, and have given up on Chris Christie. But Rubio has to convince other Republicans who worry that he is too green for the top job, and he still has his record to contend with, when opponents take a very close look at his signature achievement, the Senate-passed Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill.

2) Scott Walker is steadier on his feet. The Wisconsin governor seemed a little wobbly for a time after his quick rise to GOP frontrunner following a similar Republican cattle call in Iowa in late January. Now Walker seems a little more comfortable, and his record of standing up to his state's powerful Democratic-dominated public-sector unions has huge appeal among Republicans. But he still has to go beyond that record, to convince Republicans he has the knowledge and skills to apply his courage and determination to problems in Washington.


4) Jeb Bush is a solid candidate running a solid campaign, but he is still stuck explaining why he is his own man and why another Bush should be running for president. Maybe he should just get on with it. Voters will work out the Bush issue in their own minds; Jeb's job is to make the best case why he would be the best president. It might not work — the Bush problem might be insurmountable, given Republican voters' intense yearning for something new — but Bush's best option could be to campaign as his own man without continually reminding voters that he is his own man.

5) Ted Cruz is still Ted Cruz. A solid part of the Republican base likes him a lot, but it's unclear how he would grow beyond that group.

6) Rand Paul's appeal is as solid as ever, and his potential to transform himself into a general election candidate is as limited as ever.

I left off Chris Christie at #3 because I'm not buying the "back from the dead" spin his people are putting out. Christie is a dead man walking when it comes to the nomination, regardless of how much money he thinks he can raise. He is beyond "damaged goods." He is toxic waste to any but the small number of Northeastern Republicans who thinks he's the bees knees. Let's hope he realizes that before he makes a fool of himself and enters the race.

Otherwise, York gives a reasonable analysis of the field to date. The top six candidates (minus Christie) he mentions should be able to raise enough cash, build a viable organization for the run next year, and be competitive in the early primaries and caucuses. It's possible one of the second or third tier candidates will catch fire and muscle their way into contention, but even their supporters have to acknowledge they are longshots.

The first Republican debate of the 2016 campaign is scheduled for August 15 in Cleveland. It would be ridiculous if they had 15 people on the stage so expect some desperate manuevering by the also rans to get an invite. The event should at least partly clarify the status of several candidates and may even lead to a breakout by one.