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The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election

How Every Republican Candidate Will Kill His Own Presidential Campaign

The 2016 Republican presidential candidates have a gift for saying stupid shit, so it's only a matter of time before they all torpedo their own campaigns.
April 16, 2015, 8:44pm
Photo by Gage Skidmore

For months, wide-eyed Republicans have been lining up to run for president, jockeying to be the lucky guy who gets to lose to Democratic nominee Jim Webb in 2016. At this point, it's hard to keep track of all the conservative politicos who've said they're "thinking" about running—each week, it seems, another doughy Senator or Reagan-era tax official suggests he'd make a great leader of the free world, and that 2016 might be the year he decides to do something about it.


At the end of the day, though, only one clown will make it out of the car alive. And while the campaigns will spend the next year trying to tear down their opponents, the truth is the candidates themselves are their own worst enemies. Already, the 2016 GOP field has shown remarkable gifts for saying stupid shit, and eventually the weight of those gaffes will likely crush their White House dreams. So rather than wait for the inevitable fuck-ups, we've imagined our own ending, coming up with the most plausible way that that the candidates will torpedo their own campaigns.

Jeb Bush
The presumed favorite for the nomination, Jeb "Everyone I Know Is a President" Bush is actually in a dead heat with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in the latest polls, casting some doubt on the whole idea that he's a shoo-in for the party's nomination . And there other things that could cause problems for Bush's nascent candidacy—like, for instance, that time he listed himself as Hispanic on a 2009 voter-registration form. Or this 1991 LA Times story, in which his wife Columba, who is from Mexico, is quoted saying, "My husband wanted me to say as a Mexican citizen," but that she changed her citizenship to vote for George H. W. Bush.

Whether any of this actually damages Bush is up for debate—but it suggests that the GOP's safe and boring option might not as safe and boring as he looks. Problem is, Republicans happen to like safe and boring. They're also mostly white, and tend to think undocumented immigrants are driving America's moral and economic collapse. So while Bush's desperate attempt to become an "honorary Latino" might help in a general election, it will also his albatross in a Republican primary. And once those secret documents reveal Jeb's secret plan make Puerto Rico the 51 st state, and eventually annex Mexico, it'll all be over.


Rand Paul
He's only been an official candidate for one week, but it's already clear that Rand Paul's presidential campaign will end when he finally punches a reporter in the face. The senator formerly known as Aqua Buddha has revealed that he has no patience for the press and their stupid questions. This was clear on the first day of his campaign, when he gave an interview to The Today Show's Savannah Guthrie that could most generously be described as "mansplaining" and less generously as "being a huge dick."

Instead of giving a canned response to Guthrie's very appropriate question about his shifting foreign policy positions, like a more genteel politician would do, Paul told Guthrie how to do her job, speaking over her for most of the interview. Later, he told the Associated Press that rather than ask him for his stance on abortion, reporters should ask DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz "if she's OK with killing a seven-pound baby that's just not been born yet."

Since then, his wife has had to come out and say, "Hey, Rand's great with women! He has a wife that's a woman! It's me! And a surgical partner who was a woman! Two women!" (I'm paraphrasing.) Still, Paul clearly has a little bit of a problem with the media. It's only a matter of time before he finally loses it, likely on an unsuspecting embed who tries to ask him about foreign aid.

Ted Cruz
Assuming you don't think that Cruz's entire career has been a gaffe , the moment that stands out most was when the Texas Senator called net neutrality "Obamacare for the internet," then followed up that incredibly confusing statement with a Washington Post op-ed reinforcing the fact that he has just no idea what net neutrality actually is.


Doubling down on a mistake is an impressive commitment to gaffe-making, much like accidentally uploading your botched response to the president's State of the Union address, and it gives hope that Cruz could be the likeliest presidential candidate to provide a truly awesome gaffe in the weeks and months to come. How does it all end? My guess is during the first Republican primary debate, when Cruz tries to explain free trade as "a really great selection of samples at the farmer's market."

Scott Walker
Walker's political star is hotter than his Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA men's basketball championship—and like the Badgers, Walker might be in for a very hard fall. On the way to becoming a conservative darling, he's managed to say a lot of silly shit, mostly having to do with cultural matters outside the state of Wisconsin. Like when he signed "Thank you again and Molotov" on a Hanukkah card. Or when he compared dealing with thousands of American citizens protesting union regulations to dealing with the Islamic State. This week, during a trip to Germany, he forgot a letter at the end of the word Hannovermesse, changing "Hannover Fair" to "Hannover mess."

All of which reinforces a belief held among some Republicans that Walker's fortunes will start to change as soon as the country hears him speak. Just wait until he tells a diner full of voters in Ames, Iowa, that he's "always considered himself a Hoosier at heart."


Ben Carson
If I were to list all the ridiculous things Carson has said since he first started talking politics, this piece would make Moby Dick look like a tweet. But the most recent example might also be the most impressively offensive, so we can focus on that. In March, Carson—remember, this guy was one of the most successful neurosurgeons in the world—told CNN that being gay is "absolutely" a choice.

He followed that up with this reasoning: "A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight—and when they come out, they're gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question."

But nothing Carson says, no matter how outrageous, seems to derail his political ambitions. In fact, his disdain for what he calls "political correctness" has actually made him a hero, at least among Republicans. Carson has surged in early polls, and his likability rating is higher than anyone else in the 2016 race, including Hillary Clinton's. Presumably, this will all be over when Carson slips up and tells people he read Origin of Species, and kind of liked it.

Marco Rubio
The most recent addition to the presidential field, Rubio has yet to commit a truly remarkable screwup, at least in front of a national audience. The closest he got was the time he had to drink water during his response to the State of the Union, which is so lame I fell asleep writing this paragraph. ( Twitter loved it though, so naturally Rubio can't make it through a speech now without mentioning it.) But I have faith that every candidate, no matter how skilled, fucks up eventually. For Rubio, this will probably happen when he's finally admits he doesn't actually know Pitbull.

Chris Christie
His aides once closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge just to get back at a political rival. I'm pretty sure that's how it ends.

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