2016 GOP power index: Jeb breaks down, Rubio races ahead

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Buzz Cut:
• 2016 GOP power index: Jeb breaks down, Rubio races ahead
• Hillary finds another new low on favorability
• Biden time: All eyes on Wilmington
• Is Ryan ready to take the plunge?
• Pardon me? Don’t mind if I do

In what could end up being the final pairing of the Republican nominating contest two 44-year-old Cuban American senators hold the top two spots in this week’s 2016 GOP Power Index.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, remains the FNF favorite to win the votes of Republican insurgents. Cruz is running a disciplined campaign and mostly avoiding the candidate-on-candidate violence of the cycle. And he is raising enough money to burn a wet elephant.

But on the other side of the map, the terrain is shifting. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is consolidating his status as the favorite for Republican-establishmentarians. (The term “establishment” seems a little worn out this cycle since it now means any person who has ever won an election, but that’s what Rubio is.)

Despite puny fundraising numbers in the last quarter, Rubio continues to press ahead. It doesn’t hurt that he has help from deep-pocketed outside groups. But the best thing going for Rubio is the impossibly weak candidacy of his mentor-turned-rival Jeb Bush.

Bush’s super PAC has started unloading positive ads about the former Florida governor in a bid to boost his flagging fortunes. In the latest CBS News poll, Bush cards the worst favorability rating 6 points underwater of any top-tier candidate.

The idea that Bush can woo his skeptical fellow Republicans seems increasingly far-fetched. Bush’s rating dropped 11 points in the CBS poll from August. When you have universal name recognition and are losing ground at that pace, hopes fade quickly.

And the former establishment frontrunner can’t even make an electability argument since the poll shows him in as bad a condition with general election voters as current poll frontrunner Donald Trump. Trump is -25 and Bush -28 among all voters. Both look like bad bets right now for GOPers desperate for a White House win.

It is getting harder to see how Bush will be able to get to the nomination, or even just get past Rubio, and into the final pairing without carpet bombing his rivals with negative ads.

Bush has been trying out attack lines, first against Trump and more recently against Rubio. The Trump tango was a disaster, and Rubio has apparently not suffered from Bush’s broadsides.

Worst of all for Bush, the huge fundraising of his first six-months in the campaign may have been more “cash for clunkers” than “shock and awe.”

His boosters said Bush’s eight-figure launch would help clear his path to a Romney-like victory in a war of attrition.  But now, his campaign is downplaying expectations for the third quarter. That may mean that like the 2009 Obama stimulus program to encourage car sales, Bush’s opening fundraising blitz might only have sped up donations he was bound to get anyway. That leaves later quarters looking disappointing even when the overall haul is huge.

Expectations aside, however, Bush has enough money to torch his rivals. If Bush is prepared to tacitly sanction that kind of scorched-earth campaign against Rubio and all comers, he could still deny them the nomination. So while Rubio can be happy for his current run of good fortune he may be rising right into Team Bush’s crosshairs.

1) Ted Cruz; 2) Marco Rubio [+1]; 3) Carly Fiorina [-1]; 4) Donald Trump [+1]; 5) Jeb Bush [-1]; 6) Ben Carson; 7) John Kasich [+1]; 8) Chris Christie [-1]; 9) Mike Huckabee; 10) Rand Paul [previously unranked]

On the radar: Bobby JindalRick Santorum, Lindsey GrahamGeorge PatakiJim Gilmore

What would you say? -
 Give us your take on the 2016 Power Index we will share the best and brightest with the whole class. Send your thoughts to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM

[Watch Fox: Chris Stirewalt joins “The Real Story” in the 2 p.m. ET hour with the latest on who’s up and who’s down in the 2016 Power Index.]

As the nation celebrates the great achievements of Italian-Americans, starting with the first one, Christopher Columbus, consider the amazing business success of Domingo Ghirardelli. The Maritime Heritage Project brings us the history: “…born near Genoa, Italy into a family of exotic foods importers…[in] 1837, at age 20, Ghirardelli married his first wife and set sail for Uruguay to work in the South American chocolate trade. … In 1849, Ghirardelli learned of the gold strike at Sutter’s Mill; he sailed unaccompanied to California where he began to thrive by opening a general store in Stockton and then a shop in San Francisco. However, his holdings were destroyed in the great fire of 1851; he consolidated his salvaged assets and opened the Cairo Coffee House on Commercial Street. The coffee house did not thrive, so he formed a new company called Thirardely & Girard at Kearny and Washington; this establishment became the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company…”

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or the LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval:
Approve 45.5 percent//Disapprove – 49.6 percent
Directions of Country: Right Direction 26.3 percent//Wrong Track – 63.5 percent

CBS News: “Clinton, Sanders and Biden are viewed more positively than negatively among Democratic primary voters. While fewer see Sanders favorably, over a third has yet to form an opinion of him. Among voters nationwide, opinions of Biden and Sanders are divided, but more than four in 10 voters - 44 percent - are undecided about Sanders or don't know enough to have an opinion of him…But among that broader electorate, 53 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Clinton, an increase from August and the highest since the CBS News Poll began asking about her in 1992.”

2016 Democratic Power Index: 1) Hillary Clinton; 2) Joe Biden; 3) Bernie Sanders; 4) Martin O’Malley; 5) Jim Webb; 6) Elizabeth Warren; 7) Lincoln Chafee

Obama says Hillary made a ‘mistake’ with secret server -
Fox News: “President Obama said Sunday that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct her correspondence while secretary of state was a ‘mistake,’ but denied that U.S. national security had been jeopardized as a result. ‘She made a mistake. She has acknowledged it. I do think that the way it's been ginned up is in part because of politics,’ Obama said in an interview with CBS’ ‘60 Minutes.’”

Bernie jabs Hillary ahead of the debate - Fox News: “Democratic presidential candidates on Sunday staked out their positions against front-runner Hillary Clinton ahead of the party’s first primary debate, challenging her stances of such issues as trade, domestic oil and gay marriage. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, ahead of the debate Tuesday, made the case that he has been steady in his views on U.S. trade deals and other policy issues while Clinton, a former secretary of state, has flip-flopped. ‘People will have to contrast my consistency against the secretary’s,’ Sanders said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’”

Dems punish dissenters on debate - NYT: “Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said she was disinvited from the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Nevada after she appeared on television and called for more face-offs. Ms. Gabbard confirmed on Sunday that her chief of staff received a message last Tuesday from the chief of staff to Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the national committee, about her attendance at the debate.”

WashEx: “The Draft Biden PAC, which has supported and funded Biden’s efforts from a distance, will not be at the debate this time, though they do hope to be present at the second debate in Iowa, with Biden as a candidate. Those involved in the PAC say that this weekend the Vice President will talk with his family and reach a decision, and they expect an announcement next week, likely the day after the debate. The ‘drop dead’ date for Biden to make a decision is November 6th, the day of the first primary ballot filing deadline.”

[Watch Fox: Senior Correspondent Political Correspondent Mike Emanuel is live from Wilmington, Del., for the latest on Vice President Biden’s decision.]

What will Paul Ryan do? The Wisconsin lawmaker is still a public “no” on running for speaker of the House, but he’s mulling. A full court press to draft Ryan that began last week reportedly ranges from pleas that he “must do it” for the good of the party, to pitches that revamp the job into a more visionary and policy role with sweeteners easing the extensive fundraising and day to day political drudgery.  As tea leaves are being read on when and how he’ll decide, factions within the GOP conference and other willing candidates have been busy feeding the mill on Ryan’s viability.

Right wing ‘favorable’ but ‘not there yet’ - The Hill: “Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the founder of the House Freedom Caucus, says his group is not sold on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for Speaker. ‘I think our group would be favorable towards him, but we’re not there yet,’ Jordan said on “Fox News Sunday.” The anti-establishment firebrand said his 40-to-50-member group would be willing to support Ryan if he committed to decentralizing power in the House.”

Trump ‘OK’ with Ryan - CBS News: “[A]sked whether he’d be okay with Ryan as speaker, Trump replied, ‘I would be okay.’ Still, Trump cautioned, ‘It may not be him. I mean, they have a couple of people in there, I’m not going to mention names.’”

And Carson says ‘fine’ - I like Paul Ryan…I think he would do a fine job.” Ben Carson on CBS, Sunday

That’s a lotta lawmakers - In addition to Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Daniel Webster, Fox News’ raptor of the rotunda, Chad Pergram, reports other Republicans either in, pondering a bid or being recruited for speaker are Reps. Darrell Issa, (Calif.),  Kevin Brady (Texas),  Jim Jordan (Ohio), Dave Brat (Va.), Pete Roskam (Ill.), Tom Price (Ga.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Mike Conaway (Texas), Bill Flores (Texas), Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.), Tom Cole (Okla.) and Rob Bishop (Utah).

BBC: “The president of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has expressed his anger after his deputy pardoned himself and 13 other convicts while he was out of the country. Speaker Marcellino Pipite was one of 14 MPs - half of the country's parliament - who were convicted last Friday of giving and receiving corrupt payments over a vote of no confidence in a previous government. With President Baldwin Lonsdale out of the country on Saturday, Pipite used his delegated powers to gazette a pardon for himself and his fellow defendants, Radio New Zealand International reports. Vanuatu's constitution allows the speaker to assume presidential powers in the absence of the head of the republic, including the power of pardon.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.