Mesa, Arizona (CNN) - In a whispering campaign not ready to go public, some senior Republicans are so anxious about the state of the GOP race they are actually considering the unheard of: a scenario that would lead to another candidate entering the Republican primary race, and potentially an open convention.
They are not unhappy enough, however, to go on the record calling for another candidate to enter the fray. In fact, when pressed, many Republicans say the chatter about another candidate is inevitable in this long and inconclusive primary process. They also say it's just not likely to happen.
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"If you bring somebody new into the race, that person will lose," said a senior GOP strategist who admits a bias towards Romney. "The party - especially conservatives - will not respond to somebody who has not gone through the process."
That being said, it's clear Rick Santorum's recent rise in the polls - and what some see as his electability problems - has struck a nerve with Republicans.
"There is something called agenda control," said one unaffiliated GOP strategist. "Santorum does not have it. Instead of talking about the economy, he's been going down rabbit holes for the last four or five days."
Santorum's emphasis on cultural issues may intensify his conservative and evangelical support and help him win the nomination or at least differentiate himself from Newt Gingrich. The fear is he may also be narrowing his support in a general election population.
And Santorum's surging candidacy is not the only concern for senior Republicans. Mitt Romney's inability to close the deal has also raised eyebrows - and angst. And the anxiety will only intensify should Romney lose his home state of Michigan in the primary on February 28, several senior Republicans told CNN.
"Michigan is the whole shooting match," said one senior GOP strategist not aligned with a campaign. Says another: "If Romney loses Michigan, all hell breaks loose."
Given that real possibility, one knowledgeable GOP source confirms that some Republicans are circulating the deadlines and the basic math that would allow another candidate to get into the nomination fight and take it all the way to the convention. More than a half dozen states' filing deadlines have yet to pass. A majority of the delegates to the national convention are still up for grabs. One more factor to be considered: many states are choosing their delegates proportionally, which makes it easier for a candidate pick up delegates without outright winning a state.
Politico first reported the existence of a document circulating among Republicans.
Santorum's highlighting of cultural issues could play well for him in the short-term. But the worry among Republicans is that his views will raise the question of his electability. "After a while, Republican voters will start asking whether this is the guy to take on Obama," says one GOP strategist. In addition to the fear of a potential loss to Obama, some Republicans worry about losing the House of Representatives if Santorum were at the top of the ticket.
“There is no faith he would bring independent or moderate voters. If he does well on Super Tuesday you’ll have serious people talking about convention strategies etc,” one Republican congressional leadership aide told CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.
"Santorum would so alienate voters, especially women…he would be lucky to carry a dozen states," one senior Republican told CNN, referring to Santorum's disapproval of pre-natal screening.
Santorum's campaign disagrees. It considers him a strong social conservative who is the best equipped to take on President Obama on the economic issues – -particularly in the rustbelt states. "He won in Pennsylvania, which has both Democrats and women the last time I checked," says a senior Santorum adviser, who calls his boss a "full spectrum conservative."
One of the Republicans who has seen the memo said "no one is hoping that this will come to play," regarding a new candidate entering the fray. Yet some Republican partisans feel they need to make some contingency plans depending on the outcome in coming primaries. Other veteran Republicans contacted by CNN dismissed any possibility of another candidate entering the contest at this date.
There are no names of possible candidates mentioned in the memo. Who would the Republicans possibly turn to? The usual suspects include Sarah Palin, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. They could still enter the race although they all have repeatedly said they will not mount a campaign despite new inquiries by some in the party.
"I really would not be interested," Daniels told CNN affiliate WISH Monday. "If we get to that point, I would be interested in finding someone who can present a really credible and winning alternative to where the nation is going right now. I still think it's very unlikely. These things have a way of resolving themselves."
For its part the Republican National Committee is downplaying the prospects of another contender entering the fray.
“We are four games into what is a 54 game league and people are trying to pick the equivalent of a super bowl or a world series. We have 4 great candidates. I’m confident one of them will be our nominee and will go on to be successful in November,” RNC Spokesman Sean Spicer said.
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After having scared the elderly, women, gays, immigrants, the poor and non-fundamentalists, it will amaze me if the GOP wins a general election ever again.
Plan B dont make me laugh.
Not one mention of Ron Paul. Too bad.
Wow, The GOP says no big government but the GOP is nothing but BIG GOVERNMENT all the way, seeking total control of the people. It makes me want to join that lawsuit against the GOP for discrimination and the violation of the religious freedom of others. I think it is my only opportunity to get a peice of the government before we become a Christian version of the Middle East.
these 4 head cases cant beat the big O, he's gonna shred them like bad cheddar
Joe The Plumber anyone?
The Republicans need to start looking for a Plan C. Their Plan B candidates, i.e. Palin, Daniels, Christie and Bush don't look any better than Plan A.
Since the 2008 election the Republicans have been fixated on an agenda of defeating Obama in 2012 rather than helping solve the Country's problems. Their agenda is going to bite them right in the butt on November 6th.
Republicans have no chance in Nov no matter who they nomenate for president. Their extremest views and obstructionism will come back to haunt them for years.
Now that the trap has been sprung and Democrats are caught in a holy war that they know that they can't win, surely you gest! Where was this story when Democrats wanted to replace Obumbles with Hillary! ...LOL
Schaudenfreude – If Rick Santorum is the Republican nominee for president, I will be overcome with Schaudenfreude. Please, please, pretty please with sugar on top, let it happen this year. I really want to see what happens when an evangelical christian candidate goes toe-to-toe with a Democrat.
Maybe Republicans should consider Sarah Palin hehehe.
These four are the best the Republicans have to offer?
The republican race is down to a prehistoric, out-of-touch religious zealot and a greedy, out-of-touch Wall Street banker, neither of whom stands a chance of ousting the Man Of the People we already have in the White House. No amount of screeching or squalling by right-wing extremists here or elsewhere will have the slightest effect on this outcome.
could be both parties are scared of santorum afried the people might vote him in meaning all three parties rep dem con will vote who they feel is best. not which party they support. that will blow ther minds people are seeing how money and big bussness ect ect have allways won . they are in for a big shock polling 1000 people is no where near what is really going on out there. a thrid person could just win a lot of time between now and nov
The Rove wingnut/teabagger trainwreck implosion continues to Florida.
Plan B? Plan B? Impossible! That's abortion!!!!
Rick Santorum will choose Marco Rubio and all the electability concerns will vanish. Plus the gas prices will have tanked.
Romney can at least say with all seriousness that he knows how to deal with and work with Democrats and moderates, having done so when he was Governor. Santorum has no chance, no chance in hell, of getting moderates to vote for him. He makes most of my Republican friends, who are moderates, deeply uncomfortable. With the nonsense Congress has gone through recently, nobody wants a devisive candidate, and that's what Santorum is.
Not going to matter. GOP will loose if they keep running on an agenda of hate.
I can think of nothing more destructive to the Whigs – er, Republicans – than the fat boys with cigars deciding the clown the people have chosen is NOT their clown.
Go for it fat boys. I'll bet the Tea Baggers take their 30% and leave. That'll leave the Wall Streeters revealed for what they are – the party of the 1%.
can't vote for Obama again, but can't vote for Santorum. Not religious and don't want anyone pushing religion. We, as a country, do not want the pope having a say period.
So these clowns can't get their act together and find a viable candidate!
The Democrats are stuck with the clown that is in office as their candidate!
The United States is screwed simply because we can't find someone that can actually LEAD in a manner that would serve all citizens of this country in the best manner possible! So Sad!
Well, the thing is...this is not about the crummy candidates: They are just the symptom ~ it is about the whole GOP ~ It is a shattered party. Reasons why? Reagan for a starter in the 80's; and then all the way up through the Bushs' to Palin and what came out of the woodwork with her debut. It is a stinking party; it is a cruel and moneyed party, which manipulates; and it is the party of Rove and Rumsfeld. It is a sinking party. I am so happy about this. It is an evil and treacherous party. My Yale grandfather and father would not recognize this party. Nor would Kingman Brewster~ and that says a lot. Goodnight and goodbye~ may history wipe you from the pages of America and the world as being anything but the scoundrels and hate-mongers that you are. Obama 2012 Elizabeth Warren 2016-2024
The Rove Cove...don't wanna go there.
All four candidates have something to offer. And all four have baggage. The eventual winner is likely to be whoever actually convinces voters they are the best available man to have in the Oval Office when the message comes in China is invading Taiwan, Iran just used nukes on some hapless city, or a Cat 5 storm has left 5 million people in the east coast without food, utilities, or communications.
Personally, I don't see anyone running or waiting in the wings who seems to have the leadership qualities that would make them a President equal to a Grant, Cleveland, or Ford – much less an Adams, Lincoln or Reagan.