Some Republicans whisper about a plan B
February 20th, 2012
09:12 PM ET
3 years ago

Some Republicans whisper about a plan B

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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Why?

"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.

Also see:

Santorum clarifies 'theology' remark

Santorum rips Obama on social agenda

Gay sheriff resigns Romney role after allegations


Filed under: 2012 • Republicans
soundoff (215 Responses)
  1. girish

    The extreme conservative views will lead to self destruction of party .What a shame ,they have done nothing to bring up any economy agenda after 2010 house win , but brought bills on social issues and union bursting bills .They are worried about 1% population , who provides finance for their election .

    February 21, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  2. I can see Russia from my house

    And now, they will blame Obama for their dismal performance, just like they have blamed him for everything else.

    February 21, 2012 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  3. I can see Russia from my house

    They should ask The Donald to join the race. That way, we will get few more weeks of comedy.

    February 21, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  4. I can see Russia from my house

    Or, they can probably ask Palin. She didn't know what a VP is supposed to do, but she seems to know everything there is to know about being a president.

    I mean, last week she was giving advice to Mittens on how to run a campaign.

    February 21, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  5. Mike in Tennessee

    You know the Republican powers-that-be are desperate when they start considering Sarah Palin as a 9th inning option to all the current GOP candidates.

    February 21, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  6. Marie Therese

    I emailed you in the very beginning of this political race and said that Rick Santorium could possibly be our long awaited :"Statesman". I was wrong, he has become the typical "politician". His "accusations" are wild and mostly false. Somebody get to this guy and tell him to "clean up his act" and be the person we thought he was going to be.

    February 21, 2012 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  7. Bobs your uncle

    Didn't the onion just report this same story the other day?
    "GOP Introduces New "Mystery Candidate" With Paper Bag Over Head"

    February 21, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  8. Brian

    Doesn't matter who's in the GOP clown-car, Obama has pretty much a lock on re-election.

    February 21, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  9. TheFatherofLies

    I was hoping for the fissures in the republican party to cause a highly split field, that drags this process into the summer. It's amazing to see it happen more spectacularly than I could have hoped... A late-comer candidate would just end up like all the others. A flavor(savior) of the week (that might last for a month) that will inevitably crash and burn ala Palin when faced with a magnifying glass and tough questions.

    February 21, 2012 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  10. SickOfIt

    Can't we just send all of them packing and start from scratch?

    February 21, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  11. coy4one

    This is what happens when you have a party whereby their members sign "pleges" and devote themselves to self-interest instead of the interest of the American people. Until the GOP understands this, they don't stand a chance of winning a general election. Reagan understood this. He knew that in order to win and win big, he needed the entire country behind him. NONE of these current candidates see this. They can't see beyond their own need to win, so they are blind-sided to what the people of this country want.

    February 21, 2012 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  12. David

    Plan B ?!?!? Here is the problem: The GOP put us in this economic ditch and no one cares except the likes of Santorum who we are sleeping with. When the GOp gets out and stays the hell out of people's bedrooms then they will see gains in the polling. Until then they better figure ouit a way to get along with Obamam for the next 4 years!!

    February 21, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  13. Jake

    Doesn't really make a difference if they go with what the got or get somebody else, the problems is much deeper than that. The Republicans have alienated so many with their backwards thinking and obstructing everything, people are just not going down that path. Nobody that they have in the GOP is attractive to most Americans, no...that also includes Jeb Bush. They have had enough of the Bushes, not going through another one. And Palin...that's just a joke like she is. They might as well pack it in now and donated all that PAC money to charity. They have better use of it than throwing it away like these guys are doing.

    February 21, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  14. toppgunnery

    I used to like Gingrich before I heard his wife speak. She reflects Newt and that ain't much! A golf player is not what we need another of....at least one that intends to do more of that than ruling the country, as does the present chief-in-charge. Gingrich is smart, but a FLAKE! There is no denying that!

    February 21, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  15. Jim

    Though I'll vote for Obama, Ron Paul is obviously the best alternative for republicans. I like him but I want to see his time in the spotlight and finally answer some serious questions about the real problems some of his stances will bring. What if he veto'd any bill to extend the budget deficit which has been done for decades and was recently a self made wound.

    February 21, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  16. g.r.r.

    This was always the plan. The fact is, that the party wants to push Jeb Bush. Apparently, the thought is to bring him to the convention and convince a large number of party loyalists to select him instead of the delegate that they were originally selected for.

    Oddly, the republican party operates a lot like the communist parties of USSR did.

    February 21, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  17. leftcoastbue

    So, now that the wheels are coming off the GOP primary clown car - which, sadly, is already light some of its very best clowns - someone is wondering if anyone thought to pack a spare tire...?

    I know, why not delegate Mittens Romney to send a letter to GM or Chrysler asking for roadside assistance...? I mean, after all Michigan's his home state, right...? (It's even shaped like a mitten.) Surely they will be glad to help...?

    February 21, 2012 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  18. John

    Well you had better know that the GOP is scrambling hard and fast to prepare plan B. Santorum's surprise gain was entirely unexpected and he exists entirely outside the circle who has been driving to regain the White House by any means necessary and for purposes which do not benefit the American people whatsoever.

    If Santorum gains sufficient momentum, his campaign can actually detour the GOP's originally intended efforts, which is to greatly empower the evangelicals to bring Americans into closer alignment to Christianity through legislation as part of their envisioned reformation. If you access and review the cast of bills being drawn in anticipation of their striving to win the White House, you'd be horrified to learn that they are seeking to redress what they see as a moral collapse of this nation by very cleverly drafting bills that if made law, would articulate the lives of Americans in a manner to come under the religious standards of Christian religion.

    Santorum is beyond their influence in this regard and they will do whatever necessary to prevent his continued ascent as the potential GOP candidate.

    February 21, 2012 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  19. demogoat

    Einie, menie, miney, moe. Which conservatives must go. Just let them play musical chairs, they would all be better off if they don't have to speak.

    February 21, 2012 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  20. wgf

    "He won in Pennsylvania, which has both Democrats and women the last time I checked,"

    Umm.. Santorum lost his last PA election by 18 points.

    February 21, 2012 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  21. Conrad Murray

    "Vote Quimby!" -"Diamond" Joe Quimby

    February 21, 2012 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  22. ITELLYOUWHAT

    If God created something from nothing, then both something and nothing would be apart of him. The problem is that something and nothing are total opposites. Like good and evil. Nothing is associated with no movement, something is associated with movement and to be both would be like saying that truth and lies are the same. If God created something from nothing, he would not be a jealous God because he could easily turn something back into nothing. The point here is that no scripture in the Bible specifically states that God created something from nothing. Science is promoting it and the church is beginning to accept it.

    February 21, 2012 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  23. HawkinsPaul

    Nice unsupported article.

    February 21, 2012 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  24. Alex

    Liberals are getting scared!!!

    February 21, 2012 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  25. Chuck

    50 states and 54 primaries? I guess fuzzy math still works.

    February 21, 2012 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
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