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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They can whisper all they want, there is no Republican that can possibly beat Obama and no one wants to be the sacrificial lamb. Republican credibility among the general population is completely shot. Gingrich, Santorum and Romney have seen to that. Moreover, the Great Silent Majority now recognizes that big oil, big insurance, big banking and big pharmaceuticals now control the Republican agenda. Not only can they kiss off the presidency, look for big Democratic wins in the house and senate. The Republican Party has become the party of choice for corporate raiders, fat cats and the lunatic fringe.
Republicans should clean up their party. Just take the broom and sweep the loony toys from your party guys.
The headline writer is obviously having fun with this one. The irony of it is hilarious.
Republicans. Plan B.
The Republicans continue to amaze me. Their candidates should have simply targeted all of Obama's weaknesses then simply discussed the different ways they each would go about fixing what Obama hasn't fixed and doing what Obama hasn't done. The ENTIRE primary season should have been an open assault on the failure of the current President to lead and to create any sense of bipartisanship in Washington D.C.
Instead, they continue to slam each other and talk about issues that the vast majority of November voters could care less about ("IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!"). Their campaign strategists should all study Homer Simpson so they can get the "D'OH" saying down pat. They're going to need it if this keeps up.
Why is it "social conservatives" always have an agenda to pass laws that regulate personal/social behavior? I though "social conservatism" was to be "conservative", or light handed, on the federal government's role in the personal lives of the people. More hands off. Less taxes. Less government involvement. More personal responsibility and choice.
We are all having to live in the conservative's nightmare. Wake them all up and send them home .If they wern't so full of themselves they would be embarrassed
I dont think it will really matter now because these goofballs have already screwed up ANY electability for the GOP. I agree, he would only lose now.
The financial owners of the GOP don't want a candidate that may do whats right for Americans rather that what's right for them. It would upset cash flow.
Does EVERY article about Santorum need to include the word 'surge' or 'surging'...... ick!
Please explain to me how Jeb Bush could beat Obama. Another Bush? Jeb was so great in Florida LOL
I can't imagine that anyone would believe the country is ready to accept another Bush. The name is so toxic virtually none of the current candidates has mentioned him that I know of except one negative mention by Santorum. His campaign would be continual defense of his brother's mess.
No Plan B is necessary. Any one of the 4 remaining candidates is a far superior choice than the poser at 1600 Pennsylvania.
Mr. Family Values wife dated an abortion doctor 30+ years older than her. If the man's rigid value system is supposed to apply to all of us how come it didn't enter in his own home. cashmere Mittens is as stiff as a rich dead man. Ron Paul looks better by the day-
Why is no one mentioning Huckabee.? And the economy issue may turn in Obama's favor later this year. We do not need a one issue campaign.
The GOP had better come up with a Plan B. The idiots they have running right now might as well not even bother. If you thought Goldwater was trounced, just wait to see what happens if Santorum gets the nomination.
Chris Christie can't enter the race or attend the Convention...he's actually planning to BE the convention hall....literally.
Santorum is winning because ultra conservatives who share his views are most likely to go to the troublke to vote in primaries that bring out a small percentage of the electorate. There are not nearly enough of these folks to elect anybody in a general election. The great majority of voters will base their decision on who they think can lead the country and make or stimulate decisions that will continue to get us back on the right track. I'm waiting for somebody to make a clear presentation of a comprehensive program that puts debt reduction, the economy, job creation and energy into one package that voters can understand. All these things and more are interrelated. Addressing them as isolated issues doesn't produce workable solutions. Mixing in a bunch of inflammatory social issues creates even more confusion.
Four great candidates? Yes and the moon is made of green cheese while we're at it.....
Why don't they just acknowledge already that Romney has the most money and so he's the Republican nominee? Jeesh. Pesky voters.
What's wrong with Ron Paul. I would vote for him
Santorum offers voters a clear choice in the presidential election. Romney muddies the waters a little when compared to Obama.
Jeb Bush is the man I would be casting my vote for if he would run. Jeb is incredibly intelligent and an amazing speaker and problem solver. After the past three years its become very evident that nothing gets done without a Bush in the White House. Obama is the greatest failure that America has ever elected.
Four "great" candidates? A man so wealthy that he couldn't possibly relate to the vast majority of Americans and is so out of touch when he admits he isn't concerned about the poor because they have the "safety nets" that the GOP is so busy cutting down. Another who is so untrustworthy that even his own party bosses count their fingers after he shakes hands with them. A right wing religious goof who manages to step into political poop faster than the last horse in a twelve horse team. And the best candidate – in terms of ideas – is such a non-starter as a GOP candidate that he'd have a better (as in no) chance as a third party candidate.
I can see why the powers that be behind the GOP are getting nervous. Looks like the comeuppance for the party of "No" will be at the polls in November. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of hacks.
This would be funnier if it weren't true that a massive section of the US population actually takes this clown-show of a primary field quite seriously.
If Santorum is the nominee, he won't get my vote – even though I'm a small, fiscally responsible voter. I wouldn't think in a million years of voting for Obama. Yet, I'm also not going to vote for a theological authoritarian, either.
Better get a strong dose of reality, Republicans, if you want to try to win the executive branch!