GOP leaders restless about 2012 candidates, but ready to take on Obama
May 20th, 2011
06:00 AM ET
10 years ago

GOP leaders restless about 2012 candidates, but ready to take on Obama

Dallas (CNN) – GOP leaders from around the country who gathered in Dallas this week for a meeting of the Republican National Committee view their field of 2012 presidential contenders as unsettled, unpredictable and perhaps a bit uninspiring.

But there was also consensus at the meeting that their eventual nominee won't have to worry about galvanizing Republican support in the general election, a dilemma the party faced in 2008 when the GOP was burdened by an unpopular president and a nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who had a famously rocky relationship with conservatives.

The reason for their optimism this time around? President Barack Obama.

West Virginia GOP Chairman Mike Stuart, for one, replied with a flat "no" when asked if voters in his state were excited about the current roster of Republicans seeking the presidential nomination.

A backer of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney when he ran 2008, Stuart said he is now second-guessing his support because of the similarities between Obama's sweeping health care reform bill and the one signed into law earlier by Romney in Massachusetts.

Yet Stuart predicted that Republicans would have no problem rallying behind Romney or any other GOP candidate because of fierce grassroots opposition to the Obama administration.

"Republicans in West Virginia are united behind whoever will run against Obama," Stuart told CNN. "There is so much frustration about the Obama policies."

In nearly two dozen interviews at the RNC's three-day strategy session, party insiders expressed some measure of anxiety about the early field of candidates, highlighted by Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

While several Republicans groused privately about the current crop of GOP candidates, most seemed to agree that their chances of reclaiming the White House remain strong thanks to a resurgent GOP base.

"I am not seeing lightning striking for any of the candidates at this point, but Republicans are eager to find the right candidate to coalesce around,” said Nevada Republican Chairman Bob List, adding reference to the president: “There is a very high voltage current running around the electorate saying we need to take this guy out."

There also was a shared belief - or hope, in some cases - that the early field of candidates will grow larger.

Some party leaders in Dallas remained hopeful that fresh-faced Republicans like Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will renege on promises not to run, though neither man seems likely to do so.

Others said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who plans to make a decision about a White House bid in the coming weeks, would bring serious fiscal credentials and a genuine fundraising ability to the race.

Two GOP heavyweights - Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Texas Gov. Rick Perry - visited the RNC meeting and predicted that more candidates would join the race in the coming weeks or months.

Barbour, who flirted with a presidential bid until deciding not to run last month, told CNN that he wants Daniels, a friend and political confidante, to pursue the nomination.

Perry, himself a subject of frequent presidential chatter, noted that "there are still a number of folks out there who have not made a decision" about running.

Republicans from New York and Florida, two hotbeds for political fundraising, said top GOP contributors in their states are still eyeing the field with caution, even with just seven months left until the Iowa caucuses officially kick off the nomination fight.

"It's kind of a mixed-bag right now," said Florida GOP Chairman Dave Bitner. "The donors are taking a wait-and-see approach."

New York Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox said Romney has a leg up on his competitors among the Wall Street donor set. Romney has assembled a formidable fundraising team and raised more than $10 million in a single day this week, a warning shot to his potential rivals for the nomination.

But Cox said Daniels and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman have the potential to make inroads with some of New York's leading financiers. He also suggested some power-brokers might try to draft Perry or Christie into the race.

"The donors are still sorting the candidates out now and they honestly haven't seen a lot of them show up yet and talk to them," he said.

Ohio GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine acknowledged that the candidates are not yet stirring passions within the Republican base.

But he said the wide-open nature of the race, along with new primary calendar rules designed to lengthen the nominating process, could ultimately help the Republican nominee in the same way a protracted primary fight helped boost Democratic grassroots energy in 2008

"This is a process where, ultimately, Republican voters in 25 to 30 states will have an opportunity to pick the nominee, instead of just automatically picking the guy who finished second in the last race, like we usually do," DeWine said. "All the various factions of the party are paying attention or getting engaged."

In the end, Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere predicted, Republicans will be energized for a fight with Obama, no matter who tops the ticket.

"It's the Super Bowl of politics," Villere said. "We are ready for it."

Filed under: 2012 • Republican National Committee
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Name Creole

    They need to be restless with all there crazyness Obama 2012!!!!!!

    May 20, 2011 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  2. Republican leaning Democrat

    If the GOP was smart, they would nominate Ron Paul. No other canidate can energize the youth like Dr. Paul, and combined with the normal GOP base will be able to defeat Obama. Look at the head to head polls where Dr. Paul is the only GOP candidate that runs neck to neck with Obama. Why won't the GOP get behind him. I guess they really don't want the White House back, because Romney and Palin aren't going to be able to win it.

    I would vote for Dr. Paul, but nobody else listed in this article have any better ideas than Obama.

    May 20, 2011 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  3. Clwyd

    Let's see, we have a member of a cult, a former governor of Minnesota almost run from office, a former governor and a quitter, a nut case woman from Minnesota that belongs in a straight jacket, a three timed married millionaire who's wife has run up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges at Tiffany's and a nobody that thinks he can run the country. All people who really know what Americans need and want in their government????? Republicans have all become a pack of animals out of touch with reality.!

    May 20, 2011 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  4. Thankfully Independent

    Aside from Mitch Daniels and maybe Jon Huntsman, the rest have no chance of unseating Barack Obama. No matter how much lipstick the GOP Tea Bag Party put on them, these candidate are mired in the past and not prepared to handle today's issues.

    We need someone who will ignore social issue nonsense and concentrate on fiscal issues. We need someone who will acknowledge our grave deficit, admit it was cause by Democrats AND Republicans and do something serious about it ... like cutting spending AND raising taxes. Someone who won't give us the tired and hackneyed "lowering taxes will creat jobs." Republicans proved that approach didn't work while Bush was president.

    I know voters won't find such a candidate among Democrats, but will they find such a visionary among Republicans?

    May 20, 2011 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  5. No More $2 Billion Dollars a Yr Bailout to Israel...we are already in the RED for $114 Billion Dollars and NO PEACE

    Like GW Dubya would say....Bring it On!

    Obama/Biden 2012!

    May 20, 2011 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  6. George Washington

    If I may, please;

    America I beg of You. Look into Ron Paul's issues. This guys is as genuine as they come. Mr. Ron Paul is the American system working, literally handing us the "right guy."
    He puts his nation/Constitution first before himself as his 22 year track record indicates.

    Please, Mr. Ron Paul for Republican Nomination and then President 2012.

    Thank You

    May 20, 2011 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  7. Mike

    Ron Paul is the only gop Presidential candidate I would vote for.

    May 20, 2011 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  8. Anonymous

    All of these republican nomination are nothing but a Joke or more like a bunch of clowns. But I don't understand why the Republican are worry about their Nomination running for President. When they all ready Like the Tea Party all Ready make the Republican Party has a big Joke anyway. You have to worry about more than the Rich and big Business to win. And you Republican having declaring War on the Middle Class, The POOR , The old and the disabled or and not forget the woman of America. You all are making the Republican Party a big Joke that will never win In 2012.

    May 20, 2011 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  9. John from Lafayette

    If you ask me It just now your President Nomination are , but that they are a JOKE. Two of them are a real Joke ,and I don't have to say who they are because you people are dumb but not that dumb. But they are not the only one that turning the Republican party Into a Joke. Because you till got the Tea Party , you know the ones that the Republican party won't do anything with out there OK. Must be some petty RICH people and BIG BUSINESS people In that TEA PARTY to worry the Republican Party so much they are worry about getting them upset. But you Republican don't mind how upset the American people Are.

    May 20, 2011 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    The GOTP is having an identity crisis. They knew who they really are, but they don't want the rest of us to really know about it. What they don't know (maybe they do know and this is core problem) is that most of America does know what they are really about.

    The Party pulled a Sucker Punch on the American voters in 2010, and they seem to think they can do it again. But, the candidates seem to be able to read the handwriting on the wall. Whoever the candidate is, they cannot win by embracing the hard right rhetoric and ideology needed to win the GOTP nomination.

    Stuck between a rock and a hard place. Why? Because the hard right does not care about anything else except their social engineering projects. Nothing else matters. Some of the candidates see the message that sends to American voters, but the hard right thinks that is the right message to send.

    May 20, 2011 08:33 am at 8:33 am |