Some Republicans whisper about a plan B
February 20th, 2012
09:12 PM ET
8 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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"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. cali girl

    This is a ploy for the repugs and no tea please to do a switch and bait. They are polling the american people, seeing what works and what does not. Then voila, a new gop teabag comes out swinging. Notice how the picture up above is of a voting booth. Such a message of the fraud that follows this party.

    February 20, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  2. vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    if my choices were between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum then throw in Newt Gingrinch I would be doing MORE than whispering about it. I would be downright SHOUTING!

    February 20, 2012 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  3. Larry L

    They bowed down to the Tea Party and now it's pay-back time. Crazy and bigoted are good for hate radio sound bites but it won't get you elected in the general election. Americans are ready for a mature, pragmatic and compassionate President – and they have one – President Obama.

    February 20, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  4. patriot

    If the GOP reined in their special interest nabobs' bias against Ron Paul, they would realize that he truly is the only candidate who can beat Obama in the general election. If they gave their support, and told their main-stream media lackeys to report, he would be unstoppable.

    February 20, 2012 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  5. Blindersoff

    Republican leadership . . . We The People see you and hear you and know that you have no real plan to guide this nation forward. Steady as she goes with the sure and true hand of President Barack Obama!

    February 20, 2012 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  6. Bugs

    The establishmint – both Dems and Republicans – are not happy that their canidates are being trashed by the American people. Its time for a real candidate of the people, by the people, and for the people.

    February 20, 2012 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  7. The GOP opens mouth and inserts foot

    Until the GOP can get someone with an IQ higher than double digits, they should just get out of politics.

    February 20, 2012 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  8. TelltheTruth

    Santorium is a Republican through and through, a brother in republican't arms. So why do we beat up on each other? We aren't defined by our differences but our similarities. Vote Santorium 2012.

    February 20, 2012 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  9. Brandon

    The time for plan B has passed. Conservatives are so brain washed from rhetoric at this point it is beyond ridiculous. Every candidate saying one dollar of revenue per 10 dollars of cuts is too much revenue and all signing Grover Norquist's pledge just go to show that the conservative base is not interested in real solutions. All the Ron Paul loonies apparently haven't been paying attention to the great success of fiscal austerity measures on the greek economy. To self impose the same situation here is beyond insanity.

    February 20, 2012 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  10. arale norimaki

    I'll be around. Where there's a rich white guy in need of another tax break, I'll be there. Wherever there's a brain dead woman in need of expensive life support her husband doesn't want, I'll be there. Wherever there's a country that needs invading for reasons that don't quite pan out, I'll be there. the GOP

    February 20, 2012 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  11. Dick Cheney is the smegma of mankind!

    The only thing that would make this situation more pathetic, would be if the GOP drafts Failin' Palin as the latest "great white hope" to save the day!

    February 20, 2012 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  12. c'mon america

    I wonder if there is also a plan c . Who would be on that list ?

    February 20, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  13. westward

    Fact is – The GOP doesn't have anybody else. They presented their best field, as pathetic as it is. The party is exhausted of plans for the middle class, national bi-partisan leaders, integrity, and most importantly representation of the people. The Republican party is now the obsolete sub-standard their own choosing.

    February 20, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  14. edog

    The GOP are such idiots. Most 'party elites' are hoping for Jeb Bush thinking he would be the perfect candidate, however once again they are so short sighted. Yes, he may be popular with the grass root, and the elite, and therefor be able to unite the right.... however.... his name alone will allow the POTUS to argue Bush "W" policies all over again and how they got us in this mess. Jeb Bush is the worst choice ever!!!

    February 20, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  15. Randy, San Francisco

    Plan B is also flawed because of the GOP/Tea Party purity test which produces extremely conservative candidates who cannot attract moderate and independent voters.

    February 20, 2012 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  16. d

    Well with this track record i think the gop are doomed! thank god!

    February 20, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  17. Claudia, Phoenix, AZ

    How about a Plan B to help the American people since it wasn't and has never been part Plan A or any plan at all, you numbskulls. President Obama's Plan A is working and his Plan B will give him a 2nd term.

    February 20, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  18. livininsd

    This guy scares me and 95% of the rest of this country i am pretty certain. He talks about WWII and Adolf metaphorically about others when I think it is him that he is referring to. I would also like to know who is planning to pay for down syndrome children? Is he or the Catholic church? He tries to work around this but I believe he owes us a real answer or is this nut flapping his lips and spurting his morality dribble. He makes me and many other Republicans I know very ashamed. There is a huge number of us who work for a living instead of spending whole days at a caucus. No those are majority 60+ year olds. And Santorum is in for a huge wakeup call if he thinks his cult of religious troops are going to win this for him. Ron Paul seems to be the closest on the issues but lobbyists are not going to let him win (or the massad lol). So plan B is all we can hope for. Sadly Plan B would be a reputation hit for the party – has to be considered though because like Palin, this Santorum guy is destroying any hope we may have.

    February 20, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  19. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Some of the alternative GOP choices are thinking that this is such a mess that they are going keep out of it. It makes sense because there is little chance that the current crap, I mean crop is just not going away.

    February 20, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  20. BeMine

    Santorum makes Palin look rational. And is vote for her before I'd vote for him.

    February 20, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  21. Enough.

    What a pathetic bunch. I'm so proud to be a democrat. Obama 2012

    February 21, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  22. chedar

    You guys will be surprise if Joe the Plumber enter the race in an open convention and win the republican nomination. Hah! hah! The GOP is desperate. No winners here!

    February 21, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  23. J.V.Hodgson

    Seems like Republicans made some mistakes with the well known sorting hat when allowing 7/8 potentials to run, all of whom are having issues and yet no one says what it really means. They are concerned whether any current candidate can beat Obama!!
    When Obama's poll numbers were down it was said he clearly had an up hill fight to get re-elected.
    Now we have had 6 months of non stop Obama bashing by all the Republican candidates interminably, daily, on either his religion, his economic policy , his national security credentials, his diplomatic policies, his energy policy, environmental policy, too much government, and the whole debt matter is/ was all his doing.... Will people please add up the cost of the Bush tax cuts through to 2020 the cost of continuing wars ( which Republicans say his cuts are not savings because the spending is not congressionally approved) but they keep clamouring for a continuation in Afghanistan, criticise the withdrawal from Iraq, and now key Republicans are urging Syrian intervention and Romney sasy we might have to go to war with Iran.
    Its not a new candidate they need its whole bunch of much more realistic policies accross the board especially on the key issue of Job creation.... trickle down failed for 10 years it is not going to work now either.

    February 21, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  24. Nothing new here

    God's Own Party implodes.
    Pass the popcorn!

    February 21, 2012 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  25. dan5404

    As a Democrat, I say just let Santorum be the nominee so that the right wing extremists can see in November just how badly they are viewed by most Americans.

    February 21, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
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