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. dagoberto

    The best option is clear: Ron Paul 2012

    February 21, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  2. Bannister

    How's about a Plan A?

    February 21, 2012 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  3. Attila, The Hun

    The Republicans deserve to lose for not getting behind someone with real ideas and a desire to help all Americans.

    February 21, 2012 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  4. Willie

    The republicans will never stop till they get all their money and power. It's not about morals or Jesus. It's about having power and controlling the minds of people. Making sure their friends keep the money rolling in their banks, and using the Bible to get votes. People of the Bible you need to wake up and start calling out your leaders. You know Jesus said, help the poor, weak, orphan, and widow. Yet you support these evil men of Satan and their religious machine. KNowing or unknowing they (your leaders) are being stirred to a one world government. I don't know why they are trying to get control of our lives. They don't care about you and I, but their money and tax brackets. Elizabeth H of the view talked God but is only worried about her money and tax bracket. Interesting. Dont let yourselves be kept out of the know. Does Jesus really live in your heart? They do what they can to shut up people, play games with our lives, and Church believers your need to stand up against these evil men in government.

    February 21, 2012 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  5. b4bigbang

    Republican Party, ask not for whom the bell tolls...

    February 21, 2012 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  6. David A

    RebubliCONS are like a really bad dream.

    February 21, 2012 02:50 am at 2:50 am |
  7. Shelby

    "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 thought sarah palin said on fox news that she would jump in with a "servant's heart". I think she meant to say she'd jump in now that all the vetting and debates are over.

    If sarah is trying to connive a way into becoming the nominee, fox news should FIRE HER NOW! It is beyond unethical that palin has been trashing the front-runner (Romney) on fox news for weeks while hinting that she would jump in with that' "servant's heart". This woman is conniving and I do NOT trust her.

    February 21, 2012 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  8. Abus

    Ron Paul 2012.

    February 21, 2012 03:17 am at 3:17 am |
  9. aceblazin

    Santorum and his voters surprise me. People are easily influenced.

    February 21, 2012 03:36 am at 3:36 am |
  10. Jeff In Oregon

    Please Repugnicans, choose Santorum. Pretty please.

    February 21, 2012 03:41 am at 3:41 am |
  11. Deej59

    They'd have the same problem if Gingrich were leading. Once he got to the general he'd be toast. Santorum, obviously, is unelectable because he really would cause record opposition turnout, and Paul, were he to get the nom, would be forced further into the spotlight on the racism issue. That leaves Romney. Must not be a lot of fun for conservative voters. They have to hang their hopes on Mitt Romney because he'd inspire the smallest opposition turnout. I know how it feels. 1988 was that way for us liberals.

    February 21, 2012 03:47 am at 3:47 am |
  12. Jasel

    Plan B = Run away from Plan A

    February 21, 2012 03:49 am at 3:49 am |
  13. Eric

    After having scared the elderly, women, gays, immigrants, the poor, non-fundamentalists; and their desire to turn selected Bible verses into civil law, it will amaze me if the GOP wins a general election ever again.

    February 21, 2012 03:50 am at 3:50 am |
  14. Hellifuknow


    And the last time everyone else checked, he lost in Pennsylvania by 18%. What kind of kool-aid is Ricky serving to his staffers/advisers?

    The reason the GOP has such crappy candidates is because any republican with common sense knows that Obama is all but unbeatable. Sorry if you don't like that, but the truth often hurts.

    February 21, 2012 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  15. Log Cabin

    We knew that the Tea Party would destroy the GOP. It's just a shock to see it happen so quickly. In 2010 they thought 2012 was theirs! The Republican Party is in it's last days!

    February 21, 2012 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
  16. DDanny1

    "We have four great candidates". Right. How about "We have four candidates we don't even like". LOL

    February 21, 2012 04:09 am at 4:09 am |
  17. mark

    I'm not taking sides either way yet – still undecided – but the back chatter sounds like their running scared. And Santorum is a loose cannon – they all know it. Santorum ticket? kiss that crucial independent and moderate block goodbye. That would explain the Plan B – though I think it more likely that Trump or that Walker could run Indie and really mess up the works

    February 21, 2012 04:10 am at 4:10 am |
  18. ct

    got a great idea for republicans, just give it up, whoever wins nomination will be toast. The american people see that republicans are not fitted to run the country

    February 21, 2012 04:12 am at 4:12 am |
  19. caeser

    What Republican's need is a maverick.

    February 21, 2012 04:14 am at 4:14 am |
  20. Raymo

    It is encouraging to get a hint that the Republican party isn't just a bunch of religious crazies and a few have some common sense. The party still won't win the next election. But, maybe it can learn from this fiasco and do some practical rebuilding. Having a one-party system is not in the best interest of the United States as we saw in 2008-2010.

    February 21, 2012 04:19 am at 4:19 am |
  21. Bill

    If the republicans bring somebody new into the race, that person MIGHT lose but if they don't they will lose anyway. I used to favor republican politics but recently they have become so splintered and fanatic that I cannot with clear conscience vote for a single one of them. How could anyone vote for a party that overall has signed away their right (under contract) to think for themselves?

    February 21, 2012 04:28 am at 4:28 am |
  22. David in Cincinnati

    I imagine Plan B could be Plan Boehner and that the GOP hasn't recognized that this would be as empty as his obstructionist contribution to the US in the years since Obama took office.

    February 21, 2012 04:28 am at 4:28 am |
  23. SixDegrees

    Santorum = rabidly insane theocrat = massive GOP loss in the general election.

    February 21, 2012 04:31 am at 4:31 am |
  24. Ronald Mcloughlin

    San(c)torum's the Mondale of 2012 but for different reasons, obviously.

    February 21, 2012 04:33 am at 4:33 am |
  25. Coigne

    The Conservative movement is a one way dead end worldwide. Soon we will see the rats jumping ship. Stay tuned.

    February 21, 2012 04:35 am at 4:35 am |
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