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. Jon

    Anybody but Obama

    February 21, 2012 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  2. HRMA

    Wondered how long it would take before word like this came. In a straight debate with Obama directly, the only one of the candidates that could put up any real kind of fight and still look like a professional might be Romney, but he still wouldn't win said debate. And if Santorum went up against Obama, dear god, that'd be a mauling of UFC proportions, the President would eat Santorum alive.

    The Republicans have a wide spread of candidates, but each of them only has some of the traits needed to beat Obama. None of them have all of the traits. Either they need to start researching body-and-mind fusions in a hurry, or it's time to find another candidate.

    February 21, 2012 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  3. Earthling

    "We have 4 great candidates".

    If that's the case, why aren't any of them running?

    February 21, 2012 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  4. Concerned

    Hahaha LOL, there isn't a chance in he** any of them, old or new, can beat the President!

    February 21, 2012 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
  5. Jt_flyer

    Time to punt.

    February 21, 2012 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  6. Kevin Parry

    I find it very interesting that everyone is talking about electability, maintaining support from the Republican big wigs in DC, and who is the best person to win the White House like this is a big game and the White House is the prize. I believe we would all be better served on concentrating on who can do the best for the people who put the where they are. I is quite obvious to me, Mr. Nobody, that all the parties are more worried about serving themselves and the wealthy and corporate big wigs who got them in DC and keep them there to protect their profits and the middle and lower classes expense. If I were to vote today, I would vote none of the above and if the silent majority really gave a crap they would do the same.

    February 21, 2012 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  7. mr pit-pit

    Mr santorum.... Be ashamed of yourself......what a phony!!!!

    February 21, 2012 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  8. Henrystar

    We all want to know Rick Santorum's views on masturbation, horse racing, under-tipping, and other vital twenty-first century issues. He should broaden the nation's discussion beyond unemployment! Fundamentally the Presidential race is about religion. And stuff.

    February 21, 2012 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  9. John

    It pretty bad when the whole Republican base know they got nothing but CLOWNS running. None of them could beat President Obama. Now or ever.

    February 21, 2012 06:04 am at 6:04 am |
  10. smc

    The GOP had better be doing a whole lot more than whispering. Their current candidates are Obama lite, a religious nut case, a megalomaniac, and Ron Paul.

    February 21, 2012 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  11. Susan

    hahahahahahahhaa, silly republicans..OBAMA has 4 more years,! If they cant even pick a decent candidate, they certainly cant run our great country. We all still remember 8 years of BUSH!

    February 21, 2012 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  12. Jonesey

    To the GOP and the entire right, relax, there is absolutely no shame in a mercy rule.

    February 21, 2012 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  13. slowson

    I am a Republican. Since gdub, I have found them to be nothing short of lunacy. Not one of the past or current candidates is worthy of a second glance

    February 21, 2012 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  14. BJ Bell

    When are working people going to "wake up and smell the coffee", the "party of the 1%" will never have the interest of working people on the front burner - "it's all about the money boys", and the Republicans cater to the rich.

    If working people ever have any doubt about what party to vote for, then just remember that the Republican party is the "party of the 1%", forget all the "pee down your leg and tell you it's raining" rhetoric - just look at the facts, it's never been more obvious they could care less about working people. Period.....

    February 21, 2012 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  15. Debra

    With a line-up that consists of an adulterer, a chameleon, and a fascist, this so-called national political party deserves everything it gets, hopefully a slaughter at the voting booth this November.

    February 21, 2012 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  16. sick of republican phonies

    All I can do is laugh. Republican pandering to their religious base is hanging them out to dry.

    February 21, 2012 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  17. CA

    Or could it just be that the Rethuglican party has shifted so far to the right of the majority of America that is is now a fringe party full of tea party wing nuts that can never win in a general election? Hmmmm

    February 21, 2012 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  18. LakeRat1

    The GOP are the engineers of yet another train wreck! You feel like you have to bash the h... out of Obama, but when you get carried away (and you ALL do), you will lose credibility.
    Fun to watch!

    February 21, 2012 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  19. smith

    Did I see the mention of a bush somewhere in this story? I would beseech Americans not to trust any other bush than their own!

    February 21, 2012 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  20. MWM

    This is a possible outcome when the goal is not to create jobs, not to end the recession, not to improve the lives of average Americans. The goal of making Obama a one term president has given a single cause to many different with different agendas. The pro-lifers, racists, birthers, hawks, neocons, christian zealots and others each stick with their own ideology and only agree that they want a new president. They just can't agree on what they want in that president.

    February 21, 2012 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  21. LakeRat1

    Why is my comment "awaiting moderation", and how long will THAT take?
    Forgive me if you see what looks like a double posting, but Iam going to "tweak" it to see if it gets through.

    February 21, 2012 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  22. sickofit

    The GOP is toast this election. They need a serious house cleaning. They also have to try a lot harder to not be so obvious about who they support, big business and the wealthy. The Democrats aren't any better in my book, they have just been more discrete about how they screw us over. I will give them this, the Republicans are at least honest in that respect. They will look you in the eye and tell you they don't care about the poor or less privaleged.

    February 21, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |

    The right-wingnuts Santorum etc:want to implement and force their ideology upon the rest of us where a woman is subservient to her husband/father. That is their version of Sharia law. Well there are two compelling reasons why that is not going to happen.
    (1) The American people will never stand for it and (2) That rabid right-wing ideology was and is, the same as the Nazi party in the 1930s and you know what happened then. No Way.... Not In My lifetime.......Obama forever......Anybody but the GOP

    February 21, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  24. ComSenseWiz

    Unless the economy goes in the tank, the only GOP candidate with a remote sniff of beating Obama is Romney as I accurately predicted a year ago. As an independent, Romney is the only GOP candidate I might vote for and even that is a stretch. Santorum is DOA on the ticket. Newt is toast. Paul has zero chance against Obama.

    February 21, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  25. Anthony

    Mitch Daniels: He was George W. Bush's first budget director. He oversaw the first Bush tax cuts, the initial cost estimates of the war in Iraq, and the development of the deficit-driven Medicare Part D.

    Chris Christie: He is a liberal Republican. He believes in climate change, gun control, and path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are already in the country.

    Jeb Bush: He is a Bush. He is smarter than George, but has the same family name.

    Sarah Palin: No need to explain this one. Most Republicans know that she has no chance.

    February 21, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
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