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.

CNN LIVE: Tune in Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET for the last presidential debate before Super Tuesday, the CNN/Arizona Republican Party Debate hosted by John King. Follow it on Twitter at #CNNDebate and on Facebook at CNN Politics. For real-time coverage of the Arizona and Michigan primaries, go to or to the CNN apps or CNN mobile web site.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker


"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. Irma in north Carolina

    If Sarah Palin comes in it will be the finish of this country.

    February 21, 2012 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  2. king

    These war munger repubs are pressuring Iran to cut oil productions so that their wall street barons friends can drive up oil prices. They destroy green industries like solindra and virtually every green program this president tries to sage this earth from burning up. This president have given the green light to produce more oil in America, but oil is not set by the American oil producers, but the international markets. Green industries are the only way to bring oil prices down, an policy the repubs will not accept because they don't believe in global warming. They will keep on fanning the fire on Iran about their nuclear programs, as if Iran wants the opportunity not exist as a country if they ever tries to use their nuclear weapon, if they even develope one. So the oil prices keep going up. Lets see who these war mungering repubs blame for the oil spike.

    February 21, 2012 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  3. William Marlowe

    The GOP is at Civil War and has at least two seperate camps opposing each other. We are seeing the internal dismantling of the GOP from within because of the radical extremes it has adopted. It is possible you may see two seperate parties eventually come out of this.

    February 21, 2012 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  4. Sue

    The republicans certainly do have a big problem on their hands! I always believed in separation of church and state, yet ALL Santorum can manage to talk about is "theology" and Obama. What about talking about the talking about the economy, joblessness, and the problems overseas?! And what self-respecting woman is going to vote for this guy! And don't get me started on Gingrich, Romney, and Paul. The republicans have nobody to blame but themselves by letting their zeal to oust President Obama override their common sense!

    February 21, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  5. Terry

    The Republicans, via the Tea Party, lied to the elderly when they claimed that Obama Care would destroy Medicare. Now, the Republicans must face those elderly voters in November. The Republicans that failed to enter the race knew their duffle bags full of deals, promises, and payoffs could not withstand the media review process, so they backed away from running. Their tax returns will tell all, several were heard to say. What was left turned out to be the "Joke of the Century". The GOP is not as worried about gaining the White House as it is about losing the House and Senate. Following the 2010 elections, nothing has changed in the House, it is business as usual, meaning that nothing is happening except continued funding for two wars that made little to no sense from the start. I think the GOP as we knew it is slowly going away. The United States will soon see a three or four party system, and we will need two or three more cable news channels to cover that mess.

    February 21, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  6. Tiz Liz

    Free speech....yeah, right

    February 21, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  7. rwingdbag

    weren't there nearly 10 candidates at one point? How can so many hateful people not produce one likable candidate?

    February 21, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  8. Reddog9500

    They should go to the plan where they all drop out of the race for the Presidency. None of them stand a chance against Obama.

    February 21, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  9. Dumont

    I voted for HW Bush, Dubya twice and Obama because of the Alaskan nut Job. There is no way on Gods green earth that I would vote for Ayatollah Santorum. Take your sweater vest and go back to the Spanish Inquisition, which is where you belong. It is amazing to me that the Party of Lincoln and Reagan can provide no better choices than the laughable crazy extremists which they have tried to foist upon this great nation.

    February 21, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  10. JD

    Either the Republicans want to loose this one so Obama gets sole blame when things crash big time or they really are that disconnected from the people. They have no good candidates on the ticket right now. Romney is probably the best choice and that does not say much. . . I know many folks from MA and New England that know his record first hand and WON'T vote for him no matter what. . . .

    February 21, 2012 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  11. PaOutOfWork

    Yea; “another candidate entering the Republican primary race”; try asking this question,
    who would you vote for Obama? -or- any other candidate? You will find 74% vote for any other candidate.

    February 21, 2012 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  12. Jeanette

    Santorum is not a good choice. If he becomes the nominee, we might as well save the money and just cancel the election.

    February 21, 2012 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  13. remorrse2

    Republicans should not allow changeing the issue of the 2012 election from obama's dismal administgration record to another social issue

    February 21, 2012 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  14. PAPilot

    In other words, big party bosses who just want to keep the status quo of funneling money from hard working Americans to the pockets of big bankers and political donors, are all upset because the people aren't voting for their darling corporatist anti-job, anti-worker candidate.

    Don't get me wrong, Santorum is certainly not the right choice either. After all, there have been leaders in the past who tried to control reproduction, and they didn't turn out too well.

    The GOP can't win this election. They've managed to alienate every decent candidate there was because party bosses can't handle not being in control.

    February 21, 2012 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  15. longtooth

    Run, Sarah, Run! You are not qualified to be president, but you're so darn pretty!

    February 21, 2012 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  16. Marie MD

    Where are they wispering about this in men's bathrooms at airports?
    There is NO plan B or C more likely F.
    The Dow is getting ready to hit 13,000. Remember when it was 14,000 then the shrub's regime took it down to 7,000.
    BTW – the President is third in line about the economy so you can't blame what congress does on him.

    February 21, 2012 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  17. tafugate

    colin powell was the last republican capable of becoming a great president. since then there's been a litany of clowns i wouldn't trust to dog sit for me. it's time for a third party, some lucid alternative to republicans.

    February 21, 2012 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  18. NotFromHarvard

    1) Find one that doesn't lie about his or her ancestry – such as the ones in Maine who misuses the family name of "Walker" removing attention from the actual Walker family in Maine that settled the state including Colonial Soldier Captain Solomon Walker from York County, ME and all of his family. And John Walker, first president of Harvard and his family.

    The Bushes are not originally from New England, and their "Walkers" are not Maine or New England natives.

    2) That actually is not a millionaire – good luck
    3) That actually cares about the American people – FDR
    4) That has a degree not from Harvard or Yale – millions of Americans have degrees from other fine, non-Ivy schools
    5) That is brilliant – Harvard is not a guarantee of brilliance

    Last 5 proven failures.
    I'm hopeful.

    February 21, 2012 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  19. Craig in Pa.

    The GOP is a have no viable candidate to offer...plain and simple...doesn't take a rocket scientist to see this..and redneck America is not enough for you to win anything...Hope we flush the Congress and Senate Republicans down the drain too this year....

    February 21, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  20. bobby

    When is the Pa primary?? If Rick loses there.. The republicans are in deep do do

    February 21, 2012 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  21. justthefact

    The GOP does not have its self together. The divider will be divided. The irony of it all is that, once you vote against a candidate, you will hardly enthusiasticaly want to vote for him if he wins at the end. There is a bit of emotion in politics and it plays a roll in your choosing your candidate. If you dont like Romney, you will never vote for him, you will not be motivated to vote. You will stay home and feel sorry for your self.

    February 21, 2012 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  22. Tim

    There was once the impression that Republicans cared about the average person – the middle class – that impression is gone. That's the problem.

    February 21, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  23. some guy in New Hampshire

    This country needs a genuine conservative party, which the Republicans haven't been for the last 30 years. The party has become a band of authoritarian reactionaries espousing small government but advocating big-government control of our personal lives. Republicans calling themselves "conservative" doesn't make them so. Time for people who truly believe in fiscal responsibility and personal freedom to step up and take their party back.

    February 21, 2012 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  24. Charlie

    A Persons religious views really don't concern me. On a scale of 1 to 100 religion is down around 2. I am more concerned with how they will cut spending, taxes, and regulation.

    February 21, 2012 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  25. Lushrimfire

    I sure would like to see Sarah Palin in this race.

    February 21, 2012 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9