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. demonfeed

    Yea, way to elect a candidate... Let the process keep going, let everyone get in the lead except the guy who wants to help, then abandoned the guy who actually wins to pick someone else. The Republican Party is completely dead.

    February 21, 2012 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  2. allie

    I am exactly the type of voter the GOP and Dems want – a registered Independent. I live in the swing state of Florida. Santorum has stated that he believes children produced from rape are a gift from God. As a Christian woman and the mother of a daughter, I will never vote for someone with such extremist views. If the GOP wants to throw another candidate into the field that ISN'T on the lunatic fringe of the far right , I will listen.

    February 21, 2012 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  3. steven

    this is a we will see story

    February 21, 2012 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  4. Schadenfreudean Psychologist

    Even if Plan B doesn't work, voters would likely abort Santorum in the general election.

    February 21, 2012 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  5. DC Insider

    One of the four GOP candidates will be the nominee. Any talf of new candidates is just the media creating trouble. There is no mechanism of any kind in place within the GOP rules that would permit a new candidate from taking the nomination, nor would the GOP entertain such as thing.

    Mitt Romney will eventually be the nominee. OBama will not get a fourth term, and the US can finally try to regain some fiscal sanity and reducing our debt and eliminating our deficit spending before we go the way of Greece

    February 21, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  6. Donovan

    I have an idea, why don't you let everybody run and the person with the most votes wins

    February 21, 2012 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  7. Mikeybklyn

    I vote for MR. Hand-he was a great forecaster when he said "is everyone on dope"?

    February 21, 2012 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  8. nilla

    "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."

    Um...he was TROUNCED the last time he ran there, so so much for that theory.

    February 21, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  9. jim

    They're going to lose anyway. I've been a Republican since I could first vote, almost 50 years; however, with this current crop of ultra-right, ultra-conservative, ultra-religous, anti-science, anti-abortion candidates . . . I'm going to have to switch sides.

    February 21, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  10. SAI

    No pun intended – but, even if it is your favorite Mitt, if you have Santorum all over it, you would want to change it, right?

    February 21, 2012 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  11. steven

    i think this was the plan all the time....let the nit wits fight it out ...put all the dirt out on the street and then bait and switch....just so there is no time to really vett the canidate of their choice that is sitting on the side lines, knowing that there will not be a whole lot of time to debate and bring out the dirt on their canidate.

    February 21, 2012 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  12. desmond24

    Indeed, if Mr. Santorum were to win the GOP nomination moderates and independents would flee to President Obama en masse! As an independent, I know that I would not vote for anyone with Mr. Santorum's cultural views. As a matter of a fact, I would not vote for anyone who deliberately distorts the truth in order to criticize his opponent, just in order to win an election.

    February 21, 2012 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  13. Ewing

    Santorum is a return to the Dark Ages and Romney is the epitome of Corporate Greed. Today's Republican Party is best characterized as Big Government with sonogram and Bible in hand, forcing their dogma on others!

    An Independent

    February 21, 2012 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  14. Kris

    It is Santorum's very electability that that has the democrats writing drivel like this. Obama's policies and lies have so damaged his credibility that the American people will call "Stop!" to his presidency in the polls. If Santorum wasn't a threat to Obama, articles such as these would not be needed.

    February 21, 2012 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  15. ME

    Seems to me the only of do not have any choices

    February 21, 2012 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  16. grampy1952

    Something needs to happen. Its not going to work the way things are right now!

    February 21, 2012 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  17. Jerry

    The GOP rode their white elephant for too long and now they have no place to stop and get off. They should thank faux news for the creation of the tea party. The Tea Party bunch are going to have a fit at the convention. The Koch brothers will try to buy their candidate. Karl Rove will pick a fight with Clint Eastwood and get his tail kicked back to Texas. The real republicans (only 2 or 3 left) will stand in amazement and not know what to do at the convention. You got two choices right now. Mitt, who is about as exciting as a glass of water and Santorum who is a little scary when he talks about his religion and everyone elses. Good luck Pro-Rich, Pro-Not tax Rich and Pro-Everything but the Middle class Republican Party. You have forgotten what made America the real America (the middle class) and you will reap what you sown.

    February 21, 2012 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  18. Just vote for Obama

    Just vote for Obama

    February 21, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  19. Ron

    "We have 4 great candidates."....gimme a break

    February 21, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  20. RINO

    "He won in Pennsylvania, which has both Democrats and women the last time I checked," says a senior Santorum adviser,... Better check again. We kicked this leech to the curb. He isn't coming back in this state.

    February 21, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  21. jimmy

    Probably not a bad idea to bring in someone new. Obama is certainly vulnerable but not in too much fear of the current candidates.

    February 21, 2012 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  22. Sadie Boyd

    Sanitary Napkin is obsessed with controlling women and he will never be elected unless the contest is rigged. Gingrich has an apparent mental illness that could be managed if he were to admit that he has it, in denial he will wreck havoc on the US. Romney is a one 1% er...if nominated he will energize the youth in this country, which will be a good thing but not for the future of the GOP. Uncle Paul will be fine if you can get a running mate that will temper his wilder ideas.

    February 21, 2012 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  23. Soundguy

    "He (Santorum) won in Pennsylvania"? Certainly not the last time he ran. I'm not sure how his calculator works, but I don't see how anyone except the truly delusional can say that Frothy Mix won Pennsylvania by losing by 18%. If His Frothiness is what the teabaggies want, then fine. When the rest of the country learns about the real mess that is Frothy, then Skippy will go down in flames. As for the Republican Leaders, where were they when this whole mess started? If they don't want Mr. Do As I Say, Not As I Do, they might have actually chosen someone to run. Live with it, Republican Establishment. You deserve him.

    February 21, 2012 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  24. News Commentator

    Another candidate? There are enough GOP clowns already in the circus!

    We should just abandon the idea of having an election this year and give the GOP another 4 years to develop a new strategy.

    February 21, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  25. Surfer George

    I honestly cannot think of anyone who:
    1) Is worthy of the office who wants to run now
    2) Could get past the Tea Party "Patriots" litmus test and still be electable in the general election
    3) Would be willing to be poked, prodded, investigated, told on, lied about, and that's just the Republican candidacy.
    4) ,If they made it that far that the general electorate would find them appealing.

    February 21, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
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