We are a little more than 11 months away from mid-term elections, but the presidential sweepstakes continue to heat up. Hillary Clinton seems to have the inside track for the Democratic nomination while Gov. Chris Christie seems to be gaining attention after his big reelection win in New Jersey on a pretty poor night for the GOP.
Recently I asked this question to my Facebook friends (feel free to friend me at Facebook.com/repjam): Who is more likely to become president, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum or Christie?
My thought was that I would pick two Republicans with national names — one who could win the nomination through a likely alliance with religious conservatives and Tea Party Republicans; while the other would win the nomination through an alliance with economic conservatives and establishment Republicans who want to win the White House with a Republican, any Republican.
Some of the more than 50 comments included; “Christie,” “Anyone but Hillary,” and the uninspiring “neither,” or they added the candidate whom they liked the best, including Rubio, Kasich, Martinez, Haley (Nikki, not Barbour), West, Pence or Dr. Ben Carson. Not one person picked Santorum.
The truth is that the only way a Republican wins the White House is to appear reasonable to both factions. Yet, neither faction wants to bend at all to the other.
Tea Party Republicans have a general distrust of establishment Republicans, especially after the loss in the Virginia governor’s race. The Tea Party claims the establishment should have come in with more money at the end to put Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli over the top for a huge upset win.
Well, I thought Tea Party supporters were about personal responsibility. Why didn’t they put their money where their mouth is? It’s another case of a whole lot of bark and not a whole lot of bite.
Tea Party activists love to call Republicans who disagree with them RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), but as someone who has dedicated his professional career to getting Republicans elected to the courthouse, state house and White House; I think it’s time to apply that name to anyone, including Tea Party activists who abandon the GOP nominee in the general election! It is fine to be Tea Party, conservative, or moderate in the primary; but until we have a presidential candidate who gets all of these groups to vote Republican in the general election, it could be some time before we have a nominee who wins the White House.
Establishment Republicans should have seen the opportunity to win a big race in a state where the GOP has lost during the past two presidential elections. Isn’t it the establishment types at the Republican National Committee and the Republican Governor’s Association who want to win at all costs? If that’s the case, they had a big failure for not holding their nose and getting behind Cuccinelli. So, they cut off their nose to spite their face (as my mother used to say).
I have coined the phrase “reasonable Republican” because that’s what it’s going to take to win a national race. That does not mean that we need a liberal Republican, but it does mean we need someone willing to understand that some issues many in the GOP care about are not on the general public’s radar. That nominee will also understand that some believe the GOP is out of step with their views and that still others are absolutely militant in their beliefs. Is it possible to find and nominate a reasonable Republican? If so, who do you think is capable of pulling it off in time for 2016?
It is clear that to win in 2016 the Republican nominee will need to unite the GOP and appeal to general election voters who have rejected the GOP nominee the past two elections.
I left out what one person wrote on my Facebook timeline to the question above – Gov. Rick Scott. At first blush, one would immediately dismiss him in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes, but elections do pick winners and losers. If Scott is able to win reelection in 2014 in a swing state, in what appears to be a very competitive race, his name would likely be in the mix for president the next morning. For all of the criticism of Scott, he does seem to be one governor who has successfully balanced between the Tea Party and the establishment.