The Establishment Looks for a New Plan B


The Republican Establishment designed the process to deliver the 2016
presidential nomination to a business-friendly moderate who avoids so-called
social issues. The consultants who rewrote the party rules after 2012 are
now trying to explain to their patrons what went wrong and how to fix it.

Plan A, of course, was to assure the nomination of Jeb Bush, whose views are
the perfect reflection of the Republican donor class. But despite many
months of campaigning, $114 million of political funds raised through June
30, and two presidential debates watched by a record-setting average of 24
million people, Jeb Bush has dropped to sixth place, registering only 4% in
the latest Pew poll.

One reason for Jeb’s poor performance is that he never learned from Ronald
Reagan’s example how to prepare for a presidential campaign after his narrow
defeat at the 1976 Convention in Kansas City. Reagan then traveled the
country speaking to small audiences of grassrooters and fielding their

The immigration issue, and the way it has grabbed the attention of the
grassroots, made it difficult for Jeb Bush to secure the Republican Party
nomination in the usual way. Bush will continue to try, of course, and may
be able to play insider politics to line up more endorsements and donors
with wads of political money.

But the kingmakers always have a Plan B if their first choice stumbles. In
1964, for example, Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton was carefully
groomed as a second-choice alternative who could jump in the race after
Nelson Rockefeller failed to stop the conservative Barry Goldwater.

Speculation has been in the media that Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, or Chris
Christie is the Plan B for the Establishment in case Jeb Bush fails to gain
popular support. But Rubio is tied for only fifth in Iowa and fourth in New
Hampshire, Christie has failed to gain any real support and Walker has
dropped out completely.

The abrupt withdrawal of Scott Walker is the clearest indication of the
Establishment trying to regain its control of the process. Walker admitted
that his early withdrawal is part of a donor-driven strategy to “clear the
field in this race” to pave the way for an “alternative to the current
frontrunner” (Donald Trump) – and, he said, “I encourage other Republican
presidential candidates to consider doing the same.”

Walker insisted that candidates should have a “positive” message and that
only “candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the
current frontrunner” should be considered. He stressed that “Ronald Reagan
was good for America because he was an optimist,” and complained that “the
debate taking place in the Republican Party today is not focused on that
optimistic view of America.”

Contrary to Governor Walker, who may not have realized that the words
“positive” and “optimistic” are consultant code for “business as usual,”
every poll shows that the voters, by a margin of nearly 3 to 1, say the
country is on the “wrong track” or headed in the “wrong direction.” Those
voters don’t need more happy-talk; they’re looking for a candidate who’s
willing and able to turn the country around and “make America great again.”

When Jeb Bush and some of these other candidates tried criticizing Trump,
polls showed that any loss in support for Trump simply went to another
outside-the-Establishment candidate, such as Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina. So
Plan B is striking out as badly as Plan A did.

It may be that the only alternative left for these Republican would-be
kingmakers is the late entry of a new candidate to enter the race. We are
already hearing rumblings about resurrecting Mitt Romney.

On the Democratic side, Vice President Joe Biden has been considering
whether to enter the race, so it is obviously not too late for a new
candidate to emerge. Indeed, an entirely new candidate could be nominated as
late as the Republican National Convention next summer in Cleveland, as
occurred at the famous Republican convention of 1880.

The grassroots must be vigilant to anticipate and counter the attempts by
Republican insiders to impose an unwanted candidate on the American people.
When we fought for and nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964, we did not win the
general election that year but we built the conservative movement and laid
the foundation to win five out of the next six presidential elections.

When the Establishment is allowed to pick the Republican nominee, a
candidate unable to win the support of the all-important middle-class
America results. Establishment candidates have been unable to win the
popular vote in five out of the last six elections, and that outcome is not
something any Republican should want to repeat.