Who Can Bridge the Republican Party Divide?

Most of the GOP’s top presidential contenders are too tainted from the party’s fratricidal battles.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) (R) listens to Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) (L) as they arrive at the Senate Republican weekly policy luncheon November 19, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Michael Hirsh
Feb. 12, 2014, 7:42 a.m.

This should have been Chris Christie’s mo­ment.

With the GOP lead­er­ship in Wash­ing­ton en­gaged in open war­fare with its con­ser­vat­ive base, the New Jer­sey gov­ernor was seen as one of the few emer­ging na­tion­al can­did­ates with enough cros­sov­er ap­peal to play the peace­maker in the party. And in fact, be­fore “Bridgeg­ate,” Christie had been primed to launch his 2016 cam­paign in the open­ing months of 2014. Now he’s polit­ic­ally dam­aged, per­haps fatally, and many oth­er lead­ing con­tenders may be too com­prom­ised by their stands on the party lead­er­ship’s sur­render over the shut­down and debt-ceil­ing is­sues.

Re­pub­lic­an Party strategists say it’s an open ques­tion wheth­er any­one else will emerge with the na­tion­al stature and ap­peal to make the peace in an out­right civil war that is likely to play out through the rest of the year — and very prob­ably in­to the 2016 pres­id­en­tial cam­paign. Even Rep. Paul Ry­an, the 2012 vice pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee and erstwhile con­ser­vat­ive darling who was one of the 199 GOP House votes against the debt-ceil­ing in­crease Tues­day (stand­ing against Speak­er John Boehner and his House lead­er­ship), re­mains some­what tain­ted by his sweet­heart deal with Demo­crat­ic Sen. Patty Mur­ray end­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down late last year. “I think it’s go­ing to be open war­fare through 2016,” says Mat­thew Latimer, a former speech­writer for Pres­id­ent George W. Bush and seni­or staffer for Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell.

Scot­tie Nell Hughes, news dir­ect­or for the Tea Party News Net­work in Nashville, Tenn., says the GOP may be fated for a re­play of 2012 — where can­did­ates vy­ing for con­ser­vat­ive sup­port tear each oth­er down in the pres­id­en­tial primar­ies and the party is left with a tep­idly mod­er­ate nom­in­ee — “un­til we see some lead­er­ship step up and say, this is how we need to act.” Hughes says the party es­tab­lish­ment re­cently fol­lowed a pre­dict­able pat­tern by float­ing Jeb Bush’s name for 2016 with­in days of Christie’s near-down­fall, as the lat­ter was wal­loped by a scan­dal over wheth­er his ad­min­is­tra­tion en­gaged in polit­ic­al re­tri­bu­tion by de­lib­er­ately caus­ing traffic prob­lems on the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge. But Hughes be­lieves there are still con­ser­vat­ive sa­viors out there, among them Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Flor­ida, an­oth­er former con­ser­vat­ive fa­vor­ite who ap­peared to fall from grace last year be­cause of his will­ing­ness to com­prom­ise on im­mig­ra­tion.

Still, Hughes notes that even she is “get­ting beaten up” by her tea-party col­leagues for dar­ing to say so.

Some strategists who are more aligned with the es­tab­lish­ment wing of the party, like former GOP con­gress­man Vin Weber, say the best hope for a na­tion­al uni­fi­er may well lie with pop­u­lar Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors such as Mike Pence of In­di­ana, Scott Walk­er of Wis­con­sin, and John Kasich of Ohio who have stayed largely out of the in­tra-party battle in Wash­ing­ton. The lat­ter two, however, still have to win reelec­tion at home this year. “You can’t be the peace­maker, if you will, and have been totally on one side of the fight,” Weber says. “There’s no per­fect per­son. Al­most by defin­i­tion, he or she is go­ing to have scars. I think there’s a need for us to be able to talk to each oth­er.”

Most Re­pub­lic­an ana­lysts say the party has a bounty of tal­ent, and some of those with an eye on 2016, like Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, may still find a way to ap­peal to the con­ser­vat­ive base while woo­ing the GOP cen­ter.

Right now, however, there’s no truce in sight. Weber main­tains that the party is in bet­ter shape than in the last elec­tion cycles be­cause “the num­ber of really de­struct­ive primar­ies around the county is smal­ler.” But neither he nor oth­er lead­ing GOP strategists be­lieve the tea-party/con­ser­vat­ive in­sur­gency is any­where close to pe­ter­ing out. In­deed, in some primary races like Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham’s reelec­tion bid in South Car­o­lina, no few­er than four tea-party-aligned can­did­ates are try­ing un­seat him.

Des­pite the on­go­ing in­vest­ig­a­tions in­to his ad­min­is­tra­tion, Christie can’t be coun­ted out. Yet even Christie in the best case faced an up­hill struggle to win over con­ser­vat­ives sus­pi­cious of his stand on fisc­al and so­cial is­sues. With al­most two years still to go be­fore the next pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, it is im­possible to say what new con­ser­vat­ive lead­ers with na­tion­al po­ten­tial will emerge — for ex­ample, Gov. Susana Mar­tinez of New Mex­ico, who by be­ing both a Lat­ina and a wo­man could neut­ral­ize a lot of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s ap­peal. But many GOP strategists agree that such a na­tion­al uni­fy­ing fig­ure is sadly lack­ing today. Rick Tyler, a former aide to Newt Gin­grich, says there hasn’t been any­one of that stature since Gin­grich him­self be­came House speak­er in 1994. “What’s needed is someone who can fig­ure out how to put the co­ali­tion to­geth­er, how to get evan­gel­ic­al con­ser­vat­ives and the pro-growth con­ser­vat­ives to­geth­er, how to at­tract Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans and Lati­nos.”

Tyler, however, la­ments that the Demo­crats “have the po­ten­tial to pull to­geth­er a power­ful co­ali­tion too.” And oth­er GOP strategists say it’s very pos­sible, and prob­ably likely, that the Re­pub­lic­an civil war will still be ra­ging in 2016, with no Ap­po­mat­tox on the ho­ri­zon.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4729) }}

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×