The new Republican problem: Not enough presidential candidates

When the primary process started, the Republican party was smugly satisfied with how things were turning out. There were a lot of candidates, a few too many perhaps, but they could look forward to a steady process where everyone but Jeb Bush, the one favored by the party establishment, would fade away and he would emerge as the winner, with a huge amount of money support. If for some reason he stumbled, there were other acceptable candidates like Scott Walker who would get the nomination. The party bragged about its ‘deep bench’ of candidates, compared to the Democrats who seemed to have Hillary Clinton and no one else.

In one of the most remarkable upheavals I have seen, the arrival of Donald Trump has shattered that orderly process. He is not only completely crushing Bush, he and the other candidates that were seen as merely window dressing are dominating the polls. The insurgents Trump, Carson, Cruz, and Fiorina have 51.3% of the support while Bush, Walker, Rubio, and Kasich have just 27.3%.

Republican polls 8-30-15

And these numbers only seem to be getting worse with time for the party establishment.

So suddenly we have seen the narrative change and some party pundits are saying that the problem is that rather than too many, the Republicans do not have enough good candidates. Conservative commentator Rich Lowry goes down the list of existing candidates and finds them ‘underwhelming’.

The rise of Donald Trump is, in part, a function of a vacuum.

He is thriving in a Republican field that is large, talented and, so far, underwhelming. There’s 17 candidates and nothing on. Except Donald Trump.

In the normal course of things, the establishment front-runner provides coherence to the field. Hence, the expectation that the field would have Jeb Bush and a not-Bush, or maybe two. For the moment, this assumption has collapsed, as the current shape of the field is Trump and everyone else.

It is still August, of course. The rules of gravity say Trump will come back down to earth. The media interest that is so intense now could burn out. His lack of seriousness should be a drag over time, and he will still have to weather more debates and presumably — should he stay strong — a barrage of negative ads.

Even if he fades, though, someone else will have to fill the screen. To this point, No one else has been big or vivid enough to do it.

Another conservative commentator Jennifer Rubin says that what is “missing so far on the GOP side is a presidential-level grownup who can seize the race, reject Trumpism and offer an alternative vision”.

Neither Lowry nor Rubin suggest any names to fill the void but others are casting around for a savior and the names they are coming up with are doozies, indicating how much Trump has unhinged them.

For example, Rupert Murdoch seems to think that the best way to fight a billionaire candidate whom you don’t like is with another billionaire candidate and he is floating the idea of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg to wrest the Republican party nomination leadership from Donald Trump. But Murdoch is missing the point. True, Trump’s money gives him an edge in the money-drenched US election system but his appeal comes from more than that.

Murdoch is not the only person who is coming up with wild scenarios in an effort to stop Trump’s momentum. Neoconservative Bill Kristol suggests that what the Republican party needs is to recruit yet more candidates who might succeed where the current ones are failing. Who does he recommend?

Who could such a mysterious dark horse be? Well, it’s not as if every well-qualified contender is already on the field. Mitch Daniels was probably the most successful Republican governor of recent times, with federal executive experience to boot. Paul Ryan is the intellectual leader of Republicans in the House of Representatives, with national campaign experience. The House also features young but tested leaders like Jim Jordan, Trey Gowdy and Mike Pompeo. There is the leading elected representative of the 9/11 generation who has also been a very impressive freshman senator, Tom Cotton. There could be a saner and sounder version of Trump—another businessman who hasn’t held electoral office. And there are distinguished conservative leaders from outside politics; Justice Samuel Alito and General (ret.) Jack Keane come to mind.

My first reaction to this list of crazy suggestions was that Kristol had become unhinged. But then I remembered that he was never hinged to begin with. Remember, he is a total warmonger who has been advocating the bombing of one country after another in the Middle East. He also really pushed for Sarah Palin to be John McCain’s running mate in 2008, a move that not only transformed that election from a close race into a easy win for Barack Obama, it also inflicted on the nation the seemingly ineradicable irritating presence of Palin.

But his suggestion of Justice Alito is one that I can support wholeheartedly. In order to run, Alito would have to resign his position on the US Supreme Court and that would rid us of one of its worst justices. So run, Sam, run!


  1. busterggi says

    Half these guys were enthusiasticly supported by the same pundits, some for years. Says a lot about their judgement.

  2. raym says

    missing so far on the GOP side is a presidential-level grownup
    And even if one stepped forward, (s)he would stand no chance whatsoever with the current Republican base. If the stakes were not so incredibly high, it would be amusing to watch all of this play out.

  3. Chiroptera says

    Another conservative commentator Jennifer Rubin says that what is “missing so far on the GOP side is a presidential-level grownup who can seize the race, reject Trumpism and offer an alternative vision”.

    I thought the Republicans purged the grown ups out of their party a couple of election cycles ago.

  4. says

    Somewhere between 2008-2012, people started blaming Karl Rove for bringing “the crazies” (as they were referred to) to the republican party. The “crazies” were extremist christians who were promised things in exchange for their support (e.g. a total ban on abortion, religion in schools). They and their support were the reason Bush was (un)elected president for two terms.

    The problem in their eyes is that they didn’t get what they wanted and were promised by Bush and Rove, and now the current republican presidential aspirants (*) cater to them, saying ridiculous things that appeal to the rabid mob. (* Aspirins is more like it. They’re nothing but a headache.) The only way to keep that support is keep digging and saying even dumber things.

    Do the cast of clowns really believe the hate and ignorance they’re spewing? Who knows? Who cares? What does matter is that now the republicans are in the same boat as the democrats of the 1980s. Anyone who is capable of winning the party nomination has zero chance of winning national election. The difference is, the democrats of the 1980s were compromise candidates, the current crop of republicans are “NO compromise!” candidates.

  5. raven says

    Jeb Bush at least took himself out.

    He wanted to start a war in the middle east somewhere for some reason, not realizing that the US is tired of war right now. He wanted to kill Medicare not realizing that his base of old white people are being kept alive by…Medicare. He seems confused about what women are, what they do, and why. He likely thinks his kids were delivered by a Stork.

    Jeb Bush is genuinely dumb!!! Dumber than his idiot brother!!! This is a guy with a low IQ born into vast wealth. He’s never had to do anything for himself in his life. It’s possible he doesn’t even know how to tie his shoes. At that level of wealth, you have servants to help you dress.

    He isn’t qualified to be president and it is obvious.

  6. thebookofdave says

    what is “missing so far on the GOP side is a presidential-level grownup who can seize the race, reject Trumpism and offer an alternative vision”.

    What Jennifer Rubin and her peers of punditry fail to understand is that the people who respond to polls are not looking for a grownup and are fed up with visionaries. They demand one of their own in charge.

  7. moarscienceplz says

    There could be a saner and sounder version of Trump

    Hee hee! The GOP has spent the last half-century welcoming racists, godbots, and assorted other crazies into their tent and then feeeding them a non-stop pack of lies and distortions carefully calculated to get them permanently whipped up into a mouth-foaming frenzy, and now they are worried that the front-runner seems not sane and not sound? Golly gee, how the heck did that happen?

  8. astrosmash says

    “…, the Republicans do not have enough good candidates….”
    Their missing the point. The ideology ITSELF is corrupt, hypocritical, dishonest, fascistic and anti-intellectual. It’s self-eliminating condition so to speak.

    What could it possibly even mean to have a ‘good’ candidate who supports and believes the awful things the RW supports…Whoever you would choose by definition would have to be a HORRIBLE human being…They should just change their tactic slightly and start deliberately looking for the WORST human being they can find…

  9. StevoR says

    @9. astrosmash : “They should just change their tactic slightly and start deliberately looking for the WORST human being they can find…”

    You sure they haven’t *already* been doing just that hence Trump and Santorum and Jeb! (BUSH!!!) to name just a few?

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