Election 2016

The GOP's 2016 Shadow Primary Has Already Begun

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Technically, the 2016 Republican presidential primary hasn't started yet. But for all practical purposes, it's already on.

One intriguing feature about the shadow primary this cycle is that it features three potential contenders for the "moderate establishment candidate" slot.

Today in Michigan, for example, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered this hint-hint, nudge-nudge of a non-answer when asked about his plans for 2016: "I have no idea whether I'm going to run for office or not." Translation: I'm totally thinking about running for office.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is busy telling Republicans that they need to find a candidate with, as The New York Times describes it, "broad appeal, like himself or Jeb Bush." Christie reportedly warned a meeting of social conservatives this summer that their alternative was to "pick somebody else and lose."

And then there's Mitt Romney. Like Bush and Christie, he hasn't officially said he's running. But people close to the former Massachusetts governor are saying that it's on his mind. And in a Des Moines Register survey last week, Romney was the only GOP candidate to beat Hillary Clinton—who is also not technically running yet—when likely voters in Iowa were asked who they would pick if the election were held today.

Obviously, early polls like this have no predictive value when it comes to the final outcome of the 2016 election. But they can weigh on a candidate's mind, and influence his or her decision to get into the race.

There are plenty more potential candidates in the mix—Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Marco Rubio. It's going to be a crowded field.

But right now, it's especially worth paying attention to Romney, Christie, and Bush, all of whom are vying for what is essentially the same "slot" in the Republican line-up—the moderate establishment favorite who wins the nod on the strength of electability. Partly that's because their candidacies will help gauge the continuing strength and influence of the old-line party establishment. And partly it's because a fight over that slot could unsettle the outcome of the primary in unusual ways.

The conventional wisdom, which is not perfectly accurate but true enough, is that the Republican Party establishment usually picks a favorite early on, puts a lot of resources into this candidate, and that this person then typically wins the GOP nod after the other candidates duke it out and split the remainder of the vote. But it's at least imaginable that if three or even just two of this trio of establishment-friendly contenders enter the race, then donor resources, and primary votes, could end up split, making room for someone else—perhaps someone a little more interesting—to end up with the nomination.

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22 responses to “The GOP's 2016 Shadow Primary Has Already Begun

  1. And that’s a big shadow if Christie is around.

  2. Can we just put the three of them in a gladiator ring? Winner then faces lions.

  3. If the RPers can get behind Rand and get their shit together their two previous attempts will not have been wasted. They finally understand the game they are playing and against whom. I think they would already be stacking precincts and counties gearing up for the coup of the century.

    1. Rand should keep a list of candidates other than him that are acceptable, like Ted Cruz. If they don’t get the nod and a joke like Romney gets it, GUESS WHO’S GOING THIRD PARTY!

  4. I just want to see Rand Paul debate Elizabeth Warren.

  5. The ’16 Democratic primary started in ’08.

  6. ” Christie reportedly warned a meeting of social conservatives this summer that their alternative was to “pick somebody else and lose.”

    As opposed to the last two elections when they used the same strategy. I could use that Einstein quote about insanity, but I don’t think it will do any good.

  7. “Romney was the only GOP candidate to beat Hillary Clinton?who is also not technically running yet?when likely voters in Iowa were asked who they would pick if the election were held today.”

    One wonders how a Romney/Paul ticket would do. Would libertarians swallow hard, knowing Paul would get a shot in the future, maybe even as the incumbent vice president?

    1. I want a Walker/Paul ticket.

  8. GOP, go big or go home. No more of this “moderate establishment” crap. Articulate some real principles and take some stands. Reagan wasn’t the “moderate establishment” candidate.

    1. Reagan defeated “The Monster of History,” lest you forget why this is a different situation.

      As of ~2004, USA has been split into two camps that make Union vs. Confederacy look like a friendly game of pick-up badminton.

  9. The GOP establishment have exactly the same goals as the Dem establishment. They just market it differently. But it’s all about keeping the cronyism gravy train rolling.

  10. These 3 are the media picks.

  11. like himself or Jeb Bush

    Pass. Also, they really do not ever want to win the presidency again do they?

  12. Alt-text: “enough gravitas to run against himself”

    But seriously, folks, I notice that over the past 3-4 presidential elections, it’s become common to refer to “the primary” as if the nomination process were a single nationwide primary.

    1. *I notice that over the past 3-4 presidential elections, it’s become common to refer to “the primary” as if the nomination process were a single nationwide primary.*

      Kind of similar to how “normalcy” became a real word, or other words come to have more than one “acceptable” pronunciation, which is literally impossible. Words mean nothing anymore. Coincidentally, communication, discourse and comprehension are each at an all-time low. Funny, that.

  13. Since this is the Stupid Party vs the Evil Party I predict Bush vs Clinton..Again. Any dangerous nonconformist types can look forward to a few years of big hair network state-fellators throwing dog whistle gibberish like “UNELECTABLE!!”around to remind Boobus Americanus who their only choices are. SP nailed this one years ago. Quick,set your DVR for the upcoming-earth shattering Giant Douche vs Turd Sandwich presidential debate. Coming soon to a network near you!!

  14. Can’t libertarians, SoConns, and Establishment pantywaists all grit our teeth and unite around some non-entity like John Thune and then just fight over what policies to pursue after we save this piece-of-shit country from Eternal Progressive Hegemony and Doom?

  15. I was concerned when Rand Paul was considered the 2016 nominee so early. But I see he’s already being pushed aside for the three media selections. This makes me think Rand can circle around and win in the end. No one is going wire to wire with this thing.

  16. *I was concerned when Rand Paul was considered the 2016 nominee so early.*

    On what planet did this occur? Because it sure as hell wasn’t this one.

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