Less than three months before the kickoff Iowa caucuses, there is growing anxiety bordering on panic among Republican elites about the dominance and durability of Donald Trump and Ben Carson and widespread bewilderment over how to defeat them.We're told that some of the panicking Republicans might are even talking (again!) about Mitt Romney:
Party leaders and donors fear that nominating either man would have negative ramifications for the GOP ticket up and down the ballot, virtually ensuring a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency and increasing the odds that the Senate falls into Democratic hands.
... some in the party establishment are so desperate to change the dynamic that they are talking anew about drafting Romney -- despite his insistence that he will not run again. Friends have mapped out a strategy for a late entry to pick up delegates and vie for the nomination in a convention fight, according to the Republicans who were briefed on the talks, though Romney has shown no indication of reviving his interest.I fail to grasp how that would solve the party's problems. Just when the non-crazies in the party seem to be coalescing around Marco Rubio rather than clinging to hopes for a Bush, Christie, or Kasich surge, the party's mandarins want to subdivide the non-crazy vote again? Wouldn't that make a Trump or Carson win more likely?
(I think Erick Erickson is right -- Romneyites are a cult. They just won't give up the dream of a Mitt presidency.)
But -- sad to say -- the GOP panic here is unwarranted. Establishment Republicans may be worried about "negative ramifications for the GOP ticket up and down the ballot" if Trump or Carson heads the ticket, but, as we're reminded in The New York Times, the GOP has a hell of a cushion:
While Mr. Obama’s 2008 election helped usher in a political resurgence for Democrats, the president today presides over a shrinking party whose control of elected offices at the state and local levels has declined precipitously. In January, Republicans will occupy 32 of the nation’s governorships, 10 more than they did in 2009. Democratic losses in state legislatures under Mr. Obama rank among the worst in the last 115 years, with 816 Democratic lawmakers losing their jobs and Republican control of legislatures doubling since the president took office -- more seats lost than under any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.And that's in addition to control of the House and Senate in D.C.
“Republicans have more chambers today than they have ever had in the history of the party,” said Tim Storey, an analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “So they are in a dominant and historic position of strength in the states.”
Democrats might hope, and Republicans might fear, that Democrats are going to deploy their "presidential electorate" in 2016 -- but that didn't help the Democrats downballot in 2012. Yes, it resulted in big gains for Democrats in 2008, but that year the party's voters were desperate for a presidential win and the country was desperate for a major change. Barack Obama was new and inspiring, and he didn't have a widely demagogued presidential track record to run on. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won't seem like a breath of fresh air, and she'll be running as a candidate of continuity, not change. Even a nutjob like Trump or Carson will get 60 million votes against her. Republicans running on even an idiot's coattails will probably win most of the seats they're expected to win.
And if Democrats eke out a Senate majority, well, the GOP wrote the book on using a minority position in the Senate to create and enforce gridlock.
Besides, the Kochs and other billionaires have bottomless stores of cash to deploy -- and as a story at Politico makes clear, the Kochs feel the GOP is so securely entrenched in much of the country that it's safe for them not just to back Republicans against Democrats, but to selectively challenge Republicans in primaries when those incumbent Republicans don't seem sufficiently Koch-esque:
The Kochs and their allies are investing in a pipeline to identify, cultivate and finance business-oriented candidates from the local school board all the way to the White House, and Koch operatives are already looking for opportunities to challenge GOP incumbents deemed insufficiently hard-line in their opposition to government spending and corporate subsidies.Relax, Republicans. Fox and talk radio are still thriving. Conservatism still inspires intense brand loyalty among middle-aged and older heterosexual heartland whites, even if they're now arguing over who's really a conservative. And money is flowing rightward so freely that the party's best-known financiers feel they can pick and choose among the Republicans on offer. It kills me to say it, but regardless of the presidential nominee, the GOP will be just fine.
... some within the network have even advocated targeting from six to 12 GOP House members who have run afoul of the Koch orthodoxy on fiscal issues and who are facing 2016 primary challenges, sources told POLITICO....
“I can’t stress enough -- we do look for opportunities and we relish opportunities to find unprincipled incumbents who aren’t adhering to free market principles who could be challenged and who we could replace with a better vote,” said [Jeff] Crank [of the Koch-affiliated consulting firm Aegis Strategic]. “We’re not going to run in there like wild-eyed crazies and charge up the hill without guns. We’re going to pick opportunities that are wise -- candidates who are both principled and electable. It’s all going to be well thought-out,” said Crank.