Three days ago I witnessed a somewhat eye opening interview on CSPAN. The guest was Peter Wehner, a senior member of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His smarmy, overly self confident demeanor was reminiscent of former House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor.
Wehner is a somebody within GOP ranks. He was a senior adviser to the Romney-Ryan campaign. He has written for numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine and the Weekly Standard. In 2013 he was named as one of a handful of reform minded conservatives by the Washington Monthly.
Mr. Wehner also served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations prior to becoming a speechwriter for George W. Bush. Books that he has authored or co-authored include City and Man, Religion and Politics in a new Era, and Wealth and Justice: The Morally of Democratic Capitalism.
When the subject turned to the 2016 Republican Presidential field, Mr. Wehner proffered his take: It amounted to Jeb Bush would be an outstanding nominee, but Govenor Romney remained a viable option.
Wehner then went down the list of Republican candidates, from Ted Cruz to Scott Walker to Dr. Ben Carson. Chris Christie, he professed, has "excellent credentials," but "needed to work on his foreign policy positions." Surprisingly, twelve names deep in his analysis, I realized that Governor Rick Perry's name was not one of them..
"Why" would someone so learned, so apparently prevalent within the GOP inner circle, negate to mention Perry? An attempt to stonewall? Strange...Almost, as if, Perry is a member of a different party...
Closer examination to Wehner's writings and insights reveal a paradigm consisent with Bill Kristol. In essence, "pure Neo-Con." It is here where the battle for the soul of the Republican party begins!
Most conservatives haven't put it together. Yet! But, as 2015 unfolds, expect some very predictable developments. It begins with Governor Bush's expected candidacy.
Jeb Bush is slightly to the right of Mitt Romney. Especially on social issues. More significantly is his appeal to Hispanic voters. The quickest way for Republicans to hand the White House to Democrats is to tally 27% of Latino votes; as Governor Romney did in 2012. Bush scored 56% in the 2002 Florida Gubernatorial general election.
Sadly, there are some Romney supporters, who would break for Hillary Clinton, if the choice were between she and Rand Paul, Ted Cruz or even Rick Perry. Not to say that Wehner is among them! Yet, there exist a pocket of mostly Northeasterners, who continue to see the base as: "simple, rough-around-the-edges, naive, Jesus fearing, folks."
Scholars such as Wehner are confident that Jeb can be sold to them. After all, Jeb holds Yankee roots! Even though he was born in Texas, graduated from a Texas University, is a full fledged Floridian and even has a Mexican wife, the pedigree is there.
Not to say that Perry wouldn't be preferable to the "wrong kind" of Democrat! Wehner has written several articles describing the "dangers" of an Elizabeth Warren Presidency. He has emphasized the importance for Clinton Democrats not to take Ms. Warren lightly. Her message is "powerful Populism" and could gain traction with disgruntled Demcrats in lightening fashion!
Where Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Chris Christie and most of the others find the most common ground is their comfort with big government. Once we get past media sizzle, sound bites and one liners, one question will define the GOP: "Are we with Neo-Cons, and Democrats in their preference for "top down from Washington?" Or, are we seeking a new direction?"
Governor Perry obviously is. That's why he is feared by the Peter Wahner's, George Will's and Bill Kristols! A message of "reducing the size, scope and cost" of central government takes the air out of a lot of tires! The assertion "red team versus blue team, playing for the same university," is now contrasted by a real alternative.
Neo-Con's know that Jeb Bush would be a stronger candidate than either Mitt Romney or Chris Christie. His only real negative, aside being out of politics for while, is his name. Nobody truly knows how much of an impact the moniker "Bush" will have until the primaries begin!
Smart money predicts that Romney, Christie and even Senator Marco Rubio will stay out if Jeb enters the race; for different reasons. It would also be a good bet to assume that neither Scott Walker or John Kasich will enter. The latter is already being seen as a possible running mate for Bush.
It makes for a tidy conclusion, in the name of party unity. But there are concerns. Starting with "what if" Ted Cruz succumbs to expected Texas pressure, (coming from both Bush and Perry camps)and stays out? Then there is Rand Paul's dilemma in Kentucky. All the Senate muscle, starting with Mitch McConnell, will urge him to run for re-election. Under Kentucky law, he can't run for both offices.
There are other candidates to be sure. But, it's easy to see how a "forty-man race" could become a "two-man race;" in a remarkably short time. Bush insiders see this scenario playing out. So do the Peter Wehner's of the Republican world.
Ironically, Wehner and friends would be scrambling madly for Perry buttons if Elizabeth Warren managed to grab the nomination. America may be ready for such a choice! There is a weariness with our present status quot. New, outside the beltway, faces are coveted more than perhaps anytime in American history.
Don't think Democrats wouldn't welcome a Perry-Warren match-up! Not solely because they think of the Texas Governor as an easier opponent! There may actualy be millions of Dems ready to chance the wind with Perry and his Jeffersonian ideas. Even in the most elite circles of New England Liberalism, there is concern that the "Professor" may be a bit too much "in the clouds."
Much of "blue collar" America has lost faith in all things political. A plain spoken, "Will Rogers type," might be just what the doctor ordered!
In short, the general election will likely be won before the primaries are concluded. Clearing the first obsticle, namely sending those traditionally in charge to the "back of the room" is our beginning.
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