Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush Top List Of Preferred Candidates Among Republicans

The Tea Party may be the most vocal wing of the GOP but most Republicans seems to favor candidates that aren't quite so right wing.

Mitt Romney Jeb Bush

If you follow the commentary of conservatives in the blogosphere and on social media, the idea of another Mitt Romney run for the White House is pretty much the worst idea ever, a sentiment which is consistent with the revised history of recent American politics that one hears from this segment of the world of punditry. Notwithstanding the fact that in 2008 Romney was seen as the conservative alternative to eventual nominee Senator John McCain, by the time 2012 rolled around the former Massachusetts Governor came to be seen during the 2012 cycle as the supposed moderate, with some even labeling the man who was cheered at CPAC in 2008 even as he announced he was dropping out of the race as a “Republican In Name Only” due to his association with a health care reform plan that many saw as being the impetus for the Affordable Care Act. After Romney lost the General Election in 2012, the standard claim on the right blamed his loss on the fact that, once again, the GOP had not nominated someone who has “conservative enough” and that this caused conservative voters to stay home. The fact that the 2012 Republican General Election campaign was indeed quite conservative when it came to the economic and other messages that the Romney campaign put forward were actually quite conservative, and that there is no evidence at all to support the assertion that Romney lost due to conservatives “staying home.”

With the recent news that Mitt Romney was considering running for President again, these critics have come out of the woodwork again to loudly proclaim that they will not support him. Interestingly, though, many of their fellow Republicans clearly don’t feel the same way:

Fifty-nine percent of Republicans would like to see Romney jump into the 2016 race, while only 26 percent believe he should stay out, according to the CBS News poll.

Fifty percent of Republicans would like to see former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the campaign trail as well, while 27 percent disagree. If both Romney and Bush run, analysts expect them to wage a competitive battle for the allegiance of the Republican establishment.

Another potential candidate viewed favorably by the GOP establishment, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is sought less eagerly by Republicans. Only 29 percent say they’d like to see Christie launch a bid, while 44 percent say otherwise. (Only former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s numbers are more underwater: 30 percent of Republicans say they’d like to see her run, but 59 percent disagree.)

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee posts a respectable showing, with 40 percent of Republicans urging him to get in, and 29 percent urging him to stay out.

A trio of Republican senators who have stoked the enthusiasm of the grassroots have mixed numbers. Twenty-seven percent of Republicans would like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to mount a bid, but 34 percent disagree. Twenty-six percent would like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to run, while 19 percent would not. Twenty-one percent want Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to run, while 25 percent want him to not run.

Republicans are similarly lukewarm on some of the party’s governors. Twenty-one percent want Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, to run, but 32 percent disagree. Fourteen percent want Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-Louisiana, to run, but 20 percent disagree. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker fares better, however: 22 percent want him to run, while 12 percent don’t.

Finally, 19 percent of Republicans would like to see former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum run, while 29 percent would not. And 21 percent would like to see a campaign by Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and conservative activist, while 17 percent disagree.

What’s most interesting about these numbers, of course, is the fact that so-called “establishment” candidates like Romney and Bush are doing far better in the polls right now than maverick candidates such as Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, or Rand Paul. To some degree, of course, the response to this poll can be attributed to name recognition and the fact that many of the potential candidates for President are still largely unknown to people who don’t follow politics closely. Still, it’s worthwhile to note what we’re seeing here, which is the fact that the top two candidates in the poll of self-identify Republicans are the so-called “establishment” candidates rather than the maverick conservatives. This runs counter to the arguments of people who are part of that base who claim, on a regular basis, that “the American people” are yearning for a hard right conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan, not the Ronald Reagan who was actually President, mind you, but the myth that conservatives have created of a Ronald Reagan who governed to the hard right, never compromised, and provided the GOP with all it needs to know about how to win elections and govern, even in an era of divided government. Those candidates are far down the list of candidates that self-identified Republicans would like to see run in 2016, just as they were in 2012, 2008, and 2000.

While this is likely to be disappointing to the right wing base of the GOP, it should not be too much of a surprise.  Looking back through recent history, the Republican Party typically doesn’t end up nominating “maverick” candidates in the sense of picking the candidate that appeals most to the base. Instead, they have usually picked the candidate that arguably comes closest to appealing to the middle of American politics. In the era before primaries controlled the process, of course, this was largely due to the influence of party bosses and insiders in picking the nominees, but if anything the primary system has made the likelihood that the eventual GOP nominee will come from the “establishment” even more likely. For one thing, the fact that most Republican Presidential Primaries are open primaries means that voters who are generally politically independent are able to vote, and they are generally more likely to vote for more “middle of the road” candidates. This is how candidates like John McCain and Mitt Romney were able to hold off challenges from the right and win the nomination, and it’s likely to have a similar impact on the race in 2016 as well. Combine that with the role of money in politics, and the fact that big money Republican donors are more likely to back traditional conservatives than mavericks like Cruz, Paul, or Santorum, and it seems pretty clear that, despite the rise of the Tea Party, the GOP nomination process remains inclined to pick a candidate closer to the middle of American politics. Absent some drastic change, there’s no reason to believe that this won’t remain the case in 2016. Right now, that suggests that either Bush or, if he runs, Romney, would be the most likely person to be the nominee, but it could also mean that the nomination could go to one of the lesser known Governors that might get into the race. It also means that those hoping for a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul at the top of the Republican ticket next year are likely to be disappointed.

1 Indeed, Mitt Romney received more raw votes in 2012 than John McCain did in 2008 even though overall turnout in 2012 was lower.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Ted Cruz:

    “…There are some who believe that the path to Republican victory is to run to the mush middle…I think recent history has shown us that is not a path to success. It doesn’t work. It’s a failed electoral strategy…”

  2. Lydia Jones says:

    The press keeps trying to push this narrative of Romney and Bush as the men most wanted by Republicans however if you ask the Democrats they would say the same thing as well which tells you all you need to know about the press and their agenda. Some of us former Republicans know from the past how the failed strategy of middle of the road RINO’s have failed to get elected, we aren’t falling for that again and again and again. I for one am not for Romney or Bush for that very reason. Stop the propaganda and the brainwashing of the Republicans. Let republicans decide for themselves who they want to push into the election progress!!

  3. Scott says:

    @Lydia Jones: From your post, I assume you believe you are a Republican. In fact, the Tea Party folks (who are just rebadged George Wallace Democrats) are the real RINOs. The radical right in this country are not Republicans and never have been.

  4. Nikki says:

    The radical right in this country are not Republicans and never have been.

    Riiiiight.

    The only thing stopping the far right from completely taking over the entire party is a lack of sufficient funding.

  5. @Lydia Jones:

    Let republicans decide for themselves who they want to push into the election progress!!

    As, indeed, they will (primaries and all).

    I would note: the reason these names are in the news is because of things the men in question have done of late. It isn’t the media making it up out of nowhere.

  6. Scott says:

    @Nikki: And the lack of push back

  7. superdestroyer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    A pointless speech by an irrelevant person who had not held office in a decade is no reason for every left of center media outlet to give it coverage. What Romney says, does, and plans on is irrelevant to politics in the U.S. since he will never be president.

    It seems like the media would rather focus on irrelevant Republicans rather than focusing on Hillary Clinton and what she will do in her first administration.

    Until someone comes up with a scenario where the Republicans can get 270 electoral votes, it makes more sense to just ignore them and focus on the Democratic Party and what the Democrats are planning in the future.

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @Lydia Jones:

    The press keeps trying to push this narrative of Romney and Bush as the men most wanted by Republicans

    Blame the media, the press, all you like, but polling today, admittedly about 12 months before it really counts, show those 2 to be most preferred among Republicans, at least among those who actually want to win the presidency.

    I know it pains Tea Party Republicans to admit this but, in 2012 Mitt Romney ACTUALLY WAS the best candidate the Republican Party had to offer. Who would have done better? Santorum, Bachmann, Gingrich, Cruz, Perry, West, Cain, Palin, Trump? Go ahead, make my day – tell me who could have beat Obama in 2012?

  9. @superdestroyer:

    There are two possible hypothesis:

    1. The media loves a horse race as it gains eyeballs and it is cheap to cover. There is a real race on the GOP side, but none at the Democratic side.

    or

    2. There is a massive conspiracy on the part of the media to boost a GOP candidate so that they will nominate the weakest candidate.

    I would note some evidence to consider:

    A. There was plenty of silly speculation about Warren (evidence for the horse race thesis)

    B. Fox News is as deep into the Romney and Jeb discussion a is anyone else.

  10. superdestroyer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    There is no conspiracy but it is very easy for the media who want to cover the horse race aspects not only because it is a normal coverage area for the networks but it also makes the Republicans look bad.

    Just look at how little discussion there is on blogs like Outsidethebeltway concerning Hillary Clinton versus people who will never be people like Romney or Cruz.

  11. KM says:

    @Lydia Jones:

    Let republicans decide for themselves who they want to push into the election progress!!

    Fifty-nine percent of Republicans would like to see Romney jump into the 2016 race, while only 26 percent believe he should stay out, according to the CBS News poll.

    Fifty percent of Republicans would like to see former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the campaign trail as well, while 27 percent disagree. If both Romney and Bush run, analysts expect them to wage a competitive battle for the allegiance of the Republican establishment.

    Based on the wording above, it looks like they’re doing just fine in deciding for themselves. Just because you feel you are Republican and don’t think it’s an appropriate or correct choice doesn’t invalidate the others who self-identify as Republican’s choices. Welcome to democracy; your pick doesn’t always win.

  12. KM says:

    @superdestroyer:

    It seems like the media everyone else would rather focus on irrelevant Republicans people I don’t support rather than focusing on Hillary Clinton and what she will do in her first administration.

    Until someone comes up with a scenario where the Republicans can get 270 electoral votes an actual Presidential victory under the conditions set forth in the Constitution , it makes more sense to just ignore them and focus on the Democratic Party and what the Democrats are planning in the future. whine about why we aren’t winning instead of trying to actual win over voters. Or maybe just whine to whine.

    FIFY

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @superdestroyer:

    There is no conspiracy but it is very easy for the media who want to cover the horse race aspects not only because it is a normal coverage area for the networks but it also makes the Republicans look bad.

    Believe you me, the media has nothing to do with how bad the Republicans look, they look (and sound) even worse in person. Not even FOX can put enuf lipstick on these pigs.

  14. Modulo Myself says:

    Both Romney or Bush can beat Hillary Clinton. No one else in the GOP stands a chance. I’m guessing this fact is probably circulating everywhere in Republican circles.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @Lydia Jones: I love this term “RINO” which you Tea Party types have come up with. Republican in Name Only. Who are you to decide who is a republican or not? And why should anyone listen to you?

    We have these things called elections, you know. Amazing thing, democracy. You can scream until you are blue in the face about how the candidates aren’t “real republicans”. If they get elected, then they bloody well have been picked by self-identified republicans to be the standard-bearer.

    And maybe most self-identified republicans have enough horse sense to realize that they need to elect a candidate that can get 51% or more of the votes of ALL Americans, not just 51% of the far-right.

  16. Kauf Buch says:

    FINE. *Let* them.
    The GOP is only signing its Death Certificate.
    Next to the Whig Party in the history books.

    I, and million of others – many, MANY millions of others MORE than in 2012,
    will not vote for a RINO in 2016.

    If need be, I’ll “write-in” TED CRUZ.

    DEATH TO THE GOP.
    We need a new Party. NOW.

  17. Kauf Buch says:

    @grumpy realist: I’m sure you were busy in 2012 telling everyone how Romney was INEVITABLE and THE ONLY REPUBLICAN WHO COULD BEAT OBAMA too.

    Please whine elsewhere.

    We’ve heard your bleating before, and it JUST DON’T WORK NO MO’.

  18. superdestroyer says:

    @KM:

    Have you read what I have written before. There is not one Repubican who has the skill set to be a successful candidate, let alone a successful president. All of them come with massive amounts of history that will keep them from being elected.

    So, the question for voters and for the medida is whether to keep focusing on individuals who will never be president or to now focus on those few Democrats who have a chance of being presidnet come 2017. It looks like the media would rather focus on those who have no chance of being president rather than on those who could be president.

    What Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren are saying about the middle class is infinitely more important that what any Republican is saying. Yet, the media ignores Hillary Clinton, passes over the writings of Elizabeth Warren and focuses on irrelevant Republicans.

  19. Kauf Buch says:

    @Modulo Myself: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHHA
    That’s a really FUNNY one!
    You WERE joking, I trust.

    Sad thing, though, that’s what the Establishment GOP *still* thinks.

    LET them lose. AGAIN.
    LET the GOP DIE.

    For the sake of America: we need a new Party. NOW.
    DEATH TO THE GOP.

  20. David M says:

    @Kauf Buch:

    Ted Cruz? I’m not sure there’s many in the GOP less suited for the presidency.

  21. Slugger says:

    I am interested in knowing more about the poll. Did they ask self identified Republicans, party professionals, actual office holders, or big money donors? I think who you ask makes a difference, and the outcome may wind up being determined by people who are not well reflected in CBS polls. Today the Seahawks have a lot more fans than 24 hours ago with no improvement in football knowledge.

  22. David M says:

    @Slugger:

    Click through to the original article and it has the exact poll details you’re looking for.

  23. ernieyeball says:

    @Kauf Buch:..For the sake of America: we need a new Party. NOW. DEATH TO THE GOP.

    Politics1 lists a total of 30 United States Political Parties that have fielded or endorsed candidates and 9 Parties that have not.
    What will you call your new Party and how soon will you have a slate of National and State candidates running for office?
    http://www.politics1.com/parties.htm

  24. Barry says:

    Doug: “Indeed, Mitt Romney received more raw votes in 2012 than John McCain did in 2008 even though overall turnout in 2012 was lower.”

    This is something that the Tea Party and their ilk ignore – IIRC, Romney did better overall than the GOP Senate candidates.

  25. Tony W says:

    @Scott: No true Scotsman, huh?

  26. Kauf Buch says:

    @David M: Oh, wow. What a comeback. That *really* refutes all that I said (/s).

    p.s. That level of arrogance won’t even get you a barrista job on K Street, sonny.

  27. Kauf Buch says:

    @Barry: We *don’t* ignore OR discount that fact.

    Fact *also* is he WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN.

    Like McCain. And Dole.

  28. al-Ameda says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Both Romney or Bush can beat Hillary Clinton. No one else in the GOP stands a chance. I’m guessing this fact is probably circulating everywhere in Republican circles.

    I think you’re dead on accurate.
    Hillary is roughly equal to Mitt on the campaign trail – she, like Mitt, is not especially compelling. The advantage she has, the only advantage she has over Jeb or Mitt, is the “first female president” possibility, that’s it.

  29. al-Ameda says:

    @Kauf Buch:

    @Barry: We *don’t* ignore OR discount that fact.
    Fact *also* is he WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN.
    Like McCain. And Dole.

    Ignore reality all you like, who would have done better than Romney in 2012?

    Palin, Cruz, Bachmann, West, Trump, Gingrich, Perry, Cain? Santorum?

    Go ahead, let me know.

  30. David M says:

    @Kauf Buch:

    I kind of thought it’d be fairly obvious how ill-suited Cruz was for the presidency, with his record of self promotion in the Senate so far. Shutting down the government for no reason, abject stupidity about net neutrality, and his general reputation as an insufferable narcissist are common knowledge.

  31. stonetools says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Hey, we need to encourage guys like Buch. I devoutly wish that the Tea Partiers get their dream candidate in 2016-Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Ben Carson, whatever. The Democrats need a huge landslide in 2016 to wipe out the 2010 and 2014 Republican gains.

  32. Gustopher says:

    Maybe the RINOs prefer Bush and Romney, but the real Republicans have higher standards.

    Ted Cruz, perhaps, but even he leans a little too left on some issues. Palin’s star has faded a bit. Maybe Bachmann just needed some seasoning four years ago.

  33. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kauf Buch:What? The minority party you belong to now, isn’t minority enough? Flame on, brother, flame on.

  34. Hal_10000 says:

    To some degree, of course, the response to this poll can be attributed to name recognition and the fact that many of the potential candidates for President are still largely unknown to people who don’t follow politics closely.

    I think this is the key point. It’s the same reason Pew’s idiotic poll of “most admired American” always ends up choosing the President, no matter how disliked he may be. Romney and Bush are the most familiar names. That having been said, I do agree that the GOP primary voters almost always gravitate to a moderate. This was why it was obvious from early 2010 that Romney would be the nominee. They flirted with Caine and Bachmann and Newt and, God help us, Santorum. But in the end, they were going to go with the mainstream candidate. Not just for electability but because “Republican” includes a much broader range than hard core conservatives like to admit.

  35. Eric Florack says:

    so let me understand this. This entire piece, this entire meme, is to be based on a CBS News poll? Are we to ignore the leanings of CBS? Letting organizations like CBS and there pulling data picar canidates is how we ended up with Bob Dole John McCain and Mitt Romney in the first place.

    no sale.

  36. Barry says:

    @Kauf Buch: “Fact *also* is he WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN.

    Like McCain. And Dole.”

    My utterly obvious point was that Romney was better, far better, than anything the Tea Party could propose.

  37. @Eric Florack: Well, if we have learned anything in the last several years, it is that there is definitive proof that polling is biased and must be ignored (or, at least, unskewed).

    We can call this phenomenon the “President Romney Effect”

  38. superdestroyer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I doubt if there was every a realistic poll that showed that Romney was going to win more than 270 electoral votes. I believe Romney’s high point in generally favorability pollingwas just after the first debate and quickly faded.

    What is more unrealistic is all of the talking heads claiming that anything could happen in the 2016 presidential election when they all know that many things are already locked in and the only question is how much can change at the margain.

  39. wr says:

    @superdestroyer: “Have you read what I have written before.”

    If you haven’t, don’t worry — he’ll write exactly the same thing at least fifteen times today… and every day.

  40. wr says:

    @Gustopher: “Maybe the RINOs prefer Bush and Romney, but the real Republicans have higher standards.”

    TED NUGENT 2016!!!!!

  41. @wr: Indeed.

  42. Will Taylor says:

    @Gustopher:

    WTF is a real Republican? IF voting for Ted Cruz, Sara Palin, or Michelle Bachman defines a Republican, thrown me in the RINO camp. btw, you left out Santorum. That weirdo belongs in that group.

    btw, It’s going to be Bush or Romney and you’re watching your time and maybe $$ if you can’t see that. Maybe Scott Walker sneaks in there and hangs in for awhile in the primary before the inevitable demise of his campaign, but everyone you listed is a fringe candidate with no $ behind them.

  43. al-Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    so let me understand this. This entire piece, this entire meme, is to be based on a CBS News poll? Are we to ignore the leanings of CBS? Letting organizations like CBS and there pulling data picar canidates is how we ended up with Bob Dole John McCain and Mitt Romney in the first place.

    Seems to me that THAT polling is reality-based.

    Since you clearly do NOT believe that polling, who is it that you believe to be ACTUAL leader at this point? Ted Cruz? Rand Paul? Michele Bachmann? Steve King? Allen West? Rick Perry, Rick Santorum? Sarah Palin?

  44. @al-Ameda: Well, you know: the Man is always keeping the True Conservatives out of the conversation.

  45. anjin-san says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Why don’t you tell us againt how Sarah Palin is going to squash the Democrats like insects…

  46. al-Ameda says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    @al-Ameda: Well, you know: the Man is always keeping the True Conservatives out of the conversation.

    These are anxious times, and more and more people buy into conspiracy theory.

    I’m pretty sure that CBS News wishes it had the kind of power over domestic politics that Eric and many other conservatives believe it does.

  47. humanoid.panda says:

    @Eric Florack: In 2012, you spent the entire elections season repeating this same exact line. How did it work out for you?

  48. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Letting organizations like CBS and there pulling data picar canidates is how we ended up with Bob Dole John McCain and Mitt Romney in the first place.

    “It’s not a matter of IF Romney is going to win, but by how much.”
    -Erick Florack, October 2012

  49. grumpy realist says:

    @Kauf Buch: Hey, I’m a democrat. If you guys want to run off the cliff and nominate someone who is batsh*t insane and won’t get more than 10% of the general vote, fine with me. Go ahead. Get rid of anyone with the slightest taint of Being A RINO. Line them all up against whatever measuring stick you “real conservatives” have and slice off every single candidate who deviates even by a hair from the Perfect Conservative Candidate. No skin off my nose and I’ll be cheering you from the sidelines all the while.

    I’m just pointing out that from a strategic point, you’re going to have to end up with someone who will attract from the other side as well, otherwise you’re never going to get past the magical 51%. As said, we have this funny little process called an election.

  50. grumpy realist says:

    @Will Taylor: Will, thank you for your comment. We may disagree on issues, but you aren’t one of those who ignore reality!

  51. anjin-san says:

    “Obama can’t win.”

    -Erick Florack, October 2008

  52. Will Taylor says:

    @grumpy realist:

    i try to stay focused on the issues. Most of the NE Republicans are sick of the Tea Party loonies hijacking the party. They had their moment and they lost. I don’t like obstructionists like Cruz who are self promoters masquerading as populists. I’ll probably vote for Bush or Romney which is unpopular here, but i also won’t be too upset if Hillary wins. I at least have familiarity with all 3 of the candidates and at a minimum all are competent leaders.

  53. grumpy realist says:

    @Will Taylor: Were it not for the associated problems (Supreme Court Judges, anti-abortion silliness) I’d be awfully tempted in a Jeb Bush vs. Hillary showdown to vote for Jeb Bush. Hillary is nothing more than the Iron Triangulator.

    Will NOT vote for Romney however, no how, no way. The guy is nothing more than an amiable windsock.