GOP Senators Turn Against Their Own In '16

Fearful of a third successive Democratic triumph, concerned Senate Republicans are turning against 2016 presidential bids by upstart hopefuls within their own ranks.

In forceful comments to The Hill, GOP senators made it plain that they would much prefer their party nominate a current or former governor over Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.) or Rand Paul (Ky.).

Those senators have created a buzz among conservative activists, but their colleagues in the upper chamber are eager to support a nominee from outside Washington with a record of attracting independents and centrist Democrats.

They worry that Washington has become so toxic that it could poison the chances of any nominee from Congress in 2016.

And history suggests bids from the Senate face structural problems. Only 16 senators have gone on to become commander in chief, including President Obama, who defeated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. So, it’s not surprising that officials in both parties have long preferred governors to sitting members of Congress. Yet, the emphasis is greater this time around on the GOP side.

Part of the reason is that the political stocks of Paul and Cruz, who have made enemies quickly in the GOP establishment, have risen as Christie’s has sunk.

Republicans say the bottom line is their pick for 2016 has to beat Hillary Clinton, who left the Senate to become Obama’s secretary of State.

Ford O’Connell, who worked on McCain’s 2008 campaign, said a governor can run against Washington as well as his party’s own establishment, an attractive possibility when the GOP’s brand fairs poorly with important electoral blocs, such as Hispanics.

“They recognize the key to winning is demonstrating to voters the value of governing competence over governing ideologically,” he said of Senate Republicans’ preference for nominating a governor who can “run on their own brand versus the party’s brand.”

He argued that the spate of attacks on Christie shows Democratic strategists are much more concerned about him than Paul, Cruz or Rubio.

Read more from Alexander Bolton at The Hill

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Analysis & Political Strategy