Republicans’ pathetic last resort: When Jeb and Mitt are your 2016 saviors

With Christie and Walker mortally wounded (again), the GOP establishment’s last hope rests with one of two retreads

Topics: Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Scott Walker, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, 2016 Elections, Republican Party, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz, Editor's Picks, GOP, The Right, , ,

Republicans' pathetic last resort: When Jeb and Mitt are your 2016 saviorsJeb Bush, Mitt Romney (Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin/Manuel Balce Ceneta/Photo collage by Salon)

Only last week, it seemed as if scandal-dogged GOP Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Scott Walker of Wisconsin might be back in the 2016 game. At Mitt Romney’s Utah summit, Christie told big donors that his troubles are “over, it’s done with and I’m moving on.” Walker’s supporters crowed that in May, a judge put an end to the second John Doe probe he’s faced, this one into illegal coordination between his anti-recall campaign and outside conservative groups like Club for Growth.

Then came Thursday, when shoes dropped for both men. An Esquire report alleged that U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman has close Christie confidants talking about all the New Jersey scandals, not just Bridgegate, and he may be close to indictments. The same day a Wisconsin judge released documents showing that John Doe prosecutors believed Walker was at the center of a “criminal scheme” – two words no governor wants to see attached to his name.

It’s important to note that the shocking documents were released because a judge found no grounds to continue the probe. Walker may not face any further legal trouble here. But his political trouble keeps getting worse. The most stunning piece of evidence was an email from Walker himself to Karl Rove, boasting about his political operation, which seems to indicate some effort to coordinate with outside groups like Rove’s American Crossroads – though in the end, Rove did not wind up getting involved with the Wisconsin races.

An aside: Am I the only one who thinks someone stupid enough to send Karl Rove a personal email that at least smacks of an effort at illegal campaign coordination is too stupid to be president – and maybe even to remain as governor? I thought that when Walker was pranked by a faux David Koch, too, but apparently Wisconsin voters are more forgiving. Still, Walker’s in a tough race for reelection this year and he may have to fight hard just to stay in Madison; he sure can’t look ahead to Washington.

At any rate, the continuing flow of bad news out of New Jersey and Wisconsin has to terrify GOP donors and the rumored “establishment.” It’s increasingly unlikely that either governor can emerge as a “pragmatic,” pro-business 2016 alternative to Tea Party zealots like Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. This ups the pressure on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to run – and may even swell the ranks of Republicans reassuring two-time loser Mitt Romney that the third time’s the charm.



Don’t laugh: Romney is the runaway front-runner in a New Hampshire primary poll released Thursday night, crushing Christie and Paul and the rest of the field. OK, it’s one of Romney’s many “home states,” but that’s got to have Romney admirers thinking “what if?” The Romney-convened summit that hosted Christie last week also featured lots of wistful thinking about what a President Romney might be doing now – as well as what President Romney could do in 2017.

“It was intended to be a passing of the torch to the Republican Party’s would-be saviors,” the Washington Post’s Phillip Rucker wrote Monday. Instead, it “became a Romney revival.” My MSNBC colleague Joe Scarborough reportedly urged the 300 guests to begin a movement to “draft Romney.” And leading Romney fundraiser Harold Hamm told Rucker, “Everybody realizes we’re devoid of leadership in D.C. Everybody would encourage him to consider it again.”

Meanwhile on Monday Jeb Bush heads to Cincinnati to headline a Republican National Committee fundraising dinner, a visit to a crucial swing state his brother carried in 2004 that’s been lost to Republicans ever since. Bush allies have been pushing back hard on the conventional wisdom – espoused by me, too – that the former governor’s presidential hopes were dimmed by Eric Cantor’s surprise defeat, in a campaign where immigration became a huge issue. Still, a man who describes some illegal immigration as “an act of love” is inarguably out of step with the GOP primary base, Cantor’s loss aside.

Some Republicans have floated Bush as a smart choice for vice president, especially if the nominee is a green Tea Partyer from a Red State. “Jeb could be a safe choice for anybody,” Stuart Spencer, who helped push Ronald Reagan to pick Bush’s father for V.P., told the National Journal. “He has name ID, a Spanish background, [is] a former governor, and he’s conservative.” That seems crazy to me – Bush already played a kind of second fiddle to his younger brother; I can’t imagine him doing it again for, say, Ted Cruz — but it’s a sign of how hard some in the GOP want to shoehorn Bush onto a national ticket.

Of course, Christie’s backers continue to argue their guy will survive his allies’ legal troubles. On Friday he spoke to Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom conference. Meanwhile, Scott Walker appeared on Fox and Friends Friday morning to claim he’s out of legal hot water. “Many in the national media, and even some here in Wisconsin, are looking at this thing backwards,” Walker said. “This is a case that has been resolved.”

Asked if his troubles were comparable to Christie’s, Walker said yes. “There is no doubt that the media jumps on this, some on the left spin this. We get our detractors out there trying to claim there is more than there is.” But big GOP donors can’t be reassured by either governor. The party’s hopes now rest with two flawed candidates, one of whom insists he won’t run again, while Bush only equivocates. Reporters who are busy inventing rivals for Hillary Clinton in 2016 ought to put their imagination into coming up with presidential candidates for a party that truly needs them.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 7
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    AP/Jae C. Hong

    Your summer in extreme weather

    California drought

    Since May, California has faced a historic drought, resulting in the loss of 63 trillion gallons of water. 95.4 percent of the state is now experiencing "severe" drought conditions, which is only a marginal improvement from 97.5 percent last week.

    A recent study published in the journal Science found that the Earth has actually risen about 0.16 inches in the past 18 months because of the extreme loss of groundwater. The drought is particularly devastating for California's enormous agriculture industry and will cost the state $2.2 billion this year, cutting over 17,000 jobs in the process.

       

    Meteorologists blame the drought on a large zone (almost 4 miles high and 2,000 miles long) of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast which blocks Pacific winter storms from reaching land. High pressure zones come and go, but this one has been stationary since December 2012.

    Darin Epperly

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Great Plains tornadoes

    From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.   

    "It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."   

    But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."

    AP/Detroit News, David Coates

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Michigan flooding

    On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.   

    Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."

    AP/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Yosemite wildfires

    An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.   

    Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.

    Reuters/Eugene Tanner

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Hawaii hurricanes

    Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.

    Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."

    Reuters/NASA

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Florida red tide

    A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.   

    The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...