The Republican Party converges on Washington this week for its annual Conservative Political Action Committee conference. In the spotlight are some high-profile names that may emerge as front-runners for the 2016 presidential ticket. With Tea Party factions vying with more traditional conservatives, however, it is hard to tell who’s really on first at this Republican rendezvous.
Tea Party forces say they like Rand Paul, the Republican from Kentucky, the best. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey has fallen out of their favor due to the recent bridge scandal in his home state. Other presidential contenders favored by the Tea Party include Ted Cruz, senator from Texas; Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida; and Marco Rubio, senator from Florida.
On the other hand, it is a different story among non-Tea Party Republicans. They appear to favor Bush and Christie with some interest in Paul.
With two years to go until the next presidential election, many observers feel that the Republican Party still has a lot of work to do to not only figure out an electable candidate, but to unite their party and message in an appealing manner.
Meanwhile, all eyes are also on Texas and the Tea Party this week to see what happens in that state’s primaries. Many feel the status of the Tea Party will be tested as never before in what many consider the reddest of the red states.
John Cornyn, a traditional Republican senator, is crossing swords in a Senate race with Rep. Steve Stockman, a maverick Tea Party candidate who is at odds with his own backers.
Tea Party firebrand Katrina Pierson, who has gathered some impressive endorsements, goes up against Pete Sessions, Rules Committee Chairman, in a U.S. House race.
The announced retirement of Republican governor Rick Perry after a 14-year stint is also putting the influential governor’s post in the spotlight. Democrat Wendy Davis is pegged to win her party’s primary, as is Greg Abbott, on the Republican side, setting the stage for a showdown next fall. In fact, Abbott is departing his attorney general post to contest for the governor’s job. He has a campaign war chest of some $30 million while Davis has one-third of that in her coffers. History is on Abbott’s side as no Democrat has won the governor’s race in Texas since 1990.
All the Republican candidates, traditional and Tea Party, are making efforts to be more inclusive such as reaching out to Hispanic voters, women, gays and young people.
The overall tough issues at the Washington, D.C. confab will be more self-examination. As has been reported numerous times in the past two years, Republicans are negative about their own party. A recent ABC News-Washington Post survey indicated that only 37 percent of Republicans actually approve of the direction their own party is taking. On the other hand, 72 percent of Democrats endorse what their party is doing. The consensus is that moderate Republicans do not seem to have a place in the Republican Party anymore.
In addition to figuring out how to reach out more to ethnic voters, women, and young people, Republicans are also still divided on a number of other issues such as how to renovate the country’s immigration policies.
Nevertheless, predicting the political landscape is never certain. Observers say that they think the Senate, now controlled by Democrats, is a tossup later in 2014. The House is still controlled by Republicans although Democrats are likely to close the gap in the fall. The Democratic nominee for president in 2014 may, indeed, be Hillary Clinton but a victory in the world of politics is never certain.
Whatever the outcome, Republicans have their hands full this week on a number of fronts as they rendezvous to see who’s on first.
By Jim McCullaugh