By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – A book deal is one of the stops on the way to running for president, and Tea Party favorites Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., are the latest to sign contracts for memoirs they hope will set the stage for 2016. The Republican field is crowded with conservatives elbowing for position as the GOP struggles to define itself and find a standard-bearer against a likely run by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Republican moderates are in short supply now that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is damaged goods. Republicans are desperate to find someone the Democrats can’t portray as a Tea Party extremist, and who could beat Clinton or another Democrat in a head-to-head national race.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that Republican traditionalists think their best candidate is hiding in plain sight. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, fluent in Spanish, a conservative family values guy, may be ready to run, or at least that’s what he signaled by showing up in Las Vegas last week to meet with casino owner Sheldon Adelson. The billionaire conservative bankrolled Newt Gingrich in 2012 and is looking for someone more electable for 2016.
Bush fits the bill except for his last name and the baggage associated with being a Bush, two failed wars, a collapsing economy, and tax cuts mostly benefiting the richest Americans that turned a budget surplus into a yawning deficit.
Still, when Wall Street Republicans look at the alternatives, they may conclude that it’s worth taking a risk with another Bush – a known unknown, as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might say – versus taking a real flyer with someone like, say, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
A recent survey of nascent GOP campaigns conducted by Politico found that Rand Paul leads the pack with the most organized campaign effort. He’s way ahead of the other potential contenders in Iowa, and he’s begun to put staff in place in other key states.
The younger Paul wants voters to know that his politics differ from his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, who ran for president in 2012 as a strong libertarian. The younger Paul is also a libertarian, but he is more politically oriented than his father. While aligned with the GOP, he understands how deeply unpopular the party is with voters, especially young people, and regularly challenges GOP orthodoxy.
At a speech last month on the liberal Berkeley campus in San Francisco, Senator Paul likened the Republican Party to Domino’s Pizza, which after years of complaints about the quality of its crust finally changed the recipe. The GOP needs a new crust, Paul declared, a line that got laughter and applause from the students.
If there’s a new Republican Party, its energy is with Paul, which makes him a serious contender for the nomination, and if he should win, voters will get an in depth course on what a Tea Party agenda would look like. Paul is on record as opposed to foreign entanglements, an isolationist sentiment that has taken root on the Tea Party right and among young people. Pulling back from international commitments could well prompt calls to pull out of the United Nations, and reduce funding for NATO.
On taxation, Paul would likely take his party’s tax position to extremes, perhaps pushing a flat tax that has surface appeal because of its simplicity, but favors earners in the top brackets at the expense of the middle class. Rep. Paul Ryan, who chairs the House Budget committee, released the GOP’s budget last week. A blueprint for what lies ahead, it cuts five trillion dollars from the federal budget over the next decade, makes deep cuts in Medicare, ends Obamacare and piles more tax cuts on the plates of the very rich.
So will it come down to Bush and Paul – mainstream or extreme?
© 2014 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
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