Suggestions by major GOP donors — as reported earlier this week by the New York Times — that Republicans should coalesce early behind a frontrunner presidential candidate for 2016 are getting a tepid response among state activists.
“It’s certainly not too early to start paying close attention to the 2016 presidential race,” said Keith Downey, chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. “But I don’t think the public will look very favorably on the perception that a candidate was handpicked early by insiders or donors.”
To the contrary, Downey said, the activists with whom he’s spoken are excited about the prospect of a long list of potential candidates. “We have a lot of growing talent,” he said.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and New Jersey Gov. Christie top the current field of potential candidates — at least in terms of their ability to fundraise.
Walter Hudson, an activist in Minnesota’s sixth congressional district, doesn’t give them frontrunner status, though. “In this last election, we saw the low voter turnout on a bipartisan level and I think if we saw the same old same old candidates, we would continue with low in interest in the outcome,” he said. “In the circle that I travel in, there is a lot of support for Rand Paul.”
Yes, the Minnesota Republican party still has its factions. And that’s fine with Downey who, when it comes to presidential candidates, contends the more the merrier. “It’s not only Christie and Bush, it’s Rand and Rubio in the Senate and the field of governors,” he said, mentioning Susan Martinez of New Mexico, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
According to Chris Tiedeman, national committeeman for the state Republican Party, the list of viable candidates “will narrow. It always does. But you are going to see a [nomination] campaign. You’ve got to bring new ideas and you’ve got to show people you are going to be able to win.”
That doesn’t mean that a lively, even combative contest for the Republican nomination will lead to undermining the eventual nominee, Downey said. He said the national party decision to hold its nominating convention in late June or early July in Cleveland will give the nominee ample time to regroup to take on the Democratic nominee.
And that would be Hillary Clinton? Not a slam dunk, say Downey and Tiedeman. They believe that Clinton will also face serious competitors. “It’s not going to be a coronation there either,” Tiedeman said.