What we consider the Republican establishment has a view of the Party’s place in American and what they need to make those plans a reality. It’s pretty clear that one candidate worries them the most. It’s Ted Cruz. I understand if you thought it was Donald Trump. As a contrast to Cruz, Trump has said he can make deals with Congress. The Republican establishment figures they can make deals with Trump, too.
2006 was truly a rebuilding year for Republicans. Democrats had an increasingly effective anti-war message that made Bush unpopular on foreign policy. Hurricane Katrina and high gas prices made Bush unpopular domestically. By 2006, the Contract with America had essentially expired. Senators from 1994 were asking for a third term to give them two decades in Congress when they ran in 1994 on term limits, even if they were self-imposed. The RNC didn’t want to rock the boat in a tough election year, but that establishment thinking lost them the majority. 2008 lost them the presidency, too.
The absence of an opposing GOP presence was felt quickly. In less that 100 days, people who worked hard and struggled to pay their obligations saw moves by the administration to bail out banks and pay off mortgages of people who overextended themselves on low interest rates. Having any sympathy for this new Tea Party could get almost any Republican elected. One election won back the House of Representatives for the GOP.
The Democrats fought back with their fiercest weapon, government regulation. Although claiming the movement was a false grass-roots effort, they went after the grass roots funding when each small group tried to get a tax classification to raise money. A bunch of front groups would find a way to avoid that. The Democrats’ actions proved the Tea Party was a populist movement.
The Republican Party used the lack of organization and money from the Tea Party to get Mitt Romney nominated. He mentioned his “47%” remark among wealthy donors. His campaign was issue-based and avoided speaking directly to people. Obama won. The GOP blamed the large group of Tea Party candidates and a protracted primary process for the loss. They decided in 2016 to have fewer debates and more winner-take-all primaries.
Ironically, the Republicans gained the Senate in 2014, but the Congress did little to back up the tough talk from 2009 about being dedicated to stopping Obama. The only Republicans in the Senate who put up much of a fight at all were Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Both of them threw their hats into the 2016 contest.
The GOP has a plan to get a candidate early with as little collateral damage as possible. Jeb Bush would run as the governor with a strong record. Marco Rubio would run as a Tea Party candidate who established himself as a good Republican. Jeb would be the nominee, and Rubio would be the vice president. Ted Cruz would be destroyed.
Then Donald Trump happened. He polls at 30-40% among Republicans and has the potential to win many contests with a plurality of the vote. In any other year, this would be a long slog ending in defeat at a convention where a majority of delegates were needed to win. Now, Trump has the potential to clean up in later primaries if he has at least 2 opponents.
As I wrote above, the GOP Establishment still thinks Jeb has a good chance to become the nominee and donors are bankrolling the primary contest with hundreds of millions of dollars. They’ll also take Rubio, but likely won’t need to. Trump is a fallback. Paired with an acceptable VP, (probably Rubio) the establishment thinks they can work with Trump. However, they want to defeat the Tea Party guy, Cruz, at all costs.
I would expect an actual Tea Party political party by 2020 at this rate.