Why it’s so hard for conservatives to unify behind one candidate
By JOHN DICKERSON
[CBSNews.com] The field of announced Republican candidates has recently doubled to six, with the entry of Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Mike Huckabee. When you add the candidates who are almost certain to soon join the race–Jeb Bush, Gov. Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Gov. Chris Christie–and the others who might, the field will be big enough to fill an airport shuttle van. The stage at the first Fox News debate in early August will have so many people on it, the organizers may need to put everyone on bleachers.
The Republican presidential pageant is vastly more diverse than the Democratic coronation. The GOP field includes a female CEO, a black surgeon, two Cuban Americans, a lawyer, and a preacher.
This all-but-a-candlestick-maker group is the most robust Republican field in history. But while some Republicans celebrate their diversity and strength, some conservatives see it as a challenge. “If we continue to split the vote, we’ll lose to the establishment candidate,” says Fran Wendelboe, a former seven-term New Hampshire state representative who now heads an effort to consolidate the conservative vote in the Granite State. Named the 603 Alliance, after the state’s area code, the group is committed to picking a Republican candidate who shares its members’ views about limited government and who promises to be an executive operating within a strict interpretation of the Constitution. The Alliance hopes to bring candidates together in an October caucus where members will agree to gather behind one horse.
This has been tried before, Wendelboe admits, but “this time the numbers are on our side. We’ve tried it time and again with the moderate candidate. We’ve sacrificed our principles and we still haven’t won.” After going down so many wrong roads, she argues, conservatives will see the wisdom of being tactical and coalescing, not simply following their passion.