In 2008, I couldn’t imagine anyone other than John McCain winning the Republican nomination. The alternatives were too pathetic. In 2012, I felt even more strongly that no one other than Mitt Romney could possibly win, although I wondered how the base could stomach his authorship of the Massachusetts health care law that served as the model for ObamaCare. For a long time, I have had a hard time imagining anyone other than Jeb Bush winning the 2016 nomination, and I still feel that way. Yet, I have the nagging feeling that the Republican establishment won’t be able to get their way this time around.

I’m from New Jersey and share some of Chris Christie’s personality flaws, so I know how poorly “Jersey” translates in most of the country. I never thought he was a serious threat to win the nomination. If he had a chance, it was only because all the other choices would be too ridiculous. But, with some midwestern governors to put on the ballot, the GOP has some plausible candidates who won’t remind people of Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul or Michele Bachmann. Assuming they win reelection, Michigan’s Rick Snyder, Ohio’s John Kasich, and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker would all be more viable and broadly-appealing candidates than Chris Christie.

I can make arguments against all three of them, but if any of them succeed in winning a second term in a vote-rich blue state, they’ll have an argument to make for their candidacy. The establishment would have to choose between them, and then they’d have to sell them to a party base that it itching to finally get a candidate that truly represents their values. Since 1964, the establishment has never failed to get their guy, but I am not so sure that they still have enough control to dictate the result.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at