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GOP activists eye governors for 2016 presidential bid
Many Republican activists, citing Congress' deep unpopularity, say they want a governor to be their next presidential nominee. The buzz centers on New Jersey's Chris Christie for now, but Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is using a national book tour to try to climb into the 2016 conversation.
A small but potentially potent group of GOP insiders say he's a can-do governor with Christie's good qualities, and few of Christie's downsides.
Everything depends on Walker winning re-election next year. If he does, he can join Christie in casting himself as a two-term Republican governor who thrived in a Democratic-leaning state.
Then, Walker's supporters say, his more conservative stances on several issues would help him in GOP primaries. And Walker's Midwestern demeanor, they say, will play better in Iowa, South Carolina and other places than would Christie's penchant for bombast and confrontation.
Plenty of potential hurdles stand in Walker's way, as they do for other Republican governors, such as John Kasich of Ohio. They are not well-known outside their states. And they are untested on national stages. Still, some Republicans say Walker deserves a bit of attention. Walker "is best positioned to unite the conservative and establishment wings," said Texas-based consultant Matt Mackowiak.
Even without filibuster, GOP has tactics in its arsenal
Senate rules provide other ways beyond the now-curtailed filibuster to obstruct nominees. Hearings can be boycotted. Routine procedural approvals can be withheld. New Capitol Hill ambushes can be plotted, perhaps with tactics not yet seen. For a truly motivated minority, losing one weapon means it's time to pick up another.
"My sense is the Republicans are going to be putting up whatever roadblocks they can, though they don't have the main roadblock they used to have," said Russell Wheeler, a judiciary expert at the Brookings Institution.
Republicans already flexed their muscles Thursday, the same day Senate Democrats weakened the filibuster by a 52-48 vote. Under the new rules, executive branch and most judicial nominations will require only 51 votes to proceed rather than the 60 required for legislation and Supreme Court nominations. Republicans didn't need the filibuster, though, to impede 10 nominees. The unhappy Republican senators simply ducked a committee meeting, thereby frustrating a planned Senate Judiciary Committee vote.
Members of both parties have practiced the no-show tactic, but its deployment Thursday reminded all that even a weakened minority retains arrows in its quiver.