The most conservative candidates are, with the exception of 1964, invariably the bridesmaid and never the bride in the GOP presidential primary. (In 1980, there were candidates such as Rep. Phil Crane of Illinois to Ronald Reagan’s right.) Part of the explanation is that the most conservative voters divide their support among candidates, leaving a path for a more moderate figure to coast to victory.
In the speculation about the GOP donor class’s intentions, most commentators have assumed that either (or both) former Florida governor Jeb Bush or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will run for president in 2016. But what if neither does, or one or both runs and then falters? This is entirely plausible.