Department of Ideas: Could conservatives swap Perry for Jindal?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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In 1980, when establishment moderates were still clinging to power in the GOP, a devious plan was hatched to prevent conservative Ronald Reagan from winning the Republican nomination: George H.W. Bush, it was proposed, would drop out of the race. He would then instruct his delegates to vote for Gerald Ford.

The “Stop Reagan” plan, of course, fell through. But it might have sparked an idea — this time for the conservative wing of the party. Recently, prominent conservative, Morton Blackwell, has suggested a new candidate may emerge. Blackwell’s idea is for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to replace the man he endorsed for president — Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Blackwell believes that — for a variety of reasons — Gov. Jindal is “almost a perfect candidate.” For one thing, he says, “[Jindal is] a font of ideas at least as fertile as Newt Gingrich — but without the wackiness.”

But considering some candidates are already missing filing deadlines to get on ballots, how could such a swap work?

According to Blackwell — who sits on the RNC’s Standing Committee on Rules — if Rick Perry drops out, “People could run as Perry delegates — with Perry being a surrogate for Jindal.” Perry would essentially say to the public: “Vote for me; my delegates will vote for Bobby Jindal.

Not everyone agrees this is a good idea. Greg Mueller, a conservative strategist who previously worked Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes, thinks it’s too late for a fresh face to enter the scrum.”It’s creative thinking, but I don’t think it’ll work,” Mueller averred.

Aside from arguing that it’s simply too late, Mueller argues that a “Hail Mary” move such as this would also make it look like the replacement candidate didn’t really want to run — that he was “dragged in” to to the race.

Blackwell, however, notes that Jindal was running for re-election in 2011 — a factor that would have made it nearly impossible for him to run for president in 2012. Today, the successful governor of Louisiana would be more free to step in.

Such a scenario would involve a convention fight, and would likely require a situation in which the Republican nomination wasn’t settled on the first ballot.

Regardless of the practicality of the notion, it does speak to the fact that conservatives have yet to coalesce around a candidate, and that many are unsatisfied with the current field. Blackwell, it should be noted, says there is no organized effort as of yet to make this happen. And sources close to Jindal’s camp insist this is just wishful thinking that is “not coming from Jindal camp,” but instead, is just a “fun rumor for the ‘chatter class.'”

(Note: For anyone interested in the history of the “Stop Reagan” plan, check out Craig Shirley’s book, “Rendezvous with Destiny.” According to the book, the idea swap Bush with Ford was proposed by Bob Mosbacher and shot down by David Keene.)

Matt K. Lewis