CNN Iowa Insiders Survey: Some Iowa Republicans want more options

Mitt Romney hands the mic off to Chris Christie during a rally in the final days before the Iowa caucuses.

Story highlights

  • Many Iowa insiders wish there were other Republicans running
  • Chris Christie grabs large crowds when campaigning for Romney
  • Thune, Daniels also mentioned as hoped-for alternatives

Is it buyer's remorse time already?

Not a single vote has been tallied in the Iowa Republican presidential nominating contest, but already some party insiders are beginning to cast a longing gaze toward options outside the current field of GOP White House hopefuls, according to a new CNN survey of 64 Iowa GOP party activists.

Those polled included Iowa state legislators, local elected and party officials, senior advisers to Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, business and conservative interest group leaders, veterans of previous caucus campaigns, and a variety of other party activists

While a majority of the Iowa GOP insiders said that they had no interest in seeing more candidates join the gaggle of their presidential debates, nearly half sounded as though they wished they could set up extra podiums on the stage.

Would you like to see any other candidates seek the 2012 Republican nomination?
• Yes: 42%
• Yes, but it's too late (volunteered): 5%
• No: 53%

It's possible that some of the Iowa GOP insiders interpreted the question a little more wistfully, as in, would they have liked to see other candidates get into the race several months ago, before filing deadlines in key primary states had passed? But given the comments from several of the party pols, at least some felt a sense of discomfort with the current cast of contenders.

One Iowa GOP insider said he'd welcome Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota or Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to the fray: "All three are more palatable to the American people than the current slate of candidates."

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Another Iowa GOP insider who wanted more candidates, but acknowledged the hour was late, said, "I hate the idea of a monarchy, but Jeb Bush would have been refreshing." Added another insider, who remains undecided over whom to vote for in the caucus: "I'm still in mourning over the fact that John Thune didn't jump in."

Among those who said they'd like to see other candidates in the GOP fray, almost two-thirds mentioned New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as an option, the most for any of the coulda-been contenders. He was followed by Daniels, cited by 30%, and Ryan, cited by 26%.

And with those three on the sidelines, it's not too hard to figure out who is the biggest beneficiary among the current GOP horses in the race. If Christie, Daniels or Ryan were running, they'd be competing with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for support from less conservative and more establishment Republican voters. Indeed, it's possible that Texas Rep. Ron Paul would be the front-runner in Iowa if just one of those three were currently running. None of them has a particular appeal to born-again and evangelical voters, who are already split between Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Those who want more choices should snap out it, replied Republicans content with their field. "Other potentials all have warts too," observed one Iowa GOP insider. "There is never the 'perfect' candidate (and) people should stop expecting one."

"This has become some sort of parlor game among the media, and it is completely out of the question," scoffed one Iowa GOP insider.

But even one insider who didn't want to expand the field noted: "It continues to be intriguing to watch Romney surrogate Chris Christie garner larger crowds (in Iowa) than Romney does."

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