- Lewis highlighted Ben Sasse, Marco Rubio and Nikki Haley as Republican rising stars
- He said that the party still faces 'slim pickings' for someone who can take on Trump
"I think it's slim pickings out there," the Republican columnist and author of "Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Went from the Party of Reagan to the Party of Trump" told CNN's Party People podcast hosts Kevin Madden and Mary Katherine Ham in a conversation Monday.
"Donald Trump is like the alpha male, the alpha dog, and there's going to be a fight with him, I think, over the heart and soul of the party. And then you throw in the Rush Limbaughs of the world. I don't think these people are going to go quietly into the good night," said Lewis, a CNN political commentator.
Lewis spotlighted Sens. Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as Republican leaders with promising futures, but warned that Rubio's failed presidential bid this year is an example of placing too much pressure on a "rising star" too soon.
"One of the lessons we really need to to learn -- whether it's Rubio or (former Alaska Gov. Sarah) Palin -- is that plucking rising stars and throwing them into the deep end too early is very damaging, and that you can really destroy their potential by foisting too much on them too soon," he said.
Lewis recalled a moment from earlier in the election cycle where a campaign event featured Haley, Rubio and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate's sole black Republican member.
"It's really amazing how diverse and talented the Republican Party is. And it's so sad, that at this moment, where you have Hillary Clinton, this very vulnerable and unlikeable Democratic nominee, who could have gone up against one of these inspiring young conservatives, and the Republican Party let this happen," he said.
Lewis also took issue with Trump fans and other Republicans who rely to heavily on Ronald Reagan for a party playbook.
"Reagan didn't go back and talk about the good ol' day of like Calvin Coolidge that much. He was more focused on the future and new solutions to address new problems," Lewis said, adding, "It's time to have some new ideas."
To hear about Lewis' love-hate relationship with the GOP's tea party wing, listen to CNN's "Party People," a new podcast where a pair of conservative CNN contributors talk to influential voices about the future of conservative politics and the Republican Party.
Get CNN's "Party People" podcast at CNN