Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune said GOP White House candidates might put unwarranted pressure on Congressional Republicans to deliver unachievable results.
“I always appreciate an idea from Newt, and the others. But sometimes they may be out on the hustings and not be aware of internal negotiations or procedures or time constraints or something like that,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said. “I’m always happy to get ideas, but sometimes they may not be directly relevant to how we’re trying to solve a problem.”
More such hard-nosed suggestions are likely forthcoming from a field of Republican candidates that is light on well-known, established frontrunners and heavy on individuals looking to differentiate themselves from the pack and elevate their name identification with voters.
Gingrich is strongly considering a bid but has stopped short of launching an exploratory committee. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is actively preparing to run; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty opened an exploratory committee last week and is expected to formally kick off his candidacy at some point; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a 2008 candidate, also is expected to run. A handful of others are in the mix, including former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), billionaire businessman and television personality Donald Trump, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), a tea party favorite.
Ron Bonjean, a public relations adviser who formerly worked as a Republican leadership aide, noted that it is “standard operating procedure” for GOP presidential candidates to speak out on matters pertaining to Congress but contended that the tea party movement could complicate matters.
“If the tea party picks up on an issue or recommendation that a candidate is proposing, then it could create extra pressure on Congressional Republicans,” Bonjean said. “If the tea party gets involved, that’s where it could become problematic.”
Others are less concerned.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), who ran for president in 1996 and 2000 and has been on both sides of the equation, said there is a “natural tension” between Members and their party’s presidential candidates. But he also said it could help unify the party around and engender public support for important policy proposals.
Sen. Mike Johanns said Members and voters understand that GOP presidential candidates might have a different agenda than Republicans in Congress and that ultimately, campaign trail rhetoric will have little influence over what happens on Capitol Hill.
“Everybody recognizes it’s the campaign season,” the Nebraska Republican said. “You’re going to run into that ... in any election cycle. There are Senate candidates out there — I was one of them — saying, ‘Well, they should be doing this and they shouldn’t be doing that.’ I don’t really see that as a huge problem.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.