Al Cardenas‘ perspective on what’s going on with the Republican Party in 2015 is worth listening to. The former two-term Republican Party of Florida Chairman and head of the Washington-based American Conservative Union from 2011-2014 (which hosts the annual CPAC conference every winter) is backing Jeb Bush this cycle, but also has ties to Marco Rubio.
Cardenas spoke at the Sunshine Summit on Friday afternoon, but his comments to a handful of reporters in the hallways of the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel in Orlando were as interesting as anything he said on stage.
When asked about the state of the national GOP, Cardenas sounded somewhat alarmed.
“I’m a firm believer that’s all’s well that ends well. That continues to be my hope. All is not well now. I don’t think the Republican Party as a brand for a long term future can be successful, given what I’m watching. To be successful, you gotta appeal to people’s higher instincts, not lower instincts. You have to inspire people to be better, not to be mad or angry. And you’ve gotta convince them that you can lead them to a better tomorrow, rather than to get even with the bad guys. And if our party is unable to do that, through our eventual leadership, then our party is going to face some long term consequences.”
Noting how much success the Republican Party has had nationally since Barack Obama was elected (816 Democratic lawmakers have lost their jobs in state legislatures since 2009, as well as the party taking control of the House and Senate), Cardenas says the contrast is stark when it comes to executive leadership in Washington.
“My hope is that whomever we select as our nominee can get the party nationally to meet up with the bar we’ve set up with the states,” he says, adding that he’s not certain at this time if Donald Trump or Ben Carson can beat Hillary Clinton at this time.
When asked about the report that Right to Rise, Jeb Bush’s super PAC, may spend millions (perhaps tens of millions) to go after Marco Rubio, Cardenas said that shouldn’t be surprising, since politics always comes down to going after your opponents.
“I don’t talk to Mike Murphy (Right to Rise’s strategic leader), as the top-tier gets redefined and we get into next year, all four or five top-tier candidates are going to begin contrasting with each other. Trump’s doing it, Ted Cruz has begun doing it with Marco, Ben Carson has tried to stay out of the fray, but I don’t believe that will last for long. … I think all of them will get into that contrasting business, and I think the only reason you’re paying a lot of attention to it is because of their relationship. If it wasn’t for that, you’d think of it as, ‘Hey, everybody is going to be involved with that.'”