The Brain Trusts Behind the 2016 GOP Hopefuls
Policy + Politics

The Brain Trusts Behind the 2016 GOP Hopefuls


At the very same time they’re lining up financial support, a handful of Republican presidential hopefuls are also fine-tuning their positions on a wide range of domestic, economic and foreign policy issues – often with a little help, as it turns out. 

As Philip Rucker and Robert Costa of The Washington Post reported on Monday, it’s all part of what might be considered the “credentials caucus” – the period before the 2016 presidential campaign really heats up to quietly bone up on issues and cultivate ties to pundits and luminaries from previous GOP administrations dating back to Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. 

Related: Rand Paul Woos Youth Vote for 2016 Presidential Bid 

Serious presidential aspirants need thoughtful and well-honed views on everything from health care, the economy and immigration reform to what to do about the crises in Syria and Ukraine. “With the exception of some voices within the circle of libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), those being tapped hew to Republican norms on foreign policy, with emphasis on a vigorous military and a willingness to use force overseas,” The Post found. “On domestic policy, the Republican mantra of slashing federal spending and loosening regulations remains the consensus view.” 

Here is a partial list of GOP presidential wannabes and the experts and analysts they’ve turned to for advice and counsel, as reported by The Post. In a few cases, experts and policy gurus are offering their advice and counsel at this early stage to more than one potential candidate, and nearly all of this advice and counsel is offered on a voluntary, non-paid and informal basis – during meals, by telephone and Skype, and between various appearances, meetings and other government and policy business.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas:

  • Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation and former Wall Street Journal editorial writer who champions tax cuts
  • Victoria Coates, Cruz’s national security adviser and former aide to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

Related: Chris Christie Comes Roaring Back

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie:

  • Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State
  • Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State
  • Richard N. Haass, president, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Robert E. Grady, venture capitalist and former White House associate budget director

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida:

  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and economic policy adviser to Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign
  • Jamie Fly, Rubio aide, former adviser to President George W. Bush’s administration, and former executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI)
  • Yuval Levin, an Israeli-born American political analyst, academic and journalist who is the founding editor of National Affairs
  • Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
  • Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation and former Wall Street Journal editorial writer

Related: Christie and Walker on Defense at Governors’ Conference   

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:

  • John B. Taylor, a Stanford University Hoover Institution scholar, a former member of the Council of Economic Advisers and economics adviser to several GOP presidential candidates
  • Lanhee Chen, a Stanford University Hoover Institution research fellow and former chief policy adviser to presidential nominee Mitt Romney
  • Marc A. Thiessen, a Washington Post columnist, former speechwriter to President George W. Bush and prominent foreign policy hawk

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin:

  • William J. Bennett, political pundit, former Secretary of Education, and former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • William A. Schambra, director of the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal
  • Robert L. Woodson Sr., founder of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise in D.C., which helps residents of low-income neighborhoods address community problems

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal:

  • Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation and former S.C. senator. (As The Post makes clear, DeMint is barred by ethics law from discussing politics with federal legislators so soon after leaving office, but meeting with state governors is allowed.)
  • William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard
  • Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review senior editor 

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky:

  • Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist
  • Peter Thiel, PayPal cofounder and libertarian donor
  • Richard Burt, former Reagan-era ambassador to Germany
  • Lorne Craner, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in the George W. Bush administration 

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