Will conservatives break the RINO spell in 2016?

“It is possible that a hardliner could win, but I would not bet on it,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. Old-fashioned Republicans may be less noisy but they’re large in numbers, he noted, and blue-state Republicans control many delegates key to winning the nomination. “The party establishment does not have final say, but it still counts. Leaders want to nominate someone who can win. In this particular case, moreover, McConnell will do everything in his power to bring down Cruz,” Pitney added, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who is the frequent butt of Cruz’s criticisms. 

Romney also doubted that his party would pick a hardline figure.

“My party has historically nominated someone who’s a mainstream conservative,” he said Wednesday at the Washington Ideas Forum.

Notably, two mainstream candidates he mentioned—Senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie—have echoed hardliners’ criticisms of their own party leaders in Washington. At a town hall last Thursday in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Rubio was confronted by an angry voter who demanded of him, “I want you to say to me, ‘I’m not going to be one of them,’” he said, referring to congressional Republican leaders.