By Quin Hillyer
Big, exclusive news: One final new contestant may emerge this week to wrest the Republican presidential nomination away from alleged billionaire Donald Trump.
I can reliably report that the former U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, Dr. Tom Coburn, would accept a draft from the convention floor if delegates petition successfully to put his name in nomination.
For a couple of months in the spring, Dr. Coburn was the subject of serious recruitment efforts to run as an independent candidate, and he strongly considered running. Ultimately, though, Coburn declined to run.Accepting the Republican nomination obviously would not cause the same perceived problem of splitting the right-leaning vote. Coburn, a solid conservative with a long-established reputation for probity and personal decency, reportedly is appalled by many aspects of Trump’s candidacy. In February, Coburn said Trump was “perpetuating a fraud on the American people.”
He elaborated that Trump’s “empty promises, bullying and bloviating rhetoric will only deepen the frustration and disillusionment that gave rise to his campaign. He simply lacks the character, skills and policy knowledge to turn his grandiose promises into reality.”
In spite of their defeat in the rules committee, Never Trump forces remain convinced a majority of delegates share Coburn’s view of Trump.
Coburn, an obstetrician, first was elected to the House of Representatives in 1994 as part of what some dubbed the “Gingrich Revolution.” He quickly established a reputation as an ethics reformer and a hard-line budget hawk who chafed at Speaker Newt Gingrich’s volatility and unpredictability (to put it kindly) – but also as somebody willing to work with anybody, of either party, who he found could be trusted to keep his word.
Coburn honored a personal term-limits pledge by stepping down from the House after three two-year terms. Four years later, in 2004, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and became known for producing annual reports outlining, with great specificity, potential budgetary savings, large and small. He was quite accessible to the media, who learned to appreciate him as a straight shooter full of substance, without self-aggrandizement or political spin.
Re-elected to the Senate in 2010, Coburn retired two years early, at the end of 2014, in order to battle the third form of cancer that had struck him in recent years. His health, though, has since improved, and he has maintained an active schedule as a public speaker.
At one of those speeches, for a Mobile, Alabama fund-raiser for the conservative Alabama Policy Institute think tank in early April, Coburn charmed the audience with a folksy delivery while showing an ability to communicate substantive detail that impressed everybody at my table.
As for a possible “draft” candidacy at the Republican convention, the prospect is daunting but not impossible. Coburn reportedly will not openly campaign for the nomination, but would accept the nomination and run with enthusiasm if nominated.
A follow-up column, coming shortly today at this site, will explain how a draft effort – long-shot though it may be – could be conducted, and might succeed.