Best known for housing foreign-policy hawks and the high priests of supply-side economics, the American Enterprise Institute has long been a regular, if low-key stop for Republican presidential candidates, be it for a hand with their white papers or huddles with resident scholars like John Bolton.
But for 2016, Arthur C. Brooks — AEI’s 51-year-old, French horn-playing president — is positioning the think tank on 17th Street to be a bigger player in the presidential campaign by putting itself in the middle of its biggest debates.
Instead of hosting scattered briefings on Iraq or tax policy — and leaving it at that — Brooks envisions AEI as an engine for refashioning conservatism for a weary electorate.
Nowhere is Brooks’s approach more evident than on addressing the rising gap between the rich and the poor — and the failure of many Republicans to speak cogently about income inequality and the stagnation of the middle class.
If Brooks and AEI can help give Republicans a persuasive argument, then they might be able to take their case to Democrats and independent voters disenchanted with Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The article goes on to note that a variety of former AEI scholars have started working with 2016 presidential candidate, including Abby McCloskey, who recently left the think tank to join former Texas Gov. Rick Perry's policy shop.
Interestingly, the article says that when presidential candidates show up at AEI, they are often steered toward a meeting with Robert Doar, an AEI fellow in poverty studies.
Arthur Brooks said that the most called-upon AEI experts on poverty also include tax economist Kevin Hassett, and labor scholars Andrew Biggs and Michael Strain. The article notes that James Pethokoukis is "plugged in" with GOP strategists.
The article also notes that AEI will co-host a Republican presidential debate, and Arthur Brooks and Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Preiebus are currently working on the details of that.
Earlier this year, AEI was ranked as the world's 24th best think tank by the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings. It was ranked as the 12th best think tank in the United States.