There's a good reason so many GOP candidates seem to be well-prepared yet uncannily in sync when it comes to foreign policy: Most of them have tapped the same group of experts for guidance, a shadow foreign policy campaign infrastructure just waiting for a nominee to emerge.
Ever since Mitt Romney lost the race in 2012, his foreign policy team has been working to remain intact, become a resource for as many primary candidates as possible, and position itself to influence the next president, if he or she is a Republican. For candidates who haven't the time or resources to build their own foreign policy staffs at this stage, the project, called the John Hay Initiative, is a handy tool to get smart fast on complicated subjects and even hand off some heavy lifting on national security issues.
The co-founders say the group issues biweekly policy papers on a range of issues, does specific research for different campaigns on demand, and has briefed more than half of the 17 Republican candidates running for president. The Hay Initiative helped write recent foreign policy speeches for Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie, speeches that struck very similar notes. Members have also briefed Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and others. Rand Paul and Donald Trump are the outliers who have no interaction with the group, likely because their foreign policy views don't jibe.
Here is Josh Rogin's original piece about the John Hay Initiative. It says that the group is made up of more than 150 senior foreign policy and national security experts and former officials. Now, JHI says it has 250 experts. It was founded by three of the top leaders of the Romney 2012 foreign policy team: Eliot Cohen, Eric Edelman, and Brian Hook.
JHI recently released a book, dedicated to the next president of the United States, which "seeks to restore the bipartisan tradition of American leadership in world affairs."
The authors of the book include a number of think tankers, such as:
- Elliot Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
- Dan Blumenthal, Director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
- Jacqueline Deal, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI).
- Paula Dobriansky, Senior Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard University's JFK Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
- Eric Edelman, a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).
- Aaron Friedberg, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund (GMF) and a Senior Advisor to the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR).
- Rebeccah Heinrichs, Fellow at the Hudson Institute.
- Will Inboden, Non-Resident Fellow at GMF.
- David Kramer, Senior Director for Human Rights and Democracy at the McCain Institute for International Leadership.
- Jeffrey Kupfer, Bernard Schwartz Fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute.
- Clay Lowery, Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD) and Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
- Wess Mitchell, Co-Founder of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).
- J. Peter Pham, Director of the Africa Center at Atlantic Council.
- Daniel Runde, Schreyer Chair in Global Analysis at CSIS.
- Michael Singh, Managing Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).
- Jim Talent, Senior Fellow at AEI.
More about the John Hay Initiative can be found here.