A RINO (Republican in Name Only) is an officeholder or candidate who is a member of the Republican Party, but holds views to the political left of most Republican voters, or simply does whatever the liberal media wants. The term "RINO" describes politicians who claim to be Republican but are in fact liberal or puppets of the liberal media, and therefore generally debase the winning conservative coalition base of the Republican Party. Since elected GOP officials tend to be less conservative than the party base, a relatively large number of RINOs are entrenched members of the party organization. They also tend to resort to cronyism to fill key government positions, and often are career politicians. Some conservative commentators have also referred to them as RUNTs (Republican Under Nominal Terms), while another, less frequently used term for them is a DIAN (Democrat in All but Name) because of their embracing of most of the Democrat Party's social and fiscal platforms while operating nominally as a Republican. RINOs have been said to be "controlled opposition" to the Democrats - with the Democrats doing the controlling.
RINOs are often Republican only to the extent it serves their own interests, and will abandon conservative principles as soon as it is in their own interests to do so. RINOs often provide support for raising taxes, abortion as a "right", homosexual "rights" and gun control. Some RINOs have connections with Planned Parenthood or corporations that support goals of population control; other RINOs pay lip service to pro-life values while in practice not advancing those values. Examples include John Kasich and Chris Christie.
Another common brand of RINOs appear to be somewhat conservative on social and fiscal policy, but support unrestricted immigration and open borders policies, usually in an attempt to pander to Hispanics and Asians who they claim are socially conservative. These groups continue to vote Democrat in large numbers anyways despite the pandering. They also tend to support neoconservative foreign policy. Examples include Jeb Bush, Nikki Haley, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Dan Crenshaw and Marco Rubio.
Double standards by RINOs are common: a birther comment by Romney during his campaign was supposedly a "nothing", but Todd Akin's pro-life comment would somehow "absolutely" cost RINOs control of the U.S. Senate!
RINOs typically come from Democrat strongholds in New England, the Mid-Atlantic; or states on the Left Coast where local GOP organizations are weak or nonexistent. Many are Reform-Democrats who cannot advance in corrupt Democrat political machines. A less-used term is cafeteria conservative, for a person who picks and chooses which conservative principles to believe, as a person might choose foods in a cafeteria instead of ordering the full-course menu selected by the chef at most restaurants. In contrast to RINO's and cafeteria conservatives, movement conservatives understand that since conservative philosophy is a coherent whole, it is untenable to discard part of it without discarding all of it.
The RINO targets of attack argue they follow middle of the road policies and are not liberals; they claim they get results, and insist that without them the Congress would be totally controlled by liberal Democrats and Republicans would rarely have any success. Conservatives respond that in the heyday of "Rockefeller liberalism" in the GOP the Democrats always controlled Congress, and the GOP only took power when Newt Gingrich launched a national conservative "Contract with America" in 1994, ending 40 years of Democrat control of the House. The notion that we need to elect Democrat-lite type of politicians is false. The election cycles of 2010 and 2012 proved that many RINO candidates are unelectable. RINO candidates wasted millions of dollars; Meg Whitman, Scott Brown, Linda McMahon, and many others could not connect with the people in liberal blue states.
In recent Republican primaries, voters have been rejecting establishment RINOs in favor of those with stronger conservative principles. Their commitment to self and not party is evident in their refusal to endorse the candidate that beats them. In some instances, they refuse the will of the voters and their party by running for office on an independent ticket. It is important to vote for someone who's more conservative on the issues rather than for a Republican because anyone can join a party and be they can be RINOs. In Presidential primaries, however, RINOs are often heavily favored. In 2008 and 2012, RINOs John McCain and Mitt Romney were nominated, respectively and RINOs such as Chris Christie were considered for 2016. President Trump has since worked to expose the RINOs, accurately calling them 'the lowest form of human life.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, is a RINO.
Former RINOs who have since left the Republican Party
- Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson supports same-sex "marriage" and abortion (although he opposes abortion once the fetus becomes viable outside the mother's body). After switching to the Libertarian Party in 2012 to run for President, he openly admitted that he governed New Mexico for eight years as a RINO, even using the phrase "Republican in name only" on multiple occasions. The Libertarian Party is liberal on social issues (with the exception that they support gun rights) but are fiscally very conservative.
- Former Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania supported ObamaCare and switched from the Republican Party to the Democrat Party to give the latter a 60-40 edge in the Senate and allow them to enact cloture on the Republican filibuster. He had also been a Democrat until he switched to Republican affiliation in 1965 in his successful race for district attorney in Philadelphia.
- Former New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay in 1969 won reelection on the Liberal Party slate and two years later switch to Democrat and fared poorly in a bid for his new party's presidential nomination.
- Former Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who became an Independent in 2007. Turned Democrat in 2013.
- Former Senator Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, who left the party and formed his own local one in 1990, then became an Independent in 1995.
- Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, became an Independent in 2007. As it is not possible to campaign as an Independent in New York State, Bloomberg ran on the line of the Independence Party of New York. In 2020, he emerged as a failed candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
- Former Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who left the Party and became a Democrat in 2001, giving control of the Senate to the Democrats.
- Former Governor Charlie Crist of Florida, who became an independent in 2010, after it was clear he would lose his Senate bid. Crist joined the Democrat Party in 2012, and is now running for Florida Governor once again, this time as a Democrat.
- Former Representative John Anderson of Illinois, who became an Independent after losing his party's presidential primary in 1980.
- Former Governor Buddy Roemer of Louisiana, who became an Independent after losing his party's presidential primary in 2012.
- Representative Justin Amash supported impeachment of President Donald Trump and left the Republican Party in 2019 to become an Independent, before joining the Libertarian Party soon afterwards.
A majority of conservatives distrusted the late RINO John McCain even though some of his policies were that of a true conservative. Key RINO principles rejected by McCain included support for gay rights, support for abortion, and support for earmarks. He positioned his career as a bipartisan moderate, reaching across the aisle whenever possible. This was also his downfall. The era of reaching across the aisle passed when statist, socialist Democrats became Senators. His major political blunders mostly came during the 21st century political period. He was against both the Reagan and Bush tax cuts, and employed class warfare rhetoric in trying to stop the tax cuts from taking effect. His support for amnesty was the complete opposite of what conservatives wanted. During non-election years, he liked to trash conservative positions and icons in order to get the approval of the Establishment. However, during the election, he refused to go after Barack Hussein Obama's associations with Jeremiah Wright. He believes in the junk science known as global warming, and has supported cap-and-trade programs. McCain supported more Middle Eastern wars, without goals, without full commitment to win, and without Congressional approval.
- Conservative Inc.
- RINO Backers
- Opposition to Donald Trump
- Never Trump movement
- Token conservative
- Republicans for Obama
- PLINO - pro-life in name only
- XINO - Christian in name only
- Catholic in name only
- Registered Republican
- Moderate Republican
- Conservative Democrat
- Blue Dog Democrat
- Reagan Democrat
- O’Sullivan’s First Law
- Steve Schmidt
- A.J. Delgado
- Republican Atheists
- Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker
- Jacob Javits
- Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
- Rockefeller Republican
- Kassam, Raheem (September 27, 2017). Size Matters: The 9-Point Alabama Win Is What Forced Corker out, Others May Follow. Breitbart News. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
- In bed with Democrats, Cochran now a DIAN: Democrat In All But Name at Communities Digital News
- What is a RINO Republican?
- James Carville & Mary Matalin: He Said, She Said