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GOP losin’ it again?

March 23, 2016

You have to shake your head in wonder at the Republican Party. In the general election against either of the Democratic candidates, the only GOP candidate polling in positive numbers is John Kasich.

Yeah, that guy. The one running dead last in the GOP primary polls. The one who still has just 143 delegates. That guy.

Although this latest poll doesn’t factor in the Brussels terror attack, taken as a whole this trend toward falling GOP advantages is troubling.

While it’s tempting to fault the polls as being skewed by the targeting methodology behind the call list, that clearly doesn’t explain why the average of several polls still shows slippage.

How in the name of all that is holy does the GOP manage to do this in every election?

The party faithful would say it’s all Donald Trump’s fault.

More detached observers might note that the party simply fails miserably when it comes to cultivating a more modern voter base.

Granted, Donald Trump wouldn’t have been on anyone’s radar in say January of 2012. He sort of appeared like a bogey at twelve o’clock high as far as the establishment goes.

Much like the words in last line of the third verse of Gordon Lightfoot’s 1973 hit “Sundown”, the GOP may have been feeling like a winner when it’s losing again.

Maybe they thought the Obama Justice Department would indict Mrs. Clinton before they had to worry about her, or they just thought that her boatload of negatives would defeat her no matter who they ran against her.

Somehow, in the face of dozens of polls showing the voter’s discontent, the party influencers decided that promoting an establishment candidate like Jeb Bush was the way to go in 2016.

After spending tens of millions of donor dollars trying to defeat everyone else on the 17-person ticket, they belatedly got the message that business as usual wasn’t where the voters are this time.

The one candidate that was polling very well against both Clinton and Sanders, Marco Rubio,  was the one the big money Bush PACs decided to silence, using the condescending tactic that it “wasn’t his turn.”

Instead, the voters handed them Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

So, what about the remaining three makes the GOP establishment’s collective heart go pitter-patter?

None of the above.

Only when looking down the barrel of utter defeat have they picked Ted Cruz as “da man” and he’s at best only been polling with a tie against Clinton.

There had to be a better strategy than that.

Unfortunately the mess they have now is the one caused by a party that wants to ask the voters to preserve their jobs instead of the country.

Even if elected, given his age and temperament, it’s at least a 50-50 shot that Mr. Trump will only serve one term.

That would have given the GOP establishment some options. Either join up with him to capture the passion of the voters and offer him a much younger and politically adept yet very electable VP for 2020, or get behind the person who was the logical voter alternative to him early in the season.

That was clearly Ted Cruz even before the first primary, but the establishment hates him almost as much as it does Trump.

That’s great, but there was one little problem. The voters like both of them.

The Grand OLD Party has fossilized in place. The electorate hasn’t. It continues, against all odds, to want to move forward instead treading water.

Instead the party is still  trying to contain a tsunami in a kiddie pool. That’s not a vote for stability, it’s an exercise in futility.

In my previous post I mentioned that this feels a lot like 1968. In that election the Democrats tore each other apart and finally wound up splitting the vote between George McGovern and the third-party guy, George Wallace.

More recently, and perhaps more apropos,  the ever tone-deaf GOP failed to account for voter unrest when Ross Perot ran as an independent in 1992. He was opposed by a one-term sitting President and a popular rising Democratic star, one William J. Clinton.

We know how that worked out.

When the GOP tries to unseat Trump by using the threat of an Obama third term, i.e. a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for Obama, his supporters don’t care.

There are some contrasts between past maverick candidates and Donald Trump’s bid this year.

First, Perot ran as an independent, Trump as a sort of New Republican, giving him access to a larger voter pool.

Perot never had anything approaching 45% of the voters in any state election. Both Trump and Cruz do.

There are also some significant operational differences.

In some respects it appears that Trump is at least cognizant of some of the mistakes Perot’s campaign made, and makes some effort to avoid them. Among the evidence of  those efforts is that he seems to recognize that he cannot maintain his wild and crazy guy persona throughout the campaign.

His introduction of some of his foreign policy advisers shows that he isn’t going to try to go it alone. The fact that they are all not Washington politicians shows that he is willing to go outside the august halls of Congress and the select group of hereditary Washington insiders for assistance.

That continues his theme that he will both work with Congress and bring in outsiders.

Despite the attempts by both sides to paint him as inciting people to riot, so far he has simply stated the obvious.

One heck of a lot of people are going to be very upset if he is beaten not by a better candidate, but by the good-ol’-boy system that doomed Marco Rubio.

If the GOP had another very charismatic and viable candidate they could rally behind, their strategy would be a lot more effective.

Until two weeks ago, they were dumping on Ted Cruz just as often as Trump, making any attempt to get behind the other frontrunner now patently and transparently inauthentic.

Trump may yet flame out just as Perot did in 1992. If so, who can the GOP win with, and how?

Pipe dreamers notwithstanding, it’s too late to throw a fresh face into the campaign. Maybe they can throw a bandage on their schisms with Ted Cruz, but he is not nearly as likely as Trump to pull in dissatisfied voters from all the non-establishment avenues.

From a voter standpoint, John Kasich is just too close to being an establishment candidate to turn out the amount of GOP voters necessary in November, despite his good general election polling numbers.

Cruz’s argument that the non-Trump voters exceed Trump supporters has been just as true for him.

In short, like it or not, the GOP kingmakers  have painted themselves into a corner. Again.

If Trump wins the nomination outright, it’s a certainty that he will face as much obduracy from his own party as from the Democrats.

If he falls a bit short, is shut out at the convention but doesn’t run as a third-party candidate, most of the people he has attracted might stay home, feeling that it doesn’t matter at that point which corrupt party governs them.

Some voters, presumably disaffected Democrats, even say they would vote for Hillary.

If Trump does run as an independent, it’s 1992 all over again.

At this point, the party’s best hope is that after July the expected change in the voter profile occurs and they start to focus on beating Hillary.

Way to go, Republicans.

From → op-ed

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