Nate Cohn on the Republican Path to Victory in 2016

It’s narrow. Here’s Nate Cohn at The New Republic:

[I]t looks like Republicans will need to count on the appeal of their 2016 presidential candidate and economic fundamentals to overcome the party’s limited appeal.

In other words, Republicans need a likable candidate and the economy has to tank.

Why isn’t the Republican path to victory less narrow than this? Because the GOP is incapable of moderating itself on such issues as immigration reform. Here’s Cohn again:

On immigration, […] the Republican rank-and-file isn’t itching to get behind a compromise. 17 percent support moving to the left on immigration, compared to 36 percent who want the party to get more conservative.

This is hurting Marco Rubio, a supporter of immigration reform:

With little Republican appetite for moderation, it’s not surprising that Rubio’s [poll] numbers have dropped. It’s also not surprising that he’s moving to reaffirm his conservative credentials on the push to defund Obamacare and ban abortion after twenty weeks. These numbers suggest that the Republicans won’t be eager to nominate someone pushing the party to moderate, […]

The likable Chris Christie appears to fare no better:

Chris Christie’s favorability ratings suggest as much: He’s only at plus-17, with 47 percent favorable and a sizable 30 percent holding an unfavorable opinion. That’s worse than Romney ever had, and it’s probably inconsistent with winning the Republican nomination.

Who are these Republican primary voters that a moderate has to woo? Mostly they consist of tea partiers and evangelicals:

The composition of the Republican primary electorate makes the challenge even greater. In the Pew poll, 49 percent of Republicans who participate in every primary support the tea party—just 22 percent consider themselves moderate. In last year’s primaries, evangelical Christians represented more than 40 percent of the electorate in just about every major contest, including relatively moderate Romney states like Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida.

How do you get a broadly likable and moderate candidate out of such dynamics? Rubio, by sticking his neck out on immigration reform and getting a political haircut for it, has pretty much learned that you don’t. And Christie is not trusted by the Republican base. Nor is Rand Paul, who is too libertarian and isolationist for most base voters.

For 2016, that would seem to leave the very smart and very conservative Ted Cruz as the guy to beat. But he’s not terribly likable and basically a Texas/Bush era retread (or could easily be painted as such by the Democrats).

Things are looking bad for the GOP.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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