Monday, May 18, 2015

2016 Clown Car Alert


Republican strategists are pondering the supposed diversity of their 2016 presidential field, but the superficial diversity doesn't hide the divisiveness-- which is what they should really be pondering. "Republicans," asserted Phil Rucker and Jenna Johnson in yesterday's Washington Post, "think they must soften their image and expand their appeal in particular to women and Latino voters." 

That hasn't been working out, and just last week congressional Republicans voted to further interfere with women's Choice and to prevent Latino immigrants from serving in the armed forces. Jeb Bush boasted, "We’re going to win if we show our hearts," but congressional Republicans just showed theirs, and that's not going to persuade women, Hispanics or young voters that the GOP is the party anyone wants in the White House.
At last week’s Republican National Committee meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., party leaders plotted their path back to power and confronted the demographic changes that have made the Electoral College more challenging for Republicans, with their heavily male, overwhelmingly white base.

“To win in a presidential election year, the Democrats have to be good,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said. “As Republicans, we need to be about perfect in order to win.”

Perfection will be difficult to achieve, however. At the start of the year Bush was seen as the most electable contender and a favorite for the nomination. Thanks to his dynastic family’s deep network, Bush began building a juggernaut of a campaign.

But he has shown himself to be politically rusty, most acutely last week, as he twisted himself into knots over the unpopular war started by his brother, former president George W. Bush. Finally, he said on Thursday that he would not have invaded Iraq had he known about the intelligence failures at the time. Meanwhile, among activists in the early voting states, the former Florida governor has yet to catch on, raising doubts about his ability to unite the party.

Republicans have an array of candidates demonstrating strength. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker got off to a fast start in January and sits at or near the top in many polls, while Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) rose with a splashy April campaign launch that highlighted his charisma and youthful vigor. Others have impressed, too, including Carly Fiorina, a former technology executive and the lone woman in the field, who is considered a long shot but wowed RNC members in Scottsdale with her substantive stump speech and cutting attacks on Clinton.

...“If we go back to the old way of fighting amongst ourselves and saying, ‘You’re not righteous enough, you’re not perfect enough, you’re not this enough,’ we’re not going to win,” Bush said in a speech to RNC members this week.

This is particularly worrisome, considering the GOP is trying to shed its image as a retro party that protects the wealthy and project a more forward-looking vision by trying to demonstrate that Republicans care about the poor and disadvantaged and craft policies to lift them up.

“Anybody who doesn’t believe this hasn’t been paying attention the last few years,” said Matt Borges, the party chairman in Ohio, the quintessential general election swing state. “If our party isn’t seen as leading on these things, we’re running the risk of becoming a permanent minority.”

Borges said he sees only a few contenders developing that message: Bush, Rubio, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.

Borges and other prominent Republicans said they fear if the primary campaign devolves into a purity test-- or “a theology class,” as former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating put it-- there could be trouble.

“To have a baker’s dozen and a few more as our candidates is impressive, enabling and exciting,” Keating said. “But it’s problematical, because if it looks like total chaos, people will switch the channel.”
And total chaos is inevitable as the candidates vie for support from noisy, extremist activists who want to hear about Hillary Clinton killing American ambassadors in Benghazi. It's virtually impossible now to appeal to the Republican primary voters and still sound sane and rational enough for a general election voter.

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