The Key To Understanding the 2016 Republican Presidential Primaries

by Scott Rasmussen | September 11, 2015 12:02 am

The key to understanding the 2016 Republican presidential primary process is recognizing how completely the GOP establishment has lost touch with reality.


The first signs of cluelessness were evident in the infamous GOP “autopsy,” an effort to figure out what went wrong in 2012. Released just months after President Obama’s re-election, the report began with a promising first sentence. “The GOP today is a tale of two parties.” That’s definitely true, because the gap between the party establishment and its voters is enormous. The autopsy could have been a great step forward if party leaders were serious about understanding why Republican voters don’t trust them.

Unfortunately, the second and third sentences dashed any hope of a serious assessment. “One of them, the gubernatorial wing, is growing and successful. The other, the federal wing, is increasingly marginalizing itself, and unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.”

Stunningly, the official Republican analysis completely ignored the real “tale of two parties” within the GOP. Rather than address this fundamental reality, the autopsy recommended that the party change its positions on immigration and other issues. Not surprisingly, the recommendations were to support policies more in line with establishment views.

Adding to the report’s flaws, the analysis of a weak GOP federal party was and is factually wrong. The Republican Party is doing well in the 21st century — even at the federal level. There are currently more Republicans in Congress than at any time since the 1920s. That strong position came because the GOP won control of the House in 2010, retained control in 2012, and added control of the Senate in 2014.

The only relative weakness at the federal level is in the executive branch: Most governors are Republican, and the president is not. However, despite the dismal tone of the autopsy, the Republicans have at least a 50-50 chance to take the White House in 2016. If Obama’s job approval ratings don’t improve, the likelihood of a Republican victory is even higher.

When you include state officials as well as federal, an analysis by Dylan Byers and Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics finds that the Republican Party today is in its strongest position since 1928! A solid majority of state legislators (56 percent) throughout the country are Republican. In fact, there are now 24 states with a Republican governor, a Republican House and a Republican Senate. Democrats have such control in only seven states.

So, the official Republican autopsy of the 2012 election ignored the real divide in the party and understated the party’s strength. In retrospect, it appears more aimed at fighting Republican voters than Democratic candidates. Or, perhaps, it was an effort to pre-sell the nomination of another establishment candidate like Jeb Bush.

The story so far of the 2016 presidential election is the furious rejection of that plan by Republican voters. What remains to be seen is how the establishment Republicans deal with that rejection. Will they split the party, or will they finally accept reality by working with a candidate more acceptable to Republican voters?

Also see,

Presidential Nominating Process Highlights Gap Between D.C. and America

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