Three political realities that should worry Republicans

Republicans had a lot to celebrate on November 4, and Democrats have plenty to worry about after the midterm election debacle.

But all is not rosy in GOP world either. If I were a Republican, I’d be particularly concerned about three things.

1. The “Big Blue Wall.”

That’s shorthand for states that are solidly in the Democratic column for presidential elections. Republican strategists Glen Bolger and Neil Newhouse define the Big Blue Wall as

the 18 states (plus Washington, D.C.) that have gone for the Democratic presidential candidate six elections in a row. They add up to 242 electoral votes, leaving the Democrats needing just 28 of the 183 electoral votes in the 18 toss-up states.

Those states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Washington DC, and Wisconsin.

Republican Chris Ladd would add New Mexico, Nevada, and New Hampshire to his list of “states that no Republican Presidential candidate can realistically hope to win.” That gives almost any Democratic candidate for president 257 electoral votes in the bag. Ladd continues,

Arguably Virginia now sits behind that wall as well. Democrats won the Senate seat there without campaigning in a year when hardly anyone but Republicans showed up to vote and the GOP enjoyed its largest wave in modern history. Virginia would take that tally to 270. Again, that’s 270 out of 270.

This means that the next Presidential election, and all subsequent ones until a future party realignment, will be decided in the Democratic primary. Only by sweeping all nine of the states that remain in contention AND also flipping one impossibly Democratic state can a Republican candidate win the White House. What are the odds that a Republican candidate capable of passing muster with 2016 GOP primary voters can accomplish that feat? You do the math.

By contrast, Republicans control a far more modest Red Fortress, which currently amounts to 149 electoral votes.

I would put a few more states in that “Red Fortress” group, such as Arizona, West Virginia, and Missouri. Even so, the safe states don’t get a GOP presidential nominee nearly as close to 270 electoral votes as the Big Blue Wall does for Democrats. Several of the swing states (Ohio, Florida, Colorado) voted for Obama twice, so it would be a stretch to think of them as tossups for 2016.

Ladd probably goes too far in asserting, “Republicans this week scored the kind of win that sets one up for spectacular, catastrophic failure and no one is talking about it.” But he makes some valid points, and I encourage you to click through and read his whole column.

Incidentally, Iowa has gone Democratic in six of the last seven presidential elections. I don’t know whether that trend will continue in 2016, but I do know that our state will be a must-win for the Republican nominee. Hillary Clinton or any other Democratic candidate will have many paths to 270 electoral votes without Iowa.

2. Republicans are not improving their standing with minority voters.

The 2014 midterm electorate was much more white and male than the expected voter universe for the next presidential election. Philip Bump argued, “2014 will likely be as good an electorate as the Republican Party could hope for — and perhaps as good an electorate as it will ever see again.”

Bolger and Newhouse warned,

Winning in a non-presidential-turnout year, when older and white voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate, should convince no one that we’ve fixed our basic shortfalls with key electoral groups, including minorities and younger voters.

Assuming that the Democrats replicate their 2012 electoral success with minority voters two years from now, and assuming that Hispanics grow as a percentage of the overall electorate, which they will, we calculate that Democrats will already have almost half (24 percent) of the votes they need to win a majority of Americans in 2016. To win 50.1 percent of the popular vote, we estimate, Republicans will need nearly 64 percent of the white vote – which would be a record for a non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate. Remember, Mitt Romney and John McCain won 59 percent and 55 percent of the white vote, respectively; and even in victory, George W. Bush took only 58 percent of the white vote in 2004.

The Republican-led Congress is about to throw a fit over President Barack Obama’s coming executive order on immigration. That won’t help Republicans with Latino voters, who overwhelmingly favor giving legal status to some undocumented immigrations, especially “DREAMers” who were brought to this country as children.

I’ve seen many Republicans claim that in 2016, when the first black president will not be on the ballot, minority turnout will drop well below 2012 levels. But Hillary and Bill Clinton have long been popular in the African-American community, and Hillary’s standing among Latino and Asian-American voters should easily be as strong as Barack Obama’s.

In addition, Chris Ladd believes that the GOP’s strategy to implement voter ID laws will backfire long-term.

Vote suppression is working remarkably well, but that won’t last. Eventually Democrats will help people get the documentation they need to meet the ridiculous and confusing new requirements. The whole “voter integrity” sham may have given Republicans a one or maybe two-election boost in low-turnout races. Meanwhile we kissed off minority votes for the foreseeable future.

Democratic messaging about the “war on women” failed to deliver. Most of the Democratic candidates didn’t do well enough among women to offset the huge Republican advantage among men. Nevertheless, the “gender gap” this year was larger than in any election since 1994. The women who did vote were more likely to support Democrats for Congress than were the women voters of 2010. Republican efforts to make more inroads with woman voters will be stymied by the third reality.

3. Congressional Republicans have no incentive to govern or moderate stands that are outside the mainstream.

Barely a year after shutting down the federal government, Republicans enjoyed yet another wave election. The GOP majority in the House is larger than it has been since the 1920s, and most of its members represent safe districts. There’s no reason for Congressional Republicans to balk at another government shutdown or impeachment proceedings. There’s no incentive to compromise with the Obama administration on any constructive legislation. Why rile up the base and bring out some primary challenger from the right?

Congress will hold lots of investigations and hearings but won’t accomplish much between now and the next presidential election.

The same dynamic will carry over to the GOP presidential primaries. All of the strongest potential nominees have taken some stand that will be a deal-breaker for the conservative base. Ohio Governor John Kasich was for Medicaid expansion. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is for comprehensive immigration reform. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said nice things about Obama before the 2012 election, didn’t go to the mat to stop marriage equality, and signed a bill banning “pray away the gay” therapy for teenagers. The eventual nominee may try to pivot to the middle as Mitt Romney did, but that’s easier said than done.

Please share any relevant comments in this thread.

  • Don't Worry, Be Happy!

    The fatal assumption with that argument is that Democrats feel that they can’t get people to care about their priorities ONLY in mid-term years. They can’t get them to care about their platforms any year. People lost “hope” in those fake promises of bipartisan answers. That will show in 2016. People who were not that active voted for the president and felt betrayed. 2016 will be a very low turnout year for the left. Nobody will be excited for Hilary Clinton.  Bernie Sanders has nothing to lose for the left by running as an Independent. He will likely get serious press too. Democrats won’t win. Discounting states as non-winnable because they haven’t been won since Obama was elected or even since HW does not show a trend. Many of those states have Republican governors. Reagan was an outlier when he ran.  He was popular enough to fight back the tide of thinking the president’s party couldn’t win a 3rd term. That one is pretty well established.  

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