Monday, July 13, 2015

The 2016 Campaign May Be Lost Before the GOP Picks a Nominee

As a former GOP activist and one-time eight year member of the City Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach, I continually cringe at what the Republican Party has become. With almost no exception, my entire family of former Republicans all find ourselves voting Democrat and opposing the GOP agenda of greed, the embrace of ignorance, racism, homophobia and religious extremism.  And then there is the 2016 clown car of GOP presidential candidates with Donald Trump being but the most obnoxious of the ugly options offered to voters.  A piece in Politico Magazine suggests that despite all the theatrics and smear ads that will be forth coming, the real outcome of the 2016 general elections i s likely to be decided long before November 2016.   Here are highlights:

[T]he end of the 2016 presidential election is actually much closer than you might think.

In every game there are decisive moments that determine the ultimate outcome. We like to think that presidential elections are dramatic fall campaigns pitting party against party, but the truth is that the most decisive moments often occur long before the general election kicks off.  If history is any guide, the outcome of next year’s presidential campaign will likely be determined before the Republican Party has even selected their nominee. That uncomfortable fact means that the longer and more divisive the Republican primary, the less likely the party will be to win back the White House in 2016.

In eight out of the last nine presidential elections these decisive periods of time can all be traced back to the run up to the general election . . . voters locked in their attitudes about the direction of the country, the state of their own well-being and the presidential candidates—and their political party—prior to the start of the general election.

[T]he job approval ratings of the incumbent president, regardless of whether they are running for reelection, serve as a proxy for the electorate’s mood and have historically been the most accurate predictor of election outcomes.  And the public’s view of the state of the economy and its expectations for the future are the strongest drivers of the job approval ratings of the sitting president. . . . when the incumbent president’s job approval fell below 40 percent prior to the start of the general election, their party lost each time.

[T]he media continue to place a relentless focus on the daily tracking polls—despite the fact that they have proven increasingly inaccurate over the last 20 years. The last presidential race is a good example. In 2012, reporters who followed the ups and downs of the tracking polls concluded that Romney had surged following the first presidential debate. But in reality Obama had already put the election away long before the Republicans had selected their nominee. Obama’s final 51 percent of the vote closely tracked his job approval numbers that remained steady and well within that range during the last year of his first term.

There is every indication that past trends will continue to hold in 2016 and that the outcome of the presidential election will come into focus well before the general election. During this period when voters are beginning to seriously contemplate the type of person they want to lead the country, the Republicans will likely be in the middle of a prolonged and messy internecine intra-party fight—a fight that the unique attributes of the 2016 election will likely make more vocal, extreme and prolonged than the party will wish.

This period of primaries and caucuses will be marked by a relentless barrage of negative ads by the candidates designed to drive down the image of their opponents. At the same time, Republicans will be focused on locking down the hearts and minds of their right-wing base voters rather than appealing for mainstream support. 

[T]here are a series of factors—when taken together—during this critical period that that will further complicate Republicans’ attempts to take back the White House.

First, and foremost, the battle for the Republican nomination for president is really an existential fight about the future direction of the party rather than merely a race to collect a majority of delegates. At its core this is an ideological fight with the ascendant tea party-inspired populist and libertarian wing of the party poised to take over the GOP. This Koch brothers-backed effort is being built, funded and operated outside the national political party structure.

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