Martin “Felonious Frog” Longman wrote a bit of a scattered but very insightful article yesterday, Republicans and Reality. He started by quoting a bit of troubling polling data for the Republicans. According to Republican pollster Whit Ayres, only 18% of Americans want to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the great Republican alternative: nothing. Similarly, 60% of Republicans under the age of 30 are in favor of same sex marriage. (Don’t applaud too much; the number is roughly 90% young Democrats.) The problem is that the early primaries don’t exactly provide a lot of room for the Republican candidates to be moderate.
The first race in the 2016 primary will be in the reasonable state of Iowa (28 delegates). But that’s just an average. It is reasonable overall, but the Republicans there are crazy. Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum won the state in 2012. New Hampshire (12 delegates) provides a reasonable opportunity for moderation, and Mitt “Self Deportation” Romney did win there. But then comes Colorado (36 delegates) and Minnesota (40 delegates) — both won by Santorum. That same day will be the primary in New York (95 delegates) — doubtless an effort on the part of Republicans to inject some sanity in the primary. That primary was at the very end of the race and Romney won big because he was the only one still running. Just the same, he would have won regardless. And finally, there’s Utah (40) — which Romney won but I don’t think that means anything for obvious reasons.
For those not keeping count, that’s 107 “moderate” delegates and 144 crazy conservative delegates during the first three days of voting. A week and a half later, South Carolina gets to vote. And who did they vote for last time? Newt “Yay, child labor!” Gingrich! It does create a bit of a problem for the Republican Party. It isn’t that the candidates hold truly vile opinions — which they all do. It is that as long as they don’t make a big deal out of those vile opinions, the mainstream media will give them a pass. But people like Steve King in Iowa is not going to want to let them get away with that.
I’m still of the opinion that the economy trumps all else. But that doesn’t mean that candidates don’t matter at all. Even during a total economic meltdown in 2008, John McCain still managed to get 173 electoral votes. And I’m fairly convinced about what Jonathan Chait wrote last week, How “Negative Partisanship” Has Transformed American Politics. More and more, people decide which party they will not vote for. And in the south, we’ve seen this for a while — because of bigotry. But now this same thing is affecting other states — now to the advantage of the Democrats — because of the bigotry of the Republican Party.
As I noted regarding the move of the New York primary, the Republicans (and the Democrats) are trying to front load the election to get the most “electable” candidates for the general election. But the schedule doesn’t create any problems for the Democrats. The Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, and Utah are not going to push the candidates heavily to the left. I wish they would. But the Republicans are going to have to pander in a big way — even with New York’s 95 delegates. And even there, I suspect they will appeal to the electorate there primarily by talking about how we really need to start bombing Iran.