Off to the Races

The Story of 2016: Republicans Feeling “Betrayed” by Their Leaders

GOP voters are in no mood for bipartisan compromise. That’s why they nominated Donald Trump, and why Congress won’t get much done if Hillary Clinton wins.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, left, talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on April 13 before the start of an organizational meeting of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Charlie Cook
Add to Briefcase
Charlie Cook
Aug. 29, 2016, 8 p.m.

Arguably the biggest political story of the past year has been the breadth and depth of the anger and alienation among Republican voters—not just toward President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party, but also against their own party’s leaders.

This week, I was looking through a 65-page PowerPoint presentation that Republican pollster Neil Newhouse gave earlier this month to the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. For the uninitiated, Neil is one of the brightest and most talented pollsters in either party, with more 30 years experience taking the temperature of American voters. His record includes service as Mitt Romney’s pollster and work for Jeb Bush’s super PAC this year, along with dozens of senators and governors over the years. One particular page was fascinating.

On the left side of the page was a compilation of results from 2016 NBC News exit polls of Republican primaries in 17 states to the question, “Would you say you feel betrayed by politicians from the Republican Party?” The 17 states were ranked by their “yes, feel betrayed” responses: Nebraska (63 percent), Florida (60 percent), Pennsylvania (59 percent), Missouri (59 percent), Tennessee (58 percent), Michigan (58 percent), North Carolina (56 percent), Georgia (54 percent), Ohio (54 percent), Arkansas (53 percent), Virginia (53 percent), Wisconsin (52 percent), South Carolina (52 percent), Alabama (51 percent), Indiana (50 percent), Illinois (50 percent), and West Virginia (48 percent).

The right side of the page showed the responses to September 2015 CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker polls of Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina asking the question, “In the last few years have the Republicans in Congress compromised with Barack Obama too much or too little?” The polls showed 81 percent of GOP voters in Iowa said that Republicans in Congress had compromised too much, in New Hampshire it was 59 percent, and in South Carolina it was 72 percent.

Two questions entered my mind looking at that slide: Exactly how did Republican politicians betray GOP voters, and what did Republicans in Congress compromise on with President Obama that was so horrific? Given that there are virtually no liberal and not many moderate Republicans left in Congress, and with the vast majority of Republican politicians pretty darn conservative, were they ideologically out of step? And given that there has been very little compromise of any kind in Washington, particularly between Republicans and President Obama, what did they compromise on that was so offensive? How can these numbers be so high?

These sentiments among Republican voters certainly explain how more establishment-oriented GOP presidential contenders crashed and burned this year, why Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Chris Christie got nowhere, and for that matter why every Republican who had been elected to dog catcher or school board or higher, no matter where on the ideological spectrum they were, didn’t make it far beyond the presidential launch pad. People whose qualifications and demeanor might normally be made to order for a presidential nomination didn’t really matter this year. In retrospect—I wish I knew this a year ago—the fix was in this cycle; establishment or conventional Republican candidates need not apply for the nomination. It just wasn’t going to happen, and the only question was which angry outsider was going to get the GOP nomination.

Numbers like these also explain the behavior exhibited by members of the House Freedom Caucus and other tea party-style Republicans who show little fear of being labeled as obstructionists or too extreme. Simply put, the Republican base has gotten so exotic in their views that it is little wonder that they are becoming isolated from the broader electorate and have picked someone who is trailing a very weak Democratic nominee. Given how much voters know about Hillary Clinton and how horrible a person most Republicans passionately believe she is, how do they explain why she’s ahead? As flawed as she may be, the product of the Republican nomination process appears to be even more so.

At some point, Republican voters need to look in the mirror and start asking some questions of themselves. What are they watching, reading, or hearing that has created an environment and mentality in their party that seems so different from the broader electorate?

Political economist Tom Gallagher, a veteran Washington-watcher if there ever was one, says this recent history suggests that the GOP base will not reward Republicans who compromise with Clinton, should she win, on anything. Looking at numbers like this, how can they? And that bodes poorly for anything getting done over the next four years.

What We're Following See More »
FACES STIFF OPPOSITION FROM BOTH PARTIES
Trump Proposes 95 Percent Cut To Office of Drug Control Budget
35 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Trump wants to move the two grants, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grant and the Drug Free Communities Act, to the Justice and Health and Human Services departments, respectively. This would result in a $300 million plus reduction in funding, about 95 percent of the cost of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "'I’m baffled at the idea of cutting the office or reducing it significantly and taking away its programs in the middle of an epidemic,'" said Regina LaBelle, who served as ONDCP chief of staff during the Obama administration. This is the second time the Trump Administration has proposed gutting the agency.

Source:
HOPES A DEAL CAN GET DONE
Schumer Meeting with Trump for Last-Ditch Meeting
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
BLURRY LINE BETWEEN BUSINESS/PRESIDENCY
New CREW Report Identifies 500 Conflicts of Interest in Trump’s First Year
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

A new report assembled by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has identified more than 500 potential conflicts of interest in President Trump's first year. First, the report notes, Trump spent 122 days at his properties during his first year. He has been accompanied by 70 federal officials and 30 members of Congress. "Second, far from this signaled access to power being an empty promise, those who patronize President Trump’s businesses have, in fact, gained access to the president and his inner circle." Lastly, about 40 special interest groups and 11 foreign governments have held events at Trump properties.

Source:
BY SCALISE
House Told to “Stay Flexible”
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS
“NOT THE RIGHT TIME”
J.D. Vance Bows Out of Senate Run
3 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login