A New GOP Coalition: Fact or Folly?

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Republicans, buoyed by the news that Jeb Bush will very likely seek the 2016 GOP nomination, are now positing theories by which they can build a new voter coalition and win the general election no matter which Democrat runs against them. More specifically, GOP operatives have been telling the media lately that they believe they can overcome the “Obama coalition” which led President Obama to victory by wide margins in the Electoral College in 2008 and 2012.

“The notion of demographics as destiny is overblown,” Republican pollster and media strategist Wes Anderson recently said. “Just like (Bush aide Karl) Rove was wrong with that ‘permanent majority’ talk, Democrats have to remember that the pendulum is always swinging.”

Anderson was referring to Bush strategist Karl Rove’s premature proclamations that he and Bush had created a “permanent governing majority” for the GOP. By 2008,  with the Democrats in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, Rove had backed away from such rosy projections.

Is it possible the Republicans could build a patchwork of voters and coast to victory in 2016, especially if the Democratic nominee turns out to be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?. In search of some balance to this debate, I called a good friend of mine I’ll only identify by the name Phil. Phil has worked as a Democratic political and media consultant for three decades and is one of the most trusted voices in the party. He is also the person who taught me how to analyze and interpret polling data. Phil is so good at what he does that I can count on one hand the races he has lost over the years. When Democrats need a sure thing for their campaign, they call Phil. What does he think of the GOP assembling a coalition that might win in 2016?

“You have to start with the premise that a national Democratic candidate enters a race with a built-in advantage when it comes to the Electoral College. A Democrat can count on winning California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and then focus on the few remaining states needed to reach 270 (electoral votes). Bush might be a good candidate, might have lots of money behind him, but the demographics of the electorate will work against him to the point that he will be hard-pressed to even win his home state of Florida.”

This prompted me to ask Phil, Who do the Republicans think will be their voting bloc? And who will vote for the Democratic candidate?

“About all I see as pretty certain voters for the Republicans would be older white men without college educations. That is a shrinking section of the population. Add that to evangelicals and you have the base of the GOP. So where do they plan to poach votes away from a Democrat? Women, young voters, the college educated, African-Americans, Hispanics, the LGBT community, these are all solid for Democrats. I’ve seen GOP strategists say they can make inroads with the Hispanic community because Jeb Bush speaks Spanish. As if that is the panacea for getting Hispanic votes! It’s ridiculous. They are whistling past the graveyard and they know it. They have no viable strategy for getting to 270 electoral votes. Even if they sweep the South they still can’t win. Just ask (Mitt) Romney if you doubt that.”

After talking to Phil for an hour, I began to realize that the Republican plan for a new national majority simply doesn’t add up. In fact, it looks more and more like wishful thinking when you actually analyze the numbers. For now, at least, the GOP might want to keep their celebrating to a minimum.

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