Republicans Who Have Held Elected Office Are Virtually Unelectable In GOP Primary

Last updated on July 17th, 2023 at 06:13 pm

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The Republican presidential contest has taken many twists and turns through 2015, but one theme appears to be a constant, driving the dynamics of the race. GOP primary voters want an outsider, not a politician who currently holds, or who has ever held elected office. That point was reiterated after the Wednesday debates, when post-debate polls showed that Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, three candidates who have never held elected office, were in first, second and third place respectively. Combined they had won the allegiance of 58 percent of GOP voters, while none of the elected officials could do better than single digit support.

The narrative repeats itself over and over. Even when the deck is shuffled, and the lead changes hands, outsiders carry the day. A post-debate Voter gravity poll found Carly Fiorina passing Donald Trump in New Hampshire, but even as the top position switched hands, the poll still revealed that none of the Republicans who have held office could gain any traction. Fiorina, Trump and Carson were still leading the charge.

The Republican Party has spent the better part of the last decade conditioning GOP voters to hate the government. They have used anti-government rhetoric, sometimes with devastating effect, to win races against Democrats.

By casting Washington as the villain, and Democrats as the party of “big government”, Republicans were able to score decisive victories across the nation in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections. The Republican Party was less successful in the higher turnout 2012 presidential election, but they have nevertheless been able to stir up anti-government sentiment well enough to win both houses of Congress and to control most state legislatures. They also have won most of the Governor’s races over the past several election cycles.

The strategy, however, has proved double-edged for those Republicans running for president, who currently hold or have previously held elected office. Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, have become victims of their own success.  The three men have built their political careers on attacking Washington and now that they have so thoroughly discredited the institution they serve in, they are the ironic victims of their own anti-Washington rhetoric.

Republican Governors and ex-Governors aren’t faring any better. While most of the GOP’s anti-government rhetoric has been aimed at the federal government, the average voter doesn’t necessarily make a clear distinction between state and federal authority. In their minds, if government is bad, it must all be bad.

As a consequence, a lot of Republicans who won election by capitalizing on anti-government messages are now reaping what they have sown. Republican voters have internalized their message to the point that it has rendered many of the original messengers virtually un-electable. Although Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul may never see the inside of the White House, they should be proud of themselves. They built this.

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