Political Animal


November 23, 2012 3:50 PM The Heart of the Matter

By Ed Kilgore

The recent intra-Republican wrangling in Iowa about the impact of the quadrennial Ames Straw Poll—soon to be echoed, inevitably, by complaints beyond Iowa about power of the First-in-the-Nation-Caucus—is yet enough diversion from the GOP’s basic problem in presidential elections. If Iowa Republicans were all that unusual (in anything other than their taste for federal energy subsidies), the talk about changes in the nominating process or calendar might have merit. But as Jonathan Bernstein points out today at WaPo, that’s not the heart of the matter:

[C]laims that Iowa in general and Ames in particular has biased Republicans toward poor general-election candidates, or good candidates saddled with unappealing issue positions, is silly. A lot of people now are talking about immigration issues and the Latino vote in particular, but to whatever extent immigration is responsible for poor Republican results with Latinos, it’s awful hard to conclude that Iowa Republicans were out of step with their national party on those issues. The same is true on Christian conservative concerns.
The truth is that the issues that seem to be hurting Republicans with swing voters are simply not very controversial in Republican primaries. Instead, the way that every Republican nomination battle has been recently, wherever it takes place, is that candidates must jump over never-ending hurdles to prove they aren’t “RINOs,” and there’s simply no counterweight on the other side. Therefore, any process change short of eliminating the public portion of the process entirely isn’t going to matter.
If Republicans want to stop taking losing positions on issues, they need to find a way to downplay those things they believe strongly in despite their unpopularity and to give up those things they don’t really care about.

No question about it. But because, for a variety of reasons, Republicans don’t want to “downplay those things they believe strongly in,” they’ll keeping looking for candidates, issues and procedures that purport to defy demographics and public opinion.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Domage on November 23, 2012 4:01 PM:

    As long as the Tea Party controls the primaries--which it will continue to do for the foreseeable future--the GOP will continue to nominate candidates who are ever more rightwing extreme.

  • c u n d gulag on November 23, 2012 4:45 PM:

    They cannot escape the anchor that is their "base."

    "Bring in pig #1! Ok, let's try pink on those lips, and a blond wig! No...
    Bring in pig #2! Now, let's try a brunette wig, and some funky, youngish-looking purple lipstick. Uhm... No.
    Pig #3, 'Come on down! How about some funky yellow, and a pink wig? Oh! No...
    Bring in that 4th pig! Let's try some green lipstick and a green wig, and maybe we'll get the Irish vote. Jayzoos H. Keerist, she looks like Orson Welles at St. Patties Day!
    What? The last pig? Ok, let's try a patriotic theme. Put some youngish white lipstick on, a blue wig, and some 'Feck-me red pumps' on her cloven hooves. OMG - the pig looks like a porcine cadaver in Dorothy's ruby-red slippers.

    Bag it!
    Let's change Marco's or Jeb's last name to Obama, and hope for the best shot.
    The rest of our candidates are an insult to the poor pigs.

  • Neil B.... on November 23, 2012 5:04 PM:

    More important than straw poll issues etc is the overall badness of starting out in Iowa, which guarantees candidates sucking up to the ethanol lobby right off. We can do better - Ohio?

  • TCinLA on November 23, 2012 5:13 PM:

    Marco the Rube is not only an insult to pigs, he's an insult to intelligence.

    Jeb on the other hand, is the brother of The Worst President Ever, and even if the morons are stupid enough to forget that, the rest of us aren't.


  • jcricket on November 23, 2012 6:03 PM:

    If it weren't for the racism that runs through much of this country, Romney would have taken an even greater drubbing than he did - such is the true popularity of the republican viewpoint on many issues.

    Face it, with what they were pushing as their stance on the issues and a lousy candidate, the strongest thing they had going for themselves was the racist vote - and they knew it and went for it. And even that wasn't enough to make up for draconian intentions and an animatronic candidate with a very limited programmed response to humans. Thank gawd.

    The Republicans are going to have to either double down on a losing strategy (new! improved! labeling), or completely change the recipe and I can't see the current power brokers giving up their catbird seats.

    They'll try to bring in Jeb to see what focus groups tell them, but they way they stack their own decks I doubt if they can put together an objective focus group. Look at how they glommed on to "unskewed polls" that told them what they wanted to hear.

    No. They are too mentally unstable to react to reality and to plan/work accordingly. With talk like "let's change Iowa" being seriously considered as a remedy for their ills, they have not yet hit bottom.

    The next election when both candidates are likely white, look for voter suppression to replace racism as the best chance they have to win.

  • MuddyLee on November 23, 2012 8:30 PM:

    The guy is right about capcha on this blog - it is horrible - why can't you change to the nucapcha thing where you key in 3 characters? And if longevity counts for anything, I've been reading the Washington Monthly magazine since 1973 and subscribing every year I've had any money.

  • Anonymous on November 24, 2012 9:51 AM:

    I think "jcricket on November 23, 2012 6:03 PM" is right.

    If Obama was a White guy named Bob Smith from Florida the election would have been about 63 % to 37% - a solid 10% swing.

  • neil b.... on November 24, 2012 10:21 AM:

    Heh, captcha indeed: "chiisus" christ folks, time for a change. And how many have noticed, *clearly* typing in what has to be right, and still being rejected? I could swear they challenge some correct text just to scare off attempts, even when right.

    However, we have had great fun with "relevant" "coincidences" ... I mean, this post has sort of been about rational "lin•e•ar" thinking versus conservative magical thinking ...

  • mudwall jackson on November 25, 2012 8:48 AM:

    If Obama was a White guy named Bob Smith from Florida the election would have been about 63 % to 37% - a solid 10% swing.

    except obama is as black as he was in 2008 when he won by near landslide proportions. racism might account for a portion of obama's slide but you've got to factor in the economy as well. while for most of us who read and comment on this blog obama was by far the better choice (and for me the only choice) during the election, many were willing to give romney a shot on the chance that moderate mitt might show up come january.