How Are Republicans Dealing With These Negative Poll Numbers For 2016?

Steve Pope/Getty Images

Steve Pope/Getty Images

One of the most important things politicians worry about during election season is how to mobilize their constituencies, how to draw voters to the polls and get Americans involved in elections. Or conversely, how to not mobilize the wrong type of voters into voting for their opponents both within the party and across the aisle.

A 2016 candidate for the Democratic party has already surfaced, assuming Hillary Clinton chooses to run, or failing that, Joe Biden. However the Republican party has a more diverse, but less united playing field at present, and compared to past years, Pew Research Reports the top to be “crowded.” The graph below illustrates this point, with past years showing a clear lead, from G.W. Bush, to Giuliani, to Romney. This year, looking ahead to elections, there’s a three-way tie and some very close runners up, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

No-Clear-Leader-in-the-GOP-FieldThis could be somewhat worrisome for the Republican party given the smaller amount of reported interest in this upcoming campaign compared to others. In March of 2015 there were only 58% reporting “some” or “a lot” of interest in the upcoming 2016 election, less than May of 2011 (60%) and March of 2007 (68%) according to Pew. There is also a focus on which candidate wins instead of which party, 87% over 72% saying who wins is of greater importance to them than party affiliation. This, in combination with the reduced interest and more spread out candidate polls likely has the GOP concerned about how best to mobilize and attract voters in competitive numbers. This is a legitimate concern, and a poor combination of conditions for all candidates, but especially for those in the Republican party. Assuming Clinton runs, she may have some competition, but her polling and support is currently a stronger and more unified group. It’s likely because of these conditions that we see so many red candidates targeting more diverse groups of voters, and getting to work ahead of any official announcements to pull in new and old demographics alike. They need an edge, and they need to start working on engagement issues now. There have been many 2016 hopefuls passing through Iowa, while others are working on multiple fronts to gain an advantage. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been working to attract independents in California, opening an office in Silicon Valley. “My goal for the past year has been to try to widen the party message and make the party big enough to win nationally,” said Paul, according to Business Insider.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has a small niche with evangelicals, but mostly appeals only to the far right conservatives, likely not enough to be competitive given previously addressed disadvantages.

One of Mitt Romney’s biggest mistakes in the 2012 election was his comments on the 47% he perceived as unwinnable, who would vote for Obama “no matter what” and who were all “dependent on government” and “believe that they are victims.” If they weren’t easily won votes before, they certainly weren’t after his comments were published.

“My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he said at the time, according to Mother Jones, in what many considered a dismissive gesture to anyone not in the 1 percent. Ironically, he also discussed the struggle of attracting female and Hispanic voters, and the perception that Republicans are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, saying his silver spoon was American citizenship. But then added that “if the Hispanic voting block becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting block has in the past, why, we’re in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation.” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has previously worked to address that very challenge, doing so (initially) with more caution and far less irony, calling illegal immigration an “act of love” in a Washington Post interview. His “oops” moment came a little later with a past voter registration form revealing he’d accidentally classified himself as Hispanic, but the mistake is likely to be a non-issue — as it should be.

His Right to Rise campaign focuses on economic improvement that allows the middle class to feel that they can reach the American dream. “The last eight years have been pretty good ones for top earners,” the PAC noted, distinctly Democratic rhetoric smashed together with more conservative principles. In direct contrast to Romeny’s admission, the group states that it “will not cede an inch of territory — no issues, no demographic groups, no voters.”

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