The Congressional leadership screw up gave us Trump as the nominee

Charlie Cook:
­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.
There screw up was the belief that they had a mandate to get things done rather than one to oppose Obama's agenda which was hated by the party base.  So the two top candidates in a large field were an outsider and a Senator who actually opposed Obama's agenda.  What is also clear that is that should Hillary Clinton win, she will be facing a chastened GOP that will be reluctant to do deals with her.  Doing so would threaten their own careers.


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