The Congressional leadership screw up gave us Trump as the nominee
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.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.
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.