Chuck Todd, the moderator of MSNBC's MTP Daily, asked a panel of political experts recently to assess the fight for the GOP presidential nomination. His question was, “Where is the beating heart of the GOP?” None of them answered the question. They all deflected. Why? Because it was the wrong question. Wrong because the elephant's heart no longer beats. The autopsy this November will determine the cause of death was suicide.
The Republican Party has become its own worst enemy – a victim of its angry and evangelical excesses. It can no longer win a national election. That stark reality is hard, if not impossible, for many Republicans to comprehend or change because in Congress and in most states the GOP is ascendant.
The Republicans recaptured the House in 2010, added the Senate in 2014, control 31 Governor's Mansions, and also control 68 of 98 state legislative chambers. In no less than 23 states, including North Carolina, the GOP controls the Governor's Mansion and both chambers of the state legislature. Much of that electoral success stems directly from voter antipathy to President Obama's overreach, beginning with Obamacare in 2009 and culminating with the Iran nuclear agreement last year. Thus it would seem that any suggestion that the GOP is on life support is either wishful thinking by an overly zealous Democrat or simply inaccurate. Neither is the case.
The war to win the GOP presidential nomination – and it is a war – is one that no one would have predicted a year ago. Certainly it was obvious that there would be multiple combatants. It was just as clear that most would be very conservative such as Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio and some would be mainstream moderates such as Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. While the outcome was opaque, the battle lines seemed clear, only because nobody gave so much as a passing thought to Donald Trump. More importantly, the GOP power brokers paid no mind to what fuels Trump's tank – grassroots Republican fury directed at them for being the marionettes of K Street and Wall Street.
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And, thus, a field of 17 GOP presidential hopefuls is now down to three, Trump, Cruz, and Kasich. And here's the bizarre twist. It's clear that the GOP nominee will be either Trump or Cruz, both of whom are losers to Hillary Clinton in November based on the Real Clear Politics average of polls by 11 percent and 3 percent respectively. On the other hand Kasich, who has virtually no shot at the nomination, defeats Clinton by 7 percent in the RCP polling. There you have the GOP Death Wish.
Now it is not uncommon or particularly significant for either party to nominate a weak candidate when it knows a loss looms in November.
But this year the GOP should win handily. Obama has been the most polarizing president in the nation's history. His approval numbers have been in the tank for most of the past two years. Two-thirds of the nation believes the country is on the wrong track. Hillary Clinton is distrusted by a majority of voters, including many Democrats. Furthermore, in order to assure herself of overwhelming support among African-Americans and Hispanics, she is forced to embrace Obama and his policies. It's a losing calculus.
However, the GOP, dominated mainly by angry whites and evangelical zealots, is going to elect her as it commits suicide. Disregarding the adage that when you're in a hole stop digging, the GOP has dug one big enough to bury an elephant.
LeRoy Goldman worked on Capitol Hill and at the National Institutes of Health. He has retired to Flat Rock and can be reached at email@example.com.