By BRYAN GRAY
The opinions stated in this column are solely those of the author and not of the Davis Clipper.
Last week’s column regarding America’s resiliency and dismissing “doom and gloom” brought the following comment from a reader: The news from both major political parties appears gloomy and unsettled. What are the chances that the Republicans can get their act together and actually win a national election?
His question comes at a time when political pundits are asking the same thing, with much of the analysis centered on the diverse popularity of New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican landslide winner in a Democratic state.
Such speculation may seem early since the presidential election is three years away. But both parties face challenges that have no quick fix.
Democrats need to keep the 2012 voters; without Pres. Obama on the ticket, the black vote might not be as enthusiastic, and the Obamacare roll-out is hardly a draw. Republicans face a different problem. Their approval rating is even lower than Democrats, and the voters they’ve lost (minorities, educated whites, females, urban residents) is a growing segment of the voting bloc. In the year since Mitt Romney lost the election, the GOP has done little to make itself more palatable to these voters.
One conservative writer bluntly wrote last week that the GOP will never win a national election until it aligns itself with more moderates like Gen. Colin Powell. Similar statements have come from former Sen. Bob Bennett. Yet these pleas are contradicted by Tea Party followers like Sen. Mike Lee who believe in principles rather than pragmatic compromise.
Ronald Reagan’s “Big Tent” has been down-sized by the ultra-conservatives who demand a pound of flesh from any candidate who doesn’t back their every whim. Yet a wide swath of U.S. voters oppose the Tea Party planks. The American public is more sympathetic to undocumented families, gay marriage, tax hikes for the wealthy, and scientific support for global warming. Americans want solutions, not anger.
As Romney found out, it is difficult to win when what you are saying is not in line with what people want. Sure, Americans are eager for blunt talk and reduced government, but senior citizens don’t want to hear about cuts to Social Security, the middle class doesn’t feel too cuddly about protecting capital gains for millionaire investors, and eliminating abortion is not the prime issue on a voter’s mind.
Americans also like candidates with personality. Bill Clinton certainly had it and so did Ronald Reagan. Mitt Romney didn’t. Voters want a leader, not a CEO in a white shirt and tie. Neither do Americans want an extremist; Sen. Ted Cruz may play well among the cowboys, but not in large population states with urban centers.
A guy like Gov. Chris Christie could win. In his recent gubernatorial race he won a majority of Latinos and women and even drew a third of voters claiming to be liberals. Whereas Mitt Romney made jokes about obese people, Christie had lap-band surgery to slim down. His bluster and jokes and an “open bar” bring smiles from blue collar voters.
Against Hillary Clinton, Christie is probably the best shot the Republicans have of winning the presidency. I just don’t think the GOP conservatives are smart enough to make him their candidate.