Pollster Rasmussen on State of the GOP
Many Republicans had expressed concern about the growth of government spending throughout the Bush years. Then there was the immigration issue. On that topic, the Bush team championed a bill that was even less popular than the bailouts. Eventually, despite strong bipartisan support in Congress, the Senate surrendered to public opinion and failed to pass the Bush-backed reform. Beltway Republicans just didn’t recognize the large gap between Mainstream American and the Political Class on this issue and assumed that those angry about it are angry at the immigrants. In fact, data shows that the anger is directed primarily at the federal government…
By the end of Bush’s second term, the war in Iraq had dragged down the GOP, and Beltway Republicans became identified as the party of big business. That’s not a good place to be when 70% of Americans view big business and big government on the same team working against the interests of consumers and investors.
The gap between Beltway Republicans and the Republican base is part of a wider gap between the Mainstream and the Political Class. On many issues, the gap between Mainstream Americans and the Political Class is bigger than the gap between Mainstream Republicans and Mainstream Democrats.
But Political Class Democrats control Congress and the White House while their GOP counterparts have little in the way of power and influence to overcome the disconnect with their base….Look for the Republican Party to sink further into irrelevancy as long as its key players insist on hanging around Congress or K Street for their ideas. The future for the GOP is beyond the Beltway.
Arlen Specter’s party switch confirms the impression that many average Republicans have of inside-the-beltway-GOPers. Specter liked being a Republican because he could win as one and wield power. Now, he can’t wield the power (in the minority) and he may not even make it out of his own GOP primary. So he’s switching purely for self-preservation* because he had fallen out of touch with his party. He wouldn’t be the first moderate to tack in a different direction based on some
poll soul searching.
UPDATE: Surprise….former Sen. Chafee offers his two cents:
“The party is not changing, they are not learning from all of this. We’ve seen a huge wipeout in the Senate,” Chafee said. “You’d think they’d want to change direction as they slip deeper and deeper into the minority and that’s just not happening. They went after Arlen Specter in a blue state primary and look what happened, he just walked across the aisle.”
Of course, the convenient mis-remembering here is that the National party didn’t “go after” Senator Chafee, the Senate re-election committee stood by him, choosing pragmatism over ideological purity. It still wasn’t enough for Chafee to defeat up-and-coming Democratic superstar Sheldon Whitehouse (ahem). The former Senator still has a knack for putting the blame for the short-circuiting of his political birthright on everyone except for the guy in the mirror.
*NOTE: Pennsylvania is a closed primary state, unlike Rhode Island. So when polls of Republicans in Penn. showed Specter way behind, the structure of Penn. primaries simply don’t allow for the groundswell of independent (or Democratic) voters that saved Chafee versus Laffey in the 2008 RI GOP Senate primary. If RI was a closed primary state, it’s a good bet Sen. Chafee would have found the Democratic party more comfortable, too.