I have heard in the past that Barack Obama, arguably the most partisan President this country has ever elected, benefited significantly from a weakened GOP bereft of a strong bench for 2008 and 2012. I agree. But also buried in this analysis is the inference, again correct in my mind, that the GOP has lacked a strong fighter in/for the White House since Reagan in the 1980’s. Certainly HW and Dole did not fight hard against Clinton and GW Bush short of the swiftboating of John Kerry let his opponents get away with plenty of underhanded actions. As for McCain and Romney, well let’s just say they would not win at a gentlemen’s debate club (against each other).
All this brings up the question of whether the GOP should shift course for 2016 and nominate a fighter? By all accounts the party’s base and its possible Presidential nominees are sending a resounding yes. Many of these potential nominees came of age duringBill Clinton’s tenure and either entered or recently entered politics soon after Bush. I do not have to think far back to liberals blaming everything on Bush and wishing him harm. This likely has helped shape their view of politics.
Indeed, the openly brash style of Ted Cruz and Chris Christie are reminiscent of conservatives like Reagan who would not back down from a fight. Others, like Midwestern Governors John Kasich and Scott Walker, reflect their more moderate Midwestern personalities while not backing down on conservative ideals. For example, in Wisconsin Walker endured a fierce recall fight and in Ohio Kasich faced down his own party on expanding Medicaid. Meanwhile, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio in the Senate have staged their own battles that showcased their mettle.
The GOP’s nomination of a fighter may be crucial in 2016 considering they are likely to face one of the most partisan and dirty candidates in history, Hillary Clinton. Clinton is unlikely to pull punches during the campaign and the GOP needs a candidate who can respond in kind. When McCain and Romney were attacked by Obama their responses were pitiful to downright nonexistent.
Now certainly the ability of a candidate to fight back is not the only part of a campaign. But Republicans since the 80’s have been painted as the party of extremists, largely because they lack candidates who have the backbone to fight back. I can just not imagine Hillary unloading an attack on Christie or Cruz, heck even more mild-mannered candidates, and them responding in the weak ways Romney or McCain did. Rather, I would expect them to fight back, each in their own way.
The eventual nominee might be aided in this endeavor by the fact that a weak economy and continuous worries over Obamacare carry over into 2016. If so, the GOP nominee might be more grounded in attack Democrats and Hillary. Considering this is the Clinton machine that will be gearing up to take down the GOP nominee being able to stand up to the kind of attacks leveled will be even more crucial. Wilt under these attacks and allow oneself to be put in the traps of being anti-women, against the poor and in the pockets of big business and the campaign might evolve as 2008 and 2012 did.
Fortunately, Republicans have a bevy of top talent that seems up to the task and boasts resumes able to appeal to both Independents and their base. Indeed, all the GOP politicians mentioned above won Independents and 90% of their base in their most recent elections. Whether this goodwill carries onto the national stage is an open question but it does show they have the kahones to stand up to the dirty campaign tactics of the Democratic machine (aided by the media).
Consider the likes of Rubio and Paul and what they had to endure. Rubio was labelled a tax-dodger by former Republican Governor turned Independent candidate for Senate and now Democratic candidate for Governor Charlie Crist. Paul was labelled by his Democratic opponent as being pro-meth and having cultish religious beliefs. Kasich in Ohio was labelled a panhandler for banks, Walker has endured recalls and social fights labeling him more things than I can name. Christie, even if he had a hand in BridgeGate, is currently enduring a witch-hunt.
With the GOP base ready for a fighter, a crop of candidates showing the goods and a public dissatisfied with DC it only makes sense for the party to nominate one for the White House in 2016. In doing so the GOP might move one step closer to ending the Clinton political machine and retaking the White House.