David Byler came out with an interesting piece this week talking about the differences between Republicans elected in 2012 and 2014, “Obama Republicans,” and the rest of the Caucus. Note this analysis lumps many of the “Obama Republicans” elected in 2010 into the much larger category of ‘Non-Obama Republicans.”
Of note in his findings are that “Obama Republicans” are much less likely to fight over social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Further, a solid majority do not even state a position on gun control. Many do not even mention climate change and only half oppose amnesty. But, when it comes to taxes and Obamacare, these Republicans are unified with the rest of their Caucus.
This brings up an interesting question about the Congressional GOP. Will they moderate? The typical analysis after 2014 was the GOP House would be even more conservative but this analysis missed the mark. First, of the 15 seats the GOP gained this cycle, a majority voted for Obama in 2012. Thus, these blue district Republicans of 2014 have an incentive to see government work and achieve some measure of policy success.
Second, recent events have suggested the Congressional GOP may be aiming to shift to the middle even if it costs them grassroots support. Since 2012, Republicans have increasingly trumpeted tax reform even if it means popular tax breaks to conservatives are taken away and labelled “tax hikes.” Most recently, a group of GOP women in the House scuttled a bill by leadership to ban abortion at five months (though their reasons appear shallow at first glance).
The moderation trend of the GOP is even more noticeable in the Senate. Unlike the House GOP, Senate Republican gains in 2014 (enough to take back the chamber) came almost exclusively from deeply red states. Only Iowa and Colorado were the exceptions. But the Republicans elected to the Senate were not firebrands. Sure, they are conservative, but unlike those elected in 2010 (Rubio, Paul, Lee) they did not campaign essentially on “no.” They campaigned on good governance. Not that this will make them anymore popular to the left.
Taking these events into account it is not surprising the Congressional GOP is moving to the center. The ironic variable in all this is that Obama campaigned on being the centrist and lambasting the GOP as being controlled by the “far right.” Now, at a time when the GOP is moving to the center Obama is the one advocating “far Left” policies such as higher taxes on the wealthy, paid maternity leave and a higher minimum wage. Not even a more centrist GOP would go for that agenda.
Now, the Congressional GOP could simply be trying to improve the party image before 2016. Most of the GOP’s moderate agenda such as allowing Keystone and implementing tax reform will not occur without a GOP President in the White House. It is easy to argue the GOP’s nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney, suffered because the party brand was so low.
So, maybe “Obama Republicans” will play an important part in reshaping the GOP’s image. And just maybe, that will be their beneficial legacy to the party.