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Rubio and the Politics of Immigration (IV)

David Freedlander’s analysis [1] of Rubio and immigration gets something very wrong:

Rubio is widely considered to be among the party’s top-tier contenders in 2016, but this wasn’t necessarily a fight he needed to be involved in. Not only does the effort contain the chance of angering hardcore primary voters, but Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles, would be able to get Hispanic voters and those pushing for a more moderating voice on immigration within the party merely by his presence [bold mine-DL].

This last part is untrue, but this sort of thinking helps explain why Rubio is doing what he’s doing right now and why so many Republican and movement conservative leaders are indulging him. There is a widely-shared assumption among many leading Republicans that supporting immigration liberalization will improve their political fortunes with Hispanic voters. There is also a common assumption shared by many of the same people that putting a Rubio or a Cruz on the national ticket would do the same thing. The first is based on a misunderstanding of why most Hispanic voters vote for Democratic candidates, and the second is informed by an even more superficial understanding of how to appeal to Hispanic voters.

According to this flawed thinking, if Rubio promotes immigration liberalization the benefits to the GOP will be even greater than either one of these alone. The small problem is that neither of those assumptions has any grounding in reality. The GOP would hasten its long-term demise by backing a Bush-era immigration proposal, and putting a relatively conservative Cuban-American on its presidential ticket isn’t going to do them any good in the short term. But many leading Republicans don’t understand either of these things, so they are content to let Rubio take the lead on the issue in the vain hope that this will help them recover in the coming elections.

The other aspect of this subject that deserves a little more discussion is the intra-party politics of immigration. Freedlander quotes Mark Krikorian, who thinks that Rubio has doomed any future presidential hopes he may have. Krikorian says:

Rubio has tried to neutralize [the anger on the right] because of the credibility he has with Tea Party folks, but once real measures are put down in black and white you are going to see the bloggers and talk-show hosts on the right become less and less polite. Rubio’s stock among conservatives is going to start going down over the next six months, and I think he has pretty much doomed his chances for 2016.

I think this is half-right. Rank-and-file conservatives have not significantly changed their views on immigration and immigration policy in the last five years. Most are just as strongly opposed to Bush-era amnesty now as they were then, and some may be even more strongly opposed now than before. Conservative opposition to immigration legislation will not be significantly less than it was last time. It’s very likely that Rubio will not have the support of “very conservative” voters in the future if he chooses to run for president, and that becomes even more likely if an immigration bill passes with Rubio’s support. If no bill passes, or Rubio ends up as an opponent of the final product, the picture gets more complicated.

That said, conservative opposition to amnesty doesn’t automatically mean that Rubio can’t become the nominee. His support for it is one of the reasons why he shouldn’t be the nominee, but that’s a different question. However, as both George W. Bush and John McCain showed, it is still possible to be a well-known advocate of amnesty and win the nomination anyway. That’s another reason why Rubio taking less of a political risk than it seems. His natural base of support in the Republican primary electorate doesn’t include Tea Party activists and “very conservative” voters, but it does include the same people that made Romney and McCain presidential nominees.

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34 Comments To "Rubio and the Politics of Immigration (IV)"

#1 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On January 30, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

Having a name ending with a vowel won’t do a candidate much good.

“Hispanic” is a cover term for some very different people–Puerto Ricans, who are citizens; Cubans, who get refugee status if they touch dry land; old-line New Mexicans; Dominicans; Mexicans of various generations; Salvadorians, etc..

They aren’t all the same by any means, not even linguistically. Moreover, immigration is not the signature issue for most, as long as they don’t feel disrespected.

Somehow the MSM convinced some republican bigs that a swivel on immigration would solve their demographic political problem. Not hardly.

#2 Comment By M_Young On January 30, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

“Having a name ending with a vowel won’t do a candidate much good.”

A plurality of Hispanic names end in ‘z’, as in Gonzalez or Cartmanez.

#3 Comment By SDS On January 30, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

Has the Republican party fallen so much that Rubio is the main focus of 2016…(?!?!?!)

I trust he will be a quick anomaly and SOMEONE of some gravitas/seriousness/legitimacy will emerge and we as a nation can have an adult debate/discussion/call it what you will…
IS that too much to ask??

Maybe so….

#4 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On January 30, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

@M Young: Point taken, but the argument is the same. Amend it to “having a name ending in a vowel or “-ez” won’t do a candidate much good.

#5 Comment By Noah172 On January 30, 2013 @ 8:24 pm

Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles, would be able to get Hispanic voters and those pushing for a more moderating voice on immigration within the party merely by his presence

According to a recent (January 11-13) poll by Public Policy Polling of 500 Florida voters:

— Rubio’s overall job approval/disapproval split in Florida is 49/36
— Among the state’s Hispanics — i.e., the Hispanics who know Rubio best, and nearly half of whom are Cubano — the numbers are noticeably worse, 45/43
*(note: this poll shows Rubio’s approval among Florida blacks to be unusually high for a Republican, so it might be overstating Rubio’s popularity in his own state)
— Among all Florida residents, the split between those saying that he should/should not run for president is 38/49
— Among Florida Hispanics, that figure is 38/52, even more unfavorable to a presidential campaign

According to the 2010 Senate exit poll, Rubio got 55% of the Hispanic vote. This compares with 60% for Mel Martinez, also Cubano, who won that Senate seat in its previous election in 2004 — and Martinez did not have nearly as much slobbering right-wing media adulation for his campaign as Rubio had for his (and still does). Rubio also had the advantage of divided opposition consisting of a guy who was a Republican until a few months before the election — one who had garnered only 49% of the Hispanic vote (70% of Cubans, only 33% of non-Cubans) in the 2006 vote for governor — and a little-known black Democrat who was abandoned by most of his party’s establishment. Even with all of that, Rubio did a little worse among “his people” than Martinez and only a little better than Crist in 2006.

Does Rubio appeal to non-Cubano mestizos in his own state, let alone in the other 49 — at least any more than any generic Republican? Doubt it.

The Republicans are, as usual, the Stupid Party.

#6 Comment By Skipjack On January 31, 2013 @ 8:53 am

I have to confess an intellectual limit here. I’m just about positive I’ve heard the conservative argument against amnesty, but I either chucked it into the “That’s racist” bin in my head or I didn’t comprehend it enough to retain it.

What are the objections to giving a pathway to citizenship like the ones under discussion? Assuming it ultimately includes fines, registration, taxation, and being put in the back of the queue. Law and order seems the least reasonable response to me at the moment, are there other reasons?

#7 Comment By Uncle Vanya On January 31, 2013 @ 9:15 am

Having listened to Rubio, I am singularly unimpressed.

Here’s some advice to the republicans: Get some new advisers. The same ones telling you that you need to support immigration “reform” are the same ones who said how good free trade would be for the country, how easy Iraq and Afghanistan would be, that deficits didn’t matter and that if the GOP passed medicare part D, the GOP would have the senior voters in their pocket for at least a generation. Guess what? They were wrong on all those issues, and they’re all wrong on this one.

Insanity is said to be doing the same thing again and again and again and expecting a different result each time. Here’s a riff on that: Insanity is following the advice of people who’ve been wrong again and again and again and expecting that, this time, they’re sure to be right.

#8 Comment By MikeCLT On January 31, 2013 @ 11:16 am

“His natural base of support in the Republican primary electorate doesn’t include Tea Party activists and “very conservative” voters, but it does include the same people that made Romney and McCain presidential nominees. ”

One quibble: I believe the Tea Party did form Rubio’s base when he challenged Crist for the nomination.

#9 Comment By Just Dropping By On January 31, 2013 @ 11:24 am

Living in Colorado, I understand the distinction (and even antagonism) between people of Cuban ancestry and other Hispanic nationalities. However, while I’m not a fan of Rubio, I just can’t believe that having a Hispanic, Spanish-speaking (albeit with a Cuban accent) presidential candidate would not boost the GOP’s share of the Hispanic vote by at least 5% to 10%. Whether that gain would be offset by decreases in other demographics, I can’t say, but I certainly think that (a) the GOP needs a strategy to improve its performance with Hispanic voters (who will make up a larger share of the electorate in 2016 regardless of what happens with immigration/naturalization proposals) and (b) it’s not capable of organically developing that capacity on a party-wide basis in the next four years so it needs to go with a stopgap icon to try to do something.

#10 Comment By IanH On January 31, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

“I just can’t believe that having a Hispanic, Spanish-speaking (albeit with a Cuban accent) presidential candidate would not boost the GOP’s share of the Hispanic vote by at least 5% to 10%”

Start believing it.

#11 Comment By Pincher Martin On January 31, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

skipjack,

“What are the objections to giving a pathway to citizenship like the ones under discussion? Assuming it ultimately includes fines, registration, taxation, and being put in the back of the queue. Law and order seems the least reasonable response to me at the moment, are there other reasons?”

Yes, the objections range from it further widening income inequality in the U.S. to the additional stress it puts on social welfare programs to more mundane political concerns – i.e., no conservative should agree to effectively import more liberal Democratic voters who want to expand government.

#12 Comment By Pincher Martin On January 31, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

Just Dropping By,

“However, while I’m not a fan of Rubio, I just can’t believe that having a Hispanic, Spanish-speaking (albeit with a Cuban accent) presidential candidate would not boost the GOP’s share of the Hispanic vote by at least 5% to 10%.”

If you live in Colorado, then you should know that boosting the GOP share by 5 to 10 percent is not enough to win the election in the state. Do the math. Romney took 23 percent of the state’s Hispanic vote in 2012. Bush won 30 percent in 2004.

But Romney still loses Colorado in 2012 even if he takes Bush’s 2004 share of the Hispanic vote. That’s because the growing percentage of Hispanic voters has made it necessary for Republican candidates to win a larger percentage of them (or offset them somewhere else). Hispanics were only 8 percent of the state vote in 2004; they were 14 percent in 2012.

That’s the problem with the so-called immigration solution for Republicans. It’s mathematically illiterate. It increases the base of Democratic voters in exchange for a marginal increase in the minority Republican share of the vote that will in all likelihood be swamped by the additional numbers of Hispanic voters going to the polls.

#13 Comment By Pincher Martin On January 31, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

Ian H,

Start believing it.

Why? Senator Ted Cruz couldn’t even beat Romney’s share of the vote in Texas.

There were no exit polls in Texas this year, but since Texas has a very large share of Hispanic voters, that suggests Cruz either didn’t win a large minority share of the Hispanic vote (since we can be pretty sure Romney didn’t) or large numbers of Texas whites voted against him (which is doubtful).

We do have exit polls for the state of Nevada in 2010 when Mexican-American Brian Sandoval won the governor’s race. His share of the Hispanic vote? [2] That was barely above Sharron Angle’s [3]

In other words, the Mexican-American candidate won the governor’s race in Nevada that year and the Anglo-American candidate lost the senate race because the Mexican-American candidate won more of the white vote than the white candidate could.

There’s simply no evidence that having a Hispanic GOP candidate in the race is enough to cause significantly larger numbers of Hispanic candidates to vote against how they typically perceive their interests at the polls.

#14 Comment By IanH On January 31, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

I think there’s been some misunderstanding. Pincher Martin, I agree with you.

#15 Comment By Noah172 On January 31, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

Just Dropping By,

To add to Pincher Martin’s correct rebuttal of your comment about Hispanics in Colorado:

Romney got 54% of the 78% of Colorado voters who were white, and 23% of the 14% who were Hispanic. Romney could have carried Colorado: 1) with a 4-point increase in his share of whites (to 58), with no change among Hispanics; or 2) an 8-point increase among whites (to 62), and no Hispanics at all.

Romney got 59% of whites nationally (and this is with liberal big-city and coastal whites dragging down his average), so getting 58+ in a median-voter state like Colorado was not out of the question.

#16 Comment By Pincher Martin On January 31, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

My mistake, Ian.

#17 Comment By CharleyCarp On January 31, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

There were people who thought that Gov. Palin would attract significant numbers of Democratic women bitter about how the Obama/Clinton primary campaign went. I suppose there were people who thought Alan Keyes would do well enough among Chicago blacks to win the Senate race against Obama (or his 90s Senate races in Maryland). Time and again, this sort of identity politics fails, because voters are wary of exactly this sort of thing.

Especially with so many public expressions, winks, and nods that this is the game afoot.

A Republican party that makes significant progress with Hispanic voters will be one that has successfully and sincerely left behind those members of its coalition what actively claim that increased Hispanic populations are ruining America (or their parts of it). Just as a Republican party that makes significant progress with women will be one that has really gotten rid of the ‘rape guys’ and all who sympathize with them.

(Obviously, external events play a huge role too. In 2004, I worked an Albuquerque precinct for the Kerry campaign. I knew we were going to lose when we didn’t do as overwhelmingly well among Hispanic voters as we might have, but from talking with voters it was clear that war and security issues swamped other considerations, even the stupid paranoia from the Bush guy who was actually expecting to see busloads of illegals brought up from Mexico.)

#18 Comment By Pincher Martin On January 31, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

CharleyCarp,

“A Republican party that makes significant progress with Hispanic voters will be one that has successfully and sincerely left behind those members of its coalition what actively claim that increased Hispanic populations are ruining America (or their parts of it).”

The Republican Party will only make significant progress among Hispanic voters if it stops being the party of conservatives.

Most Hispanics vote Democratic because they want an activist government working on their behalf in health care, education, and social welfare programs. The Democrats provide that; the GOP does not. There is little evidence to suggest that large numbers of Hispanics don’t vote for Republicans because of some party members’ rhetoric about immigration.

With a few local exceptions (Cubans in Florida, for example), Hispanics have always voted for Democrats. In 1976, Carter beat Ford 82-18 among Hispanic voters. Mondale won them 66-34 in 1984. Clinton won 61 percent of the Hispanic vote in the three-way race in 1992. He won 73 percent in his reelection bid – which is higher than Obama won in his reelection bid last year (71 percent). Even the pathetic Dukakis won 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1992.

The range for the GOP share of the Hispanic vote swings from about 20 to 40 percent, depending upon the candidate and the circumstances. The best any Republican presidential candidate has done among Hispanic voters was in 2004, when Bush won 40 percent in his reelection bid (not the 44 percent you often hear about). That’s probably the top end any GOP candidate can do nationally, [4].

#19 Comment By Noah172 On January 31, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

CharleyCarp,

Pincher Martin refuted your claims about Hispanics, so I’ll smack down this:

Just as a Republican party that makes significant progress with women will be one that has really gotten rid of the ‘rape guys’ and all who sympathize with them.

This is ignorant. There is no “gender gap” among married women. There is a gap among never-married and divorced women — not because of rape but because women who don’t have husbands, especially if they have children, have much higher poverty rates and need government services more. Obama tapped into this government-as-hubby theme with his creepy ad campaign about “Jenny” or whatever her name was.

Also, yes, unmarried women tend to have more liberal views on sexual mores, which the Republicans will never be able to outbid the Democrats on (which would cost them the votes of their socially conservative base anyway).

BTW, in Missouri, home of Todd Akin, he of the infamous rape gaffe, Romney got 54% of men and 53% of women.

You don’t know what you’re talking about.

#20 Comment By CharleyCarp On January 31, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

Well, sure, a majority is out of sight. The question is whether the GOP can peel off a larger ‘naturally conservative’ segment than it is currently getting. If the answer is yes, it is only by being explicitly (no winks, nods, or tokens) welcoming.

#21 Comment By CharleyCarp On January 31, 2013 @ 4:41 pm

Noah, I think those remarks had a salience far beyond the Missouri Senate race.

#22 Comment By CharleyCarp On January 31, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

At the risk of parroting a bad sports cliche, if you want to win, you’re going to have to get more people to vote for you. You can try to get some of the people who voted for the other guy, or you can try to get some of the people who didn’t bother to vote at all. Or more likely some of both.

#23 Comment By Just Dropping By On January 31, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

@Pincher Martin, IanH, and Noah172: Congratulations on nitpicking my numbers, but it doesn’t refute the point that the GOP needs something to increase its share of Hispanic voters. The GOP is not going to score margins of Anglo voters that look like Alabama and Mississippi in Colorado in the next 4 to 8 years and even if they can get there in the next 12 years it won’t matter because by that point the Democrats will likely be winning Texas with Hispanic voters even if Republicans are getting 80%+ of the Anglo vote. A strategy that does not deal with the ironclad fact that the Anglo share of the electorate will be declining in most states for the next 20 years at absolute minimum (since even if all non-Anglos stopped conceiving babies today it would take nine months plus 18 more years for that to start affecting voter demographics) is doomed to fail.

#24 Comment By Pincher Martin On January 31, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

CharleyCarp,

“Well, sure, a majority is out of sight. The question is whether the GOP can peel off a larger ‘naturally conservative’ segment than it is currently getting. If the answer is yes, it is only by being explicitly (no winks, nods, or tokens) welcoming.”

That’s incorrect on all counts.

I’ve already told you that being welcoming on immigration has little if anything to do with how Republicans do among Hispanic voters. [5], for example, which is about [6] and is much [7].

And getting a slightly larger percentage of a growing Hispanic vote is no recipe for success at the polls.

Let me illustrate this. Assume all else is equal over the course of three presidential elections. In election #1, the GOP candidate wins 30% of 10 million Hispanic votes. The Democrat gets the rest. In election #2, the GOP candidate wins 35% of 15 million votes. In election #3, the GOP candidate wins 40% of 20 million Hispanic votes.

A superficial glance at the numbers suggests the GOP is improving its position. But that’s misleading. The GOP is still as far behind in the raw vote aggregate among Hispanics (4 million votes in the red) as it was when it began. So it had to increase its share of the Hispanic vote by one-third just to stay even at the polls. If it had won only 35 percent in election #3, it would have been two million raw votes behind where it began in election #1.

If the GOP political elite was smart – and it clearly isn’t – it would do everything in its power to stem the growing number of Hispanics at the polls. That’s because they are more than likely going to support Democratic politicians and policies, and they are mostly displacing natural conservative constituencies.

#25 Comment By Noah172 On January 31, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

CharleyCarp,

I forgot to add in my previous comment:

In your own state of Colorado, according to the exit poll, Romney did in fact perform better with women: 48% versus 41 for McCain, a nice boost. Romney, alas for him, did worse with men: 46% versus 50 for McCain. Women in Colorado ended up slightly more Republican than men (Obama +3 among women, +5 among men).

Kinda explodes SWPL/Daily Show/Kos/Maddow prejudices, don’t it?

x2, you do not know what you are talking about.

#26 Comment By Noah172 On January 31, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

***correction to my 9:29 comment***

CharleyCarp is from New Mexico, Just Dropping By is from Colorado.

The exit poll data for New Mexico show that Romney got 54% of married men, 49 of married women, and 32 each for unmarried men and unmarried women. Marriage is what really matters, not sex per se.

#27 Comment By Pincher Martin On January 31, 2013 @ 10:15 pm

Just Dropping By,

“@Pincher Martin, IanH, and Noah172: Congratulations on nitpicking my numbers, but it doesn’t refute the point that the GOP needs something to increase its share of Hispanic voters. “

This ain’t horseshoes. If you insist on using numbers, then use them accurately. Or expect to be corrected.

“The GOP is not going to score margins of Anglo voters that look like Alabama and Mississippi in Colorado in the next 4 to 8 years and even if they can get there in the next 12 years it won’t matter because by that point the Democrats will likely be winning Texas with Hispanic voters even if Republicans are getting 80%+ of the Anglo vote.”

You keep making snap judgments you aren’t well informed enough to make.

Romney cleared more than 85 percent of the white in both Alabama and Mississippi. Clearly, no one thinks Romney needed anywhere near that high of a percentage in states like Colorado in order to win them.

If the GOP can clear 60 to 65 percent of white vote, nationally, then it should expect to win most presidential elections for the foreseeable future – even if it does not improve at all among its typical 30+ percent showing among Hispanics.

Is this doable? Yes. Reagan won 66 percent of the white vote in 1984. Nixon won a similarly high percentage in 1972. And as long as the GOP stands strong in controlling immigration, they will not need to improve beyond the mid-60s for the foreseeable future.

#28 Comment By Noah172 On January 31, 2013 @ 10:30 pm

CharleyCarp wrote:

if you want to win, you’re going to have to get more people to vote for you. You can try to get some of the people who voted for the other guy, or you can try to get some of the people who didn’t bother to vote at all. Or more likely some of both.

Obama got 39 percent of whites — 28 percent of the total electorate, triple the entire Hispanic vote for all candidates. Millions of other whites, particularly economically downscale whites, did not vote. Both of these groups are more promising sources of GOP votes than Hispanics, provided Republicans move in a more economically populist direction, can the foreign policy hawkishness, and push for restricted immigration.

Just Dropping By wrote:

The GOP is not going to score margins of Anglo voters that look like Alabama and Mississippi in Colorado in the next 4 to 8 years

The GOP doesn’t need Deep South levels of white support in Colorado. It just needs to improve its showing with whites about 5 points — IOW, bring its showing with Colorado whites in line with its national average.

#29 Comment By Sharculese On January 31, 2013 @ 11:11 pm

Kinda explodes SWPL/Daily Show/Kos/Maddow prejudices, don’t it?

How?

#30 Comment By Pincher Martin On January 31, 2013 @ 11:27 pm

I couldn’t agree more with Noah172’s analysis.

The GOP has a better chance to win back large numbers of disaffected whites in important swing states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin than it does to win enough Hispanics to make a difference in most states with increasingly large Hispanic populations.

It can do this by 1) highlighting more nationalist economic policies that are good for the heartland, 2) dropping the über hawkishness on foreign policy, and 3) reducing immigration levels to sane levels.

A lot of people forget that in 1980 Reagan won states like Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Michigan by larger percentages than he did states like South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi.

#31 Comment By Jesse Ewiak On January 31, 2013 @ 11:50 pm

The problem is that in states like Colorado, Nevada, and such, the culturally conservative downscale white voters that could drive the white percentage of the vote up for socially conservative Republican’s in the South and some states like Ohio and Pennsylvania don’t exist in such numbers in Colorado, Nevada, and so forth. They’ve all been replaced in society by Hispanic’s. 🙂

#32 Comment By JD Salyer On February 1, 2013 @ 9:09 am

According to the GOP leadership the point is not to succeed with your vision, but to adopt whatever vision can get you elected. In other words, they have the political philosophy of a prostitute.

But that’s too generous a way of thinking of amnesty, which is with regards to the conservative establishment the policy of a spectacularly *stupid* prostitute.

Betraying those who’ve supported you, in exchange for nothing — what a great idea.

#33 Comment By Uncle Vanya On February 1, 2013 @ 10:17 am

According to the GOP leadership the point is not to succeed with your vision, but to adopt whatever vision can get you elected. In other words, they have the political philosophy of a prostitute.

Adopting a prostitute’s attitude would be a step up for the current republican party: They might then feel they owed their base some satisfaction in exchange for their continued support.

If the GOP must become democrat-lite to win elections, then there is no longer any good reason to continue to exist. I cannot support and can see no good reason to support a party that continues to exist primarily to advance the careers of Lindsay Graham, John McCain, Eric Cantor and others who want a career in politics but not under the democrat party banner.

#34 Comment By Barry On February 5, 2013 @ 10:56 am

Pincher Martin: “Is this doable? Yes. Reagan won 66 percent of the white vote in 1984. Nixon won a similarly high percentage in 1972. And as long as the GOP stands strong in controlling immigration, they will not need to improve beyond the mid-60s for the foreseeable future.”

In other words, the GOP has not won that level of the white vote for just under 30 years.

“The GOP has a better chance to win back large numbers of disaffected whites in important swing states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin than it does to win enough Hispanics to make a difference in most states with increasingly large Hispanic populations.

It can do this by 1) highlighting more nationalist economic policies that are good for the heartland, 2) dropping the über hawkishness on foreign policy, and 3) reducing immigration levels to sane levels.”

(1) is a non-starter; the GOP’s economic goal is to make the 1% fatter. (2) is a non-starter; the number of politicians/officials in the GOP who are not uber hawks has been declining. (3) would p*ss off the business wing.