The Republican Party appears to be headed for its third consecutive loss in a presidential election and the sixth time in the last seven presidential elections that it will lose the popular vote. If Trump ends up as the nominee (still the most likely outcome at this point), the GOP seems doomed to lose by a wide margin thanks to defections, depressed turnout, and the nominee’s unprecedented unfavorability rating. If Trump is blocked by his opponents, the substitute Republican nominee can expect to lose a large number of Trump’s supporters in the fall, and he will probably be damaged enough by the process of obtaining the nomination that he’ll be in bad shape for a general election. The Republican vote will be seriously split either way even if there is no independent anti-Trump candidate in the race, and Clinton will likely win in a landslide.
While the circumstances leading to this outcome are unusual, it would reinforce the impression that the GOP is no longer able to cobble together a winning coalition in presidential years. If that happens, it will be all the more remarkable because the Democrats have already controlled the White House for two terms. It is rare for either party in the postwar era to retain control of the presidency for more than eight years. That wasn’t the case in earlier periods of American history, but since 1952 the out-party has usually taken over after a two-term presidency. If the GOP loses this year, this will be only the second time in more than half a century that the out-party hasn’t done this. It is a measure of how much damage the Bush administration did to the GOP and how irrelevant or objectionable the Republican agenda has become to most voters that the party finds itself in this position.
The GOP has only just started to reckon with the harm that the Bush-era GOP inflicted on the country and the party, and it will likely take it many more years before it understands the need to jettison many of the policies from the Bush years. Until it does that, it is unlikely to win back the public’s trust or the White House.