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How the GOP Ended Up with Too Many 2016 Candidates

Michael Brendan Dougherty looks back [1] at the Republican candidates from the last two cycles and sees nothing but wreckage:

Just think of how many Republican governors have gone to the political graveyard in the last five years, simply because the field was too crowded or they ran into an ugly matchup. Arguably the two figures who had the most success implementing Republican policy ideas, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry, have likely torched any ambitions they have for high federal office. One branding problem or a bad debate becomes unfixable. Jeb Bush, a moderately successful governor, was able to soak up a ton of intellectual and financial resources in his run, but newcomer Trump became his political kryptonite. Tim Pawlenty and Scott Walker tried to run as frontrunners early in their successive cycles, only to discover that with so many candidates vying for donors, they could not keep up momentum.

I agree that there were too many Republican candidates running for president this year. One reason this happened is that Republican pundits and activists keep lowering the standards for acceptable presidential candidates, and another is that the same people consistently exaggerate and oversell the abilities and qualifications of the party’s latest group of new political leaders. In the 2016 cycle, they treated practically every current or former two-term governor as a credible presidential candidate, and the would-be candidates’ lack of preparation on foreign policy (among other things) was never counted against any of them. When almost any officeholder is taken seriously as a potential nominee, there are bound to be too many contestants.

It’s true that Pawlenty and Walker both acted like top-tier candidates and created expensive, unsustainable campaign organizations as a result, but neither of them should have been elevated to that top-tier status in the first place. Movement conservatives have an odd habit of trying to promote new political talent too quickly and they usually overrate the politicians that they happen to like. That encourages many people that would never have tried running for president in a previous era to enter the race.

The size of the field certainly made it harder for some of the more obscure and first-time candidates, but we shouldn’t forget the candidates’ own significant weaknesses when accounting for their failure. Perry never got any traction in his second campaign, but supposing that he had it is unlikely that he would have fared any better than the other pro-immigration candidates that stayed in longer. The 2016 campaign marked the formal end of many Republican political careers, but in many cases those careers were otherwise already finished. Did Jindal do so poorly because the field was too large or because he had presided over a fiscal disaster in his home state? Rubio wasn’t ready to be president, and it showed during a campaign he should never have run. No one was forcing Rubio to run this year, but he was already tired of being in the Senate and seemed to buy into the media hype about his prospects. His national political career is very likely over now, and in the end he has no one but himself to blame for that.

Another factor that often gets overlooked in all this is the influence of the conservative media in creating an imaginary political landscape in which Obama is perceived as a deeply unpopular failure. We saw how that affected Republicans in the 2012 cycle, when almost everyone in the party was so confident that Obama would lose. Almost all of the 2016 candidates have been working on the same assumption that the electorate is eager to repudiate Obama. That must have made the Republican nomination seem that much more attractive to a larger number of politicians and others. I assume that this also explains why so many Republican voters are getting behind Trump and Cruz, neither of whom appears to have a prayer of winning the general election under current conditions. The same overconfidence in a Republican victory that encouraged so many candidates to enter the race has also led most Republican voters to back the candidates that are among the most likely to lose the election.

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44 Comments To "How the GOP Ended Up with Too Many 2016 Candidates"

#1 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 14, 2016 @ 1:29 pm

uhhhh, Maybe they just espoused policies that were generally distasteful.

Two issues:

immigration and the economy

embracing any advance that did not smell of some benefit to the US was going slip you behind anyone who’s advances filled that bill.

And both of those encompassed issues regarding

Iraq, Iran, Libya, China, Russia as well as our Southern border.

And it is going to continue to matter throughout the year. And I think it’s clear, had it not been for the support of substantial dollars many of them wouldn’t have lasted as long as they did. Minus the games played by the media of the debate roulette, those candidates you reference wouldn’t have been in the game at all.

Each promised upon airing their case fell short on those two issues. And those issues are very big and remain so.

With a larger audience if citizens who not only don’t know the beltway game on policy, especially the nuance of foreign policy — they care not much — what they see are the results. And they are abysmal.

If your remedy was more of the same, given the audience — you would not last

Further, had M. Dougherty and others not spent so much time designing ways to stop one man, the pool would have dwindled normally as opposed to the faux propped field that existed.

#2 Comment By Matt B On April 14, 2016 @ 1:37 pm

“One reason this happened is that Republican pundits and activists keep lowering the standards for acceptable presidential candidates, and another is that the same people consistently exaggerate and oversell the abilities and qualifications of the party’s latest group of new political leaders. […] Another factor that often gets overlooked in all this is the influence of the conservative media in creating an imaginary political landscape in which Obama is perceived as a deeply unpopular failure. ”

So this DL! It amazes me to hear the number of pundits who, at the height of the field’s size, proudly proclaimed that every one — from Carson to Trump to Bush — was far more qualified to be president than Obama and would be a far better president than he.

I understand the pull of party, but still, no. Just no.

#3 Comment By Mr. Libertarian On April 14, 2016 @ 1:46 pm

You had on everything except for that last point: If that was the assumption of GOP voters why nominate Romney? Could it be that he in fact ran an inept campaign? Consider that, a swing of only 450,000 votes (less than 0.5%) in four states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia and New Hampshire) would’ve made Romney president.

Romney spent most of the campaign avoiding Bush, while Obama ran against Bush for the second time. But Romney never explained where Bush succeeded and where he failed, and what Romney would do differently. I think this was understandable. The real problem is that Bush severely divides conservatives, while the rest of country essentially despises the man. I know that in this last election, the majority of the undecided voters that I knew I had major hang-ups with Bush, and feared Romney would be a return to Bush. I suspect a few ended up voting for Obama. Even though conservatives criticize the ridiculous level to which Obama blames Bush for all of his failures, the fact remains that it works because not only Democrats, but a large chunk of the electorate at large, dislikes Bush.

I could say more on this but I’ll leave it there for now.

#4 Comment By R.S. Rogers On April 14, 2016 @ 2:07 pm

Movement conservatives have an odd habit of trying to promote new political talent too quickly and they usually overrate the politicians that they happen to like.

Maybe, but this is not backed by the evidence the author provides us. Pawlenty? The man had played a prominent role in state and national conservative politics for 19 years by the time he ran for president. He was six years into a by-conservative-standards successful term as governor of a state not normally friendly to hardcore movement conservatives like him. He had previously been majority leader of his state’s Senate for four years, and was among the most influential conservative legislators in the nation. Before entering elected politics himself, he had been a leading force behind one of the most successful and thorough movement-conservative takeovers of a state GOP outside the South in modern America. Anyone who thought Pawlenty was some upstart newbie in 2008 wasn’t paying attention.

Walker was (and still is) less accomplished in 2016 than Pawlenty in 2008. But he still had more experience in elected office and political campaigning than the majority of our past presidents. He was a poor candidate, sure, but we can’t actually know whether a candidate will perform well or badly on the national stump until he gives it a try. To assume that a man of Walker’s experience cannot expect to win the nomination or the presidency is to assert that the majority of the men who have actually served as president, did not do so.

As for reasons why the GOP has too many candidates, how about these two factors:

1) The breakdown in the traditional path from the Cabinet to the Oval Office. Used to be, serving as secretary of something or ambassador to an important capital was helpful to a politician’s national career. It’s been a long time since someone went directly from the cabinet or an embassy to the White House, but that sort of service used to be seen as a positive thing – as recently as 1980. Today, service in the cabinet ends a politician’s career. Nobody moves from the cabinet back into Congress or leadership in his state legislature, and the special case of Hillary Clinton aside, cabinet service seems lately to be a mark against a candidate for federal office.

2) The modern taboo against intraparty challenges to incumbent presidents. As we saw in 2004, party discipline is so strong that parties will not brook challenges even to incumbent presidents understood by many to be toxic for the long-term health of the party or the country. Nomination to a second term used to have to be earned, and before recently most sitting presidents were not reelected. Many were not even renominated. So the presidency is no longer a once-in-four-years opportunity for a party’s leading politicians; it is a once-in-eight-years chance. Very few politicians who might be viable in a given year can expect with any reasonable certainty to still be a viable presidential candidate in eight or sixteen years. So it’s now or never. Would Walker have been a good candidate in 2020? Probably not. But he would probably have been a better candidate in four years.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 14, 2016 @ 2:32 pm

Gov. Romney supported the Iraq invasion in full. And if I get his take, we didn’t do enough and should not have left.

There is very little “daylight between the two. So in the instance of making any nuance on war policy, it would not have changed his position enough to matter.

Gov. Romney’s issues were

his embrace of the previous admin foreign policy
His Mormonism, sad but true
and ultimately his views about people on assistance, most of them white, many new to the same
his own wealth via investments and restructuring businesses (often associated with downsizing)

And his inability to be relaxed in his public persona. I could have changed that — but those other factors —

#6 Comment By KS On April 14, 2016 @ 2:47 pm

All excellent points, but the analysis overlooks a deep political irony. The Citizens United decision, generally applauded by the Right and adhored by the Left, has turned out to be a disaster for the GOP.

As Kurt Eichenwald wrote:

“Before Citizens United, the Republican nomination process was fairly predictable. Candidates would test the waters; only a few would receive enough in contributions to keep their campaigns going; everyone else would quickly drop out. In 2000, for example, out of 12 GOP candidates, seven withdrew before the primaries because they couldn’t raise enough money, having brought in only between $1.7 million and $5 million, according to Democracy in Action, a political analysis group run through George Washington University. Of the remaining five, one—Steve Forbes, the multimillionaire businessman—was largely self-financed, while two others were almost exclusively supported by evangelical and anti-abortion activists, who through their campaign organizations raised contributions just over $7.5 million that they could directly control. The only two financially viable candidates, former Texas Governor George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, brought in $91 million and $28 million, respectively, during the primary season. The result? Only Bush and McCain won any electoral contests. The total amount contributed by political action committees to every candidate—Republican and Democrat—was just $2.8 million in the primary season.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, the Citizens United problem may well destroy the party this election cycle. There were once again 17 presidential candidates at the start of the race, all of them major politicians and businesspeople, and all but a few backed by many millions of dollars from super PACs and other outside groups. Even former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who ranked next to nothing in the polls, received $4.5 million in support from outside entities, compared with $1.4 million contributed to him the old-fashioned way—real people giving money. Perry got $15 million in outside backing this time thanks to Citizens United but could only raise $1.4 million in traditional campaign contributions. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker received $24 million in independent backing (but only $8 million from individual contributions), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got $23 million (compared with $8 million), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush received $118.7 million (compared with $33.5 million), numbers that led establishment Republicans to deem him the presumptive nominee.

And all that again left the party in a situation in which Republican voters could not coalesce around a single candidate. There were too many to choose from.”

[2]

#7 Comment By Noah172 On April 14, 2016 @ 3:06 pm

Used to be, serving as secretary of something or ambassador to an important capital was helpful to a politician’s national career. It’s been a long time since someone went directly from the cabinet or an embassy to the White House, but that sort of service used to be seen as a positive thing – as recently as 1980

Note that GHW Bush came a rather distant second to Reagan in those primaries (to be sure, ahead of the ostensibly formidable Baker and Connally). Besides Bush, and Clinton now, neither party has nominated someone with appointed (civilian) executive branch experience for the Presidency since Franklin Roosevelt (and he had elected experience in a big state as well).

Nobody moves from the cabinet back into Congress or leadership in his state legislature

Bill Richardson went from Congress to cabinet to Governor of New Mexico. If not for rumors of his behavior with women, he could have been on a national ticket (was talked about for years, and briefly ran for Prez in 2007-8).

Lamar Alexander went from state office to cabinet to presidential campaigns to the Senate.

Empty suit HUD Secretary Julian Castro is being groomed for national office.

And then there is Ted Cruz, who went from the Federal Trade Commission to appointed office in Texas to the Senate to…

#8 Comment By Uncle Billy On April 14, 2016 @ 3:39 pm

In the old days, Republican candidates for President would pay their dues and wait their turn. Nixon was Eisenhower’s VP, ran in 1960 and lost, then ran again in 1968 and won. Bush the elder was Reagan’s VP and then won in 1988. He lost in 1992 and then it was Bob Dole’s turn in 1996.

This election cycle all sorts of candidates came out of the woodwork, who were obviously unqualified, such as Huckabee, Jindal, Santorum and others. They fell by the wayside, but the overly crowded field early on, I think created problems.

Cruz is in his first term in the Senate and Trump has never held political office. Neither is really qualified to be President. Sarah Palin, who is a joke, was considered by some to be a viable candidate in 2012. If George W. Bush had not been such a disaster, and Dick Cheney had been less sinister and healthier, it would have been his turn in 2008 or 2012. Instead we had the clown car.

#9 Comment By JonF On April 14, 2016 @ 3:41 pm

Re: Nomination to a second term used to have to be earned, and before recently most sitting presidents were not reelected.

You have to go back before the Civil War to find a stretch of time where that was generally the case. From Lincoln on there were generally specific reasons (bad economies; a three way race) a sitting president who sought reelection did not gain it. And even in the early era, of the first seven presidents only two did not serve two terms.

Re: Besides Bush, and Clinton now, neither party has nominated someone with appointed (civilian) executive branch experience for the Presidency since Franklin Roosevelt

Bush? What was he appointed to? If you mean Bush 41, he was vice president, but so were Nixon, Mondale and Gore, though that’s an elective job.

#10 Comment By iffen On April 14, 2016 @ 4:05 pm

If mediocrity is the main qualification then the pool is quite large.

#11 Comment By John On April 14, 2016 @ 4:08 pm

@JonF/3:41 p.m.:

Bush 41 was a congressman from Texas and director of the CIA under Ford before he became Reagan’s VP.

#12 Comment By cka2nd On April 14, 2016 @ 4:40 pm

KS says: “All excellent points, but the analysis overlooks a deep political irony. The Citizens United decision, generally applauded by the Right and adhored by the Left, has turned out to be a disaster for the GOP.”

That should be “abhored by the Left,” KS. Thanks for the quotes from Eichenwald. They make a lot of sense. If Sanders gets the Democratic nomination, it will be hysterical if the ruling class spend upwards of a billion dollars only to see him elected President in direct and vocal opposition to them. If they were smart, they’d jump on the Hilary bandwagon and try to stop him now.

#13 Comment By Eric On April 14, 2016 @ 4:51 pm

Bush 41 also held diplomatic appointments.

#14 Comment By little ironies On April 14, 2016 @ 5:02 pm

One reason for there being too many candidates was the big donors and Establishment-types very consciously beefing up the hyper-interventionist contingent in order to shout down and pile on Rand Paul, as they did to Ron Paul back in 2008.

And it seemed to work: they successfully shouted him down.

Funny thing is that having established the principle that whoever shouts the loudest wins, they wound up with Trump, who not only doesn’t buy their interventionist crap but also made immigration and border security his signature issue.

#15 Comment By sglover On April 14, 2016 @ 5:06 pm

What a surprise! Spend a generation or two cultivating the votes of sullen morons, leap on every chance to appeal to their worst, most delusional impulses, and — voila! — you end up with “talent” that couldn’t fill an assistant shift supervisor slot at the local 7-11.

Republicans have been devolving since Nixon. This most recent crop of losers fits right in. The Democratic Party is a wheezing relic, too, but Sanders might be deflecting it toward a better path.

#16 Comment By bayesian On April 14, 2016 @ 5:16 pm

Specifically, Bush 41 was ambassador to China (technically Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China), in an era (74-75) where that was a very sensitive position. Was also Ambassador to the UN for a while under Nixon.

I was a moderate Republican in the late 70s – I remember well the not particularly inside joke that Bush wanted to be President (1980) because it would look good on his resume.

#17 Comment By Noah172 On April 14, 2016 @ 6:03 pm

In the old days, Republican candidates for President would pay their dues and wait their turn. Nixon was Eisenhower’s VP, ran in 1960 and lost, then ran again in 1968 and won.

You skipped over 1964, when the nomination went to an upstart Senator whose main rival was a big-state governor establishmentarian. The NH primary that year was won by a guy who wasn’t a formal candidate (write-in).

As for ’68, Nixon had to overcome George Romney and, at the convention, a rookie California governor, what’s-his-name.

Then there was 1976, when that same governor didn’t wait his turn by challenging, and well nigh defeating, the sitting President.

Bush the elder was Reagan’s VP and then won in 1988.

By defeating Bob Dole, Pat Robertson, Jack Kemp, Pete DuPont, and Paul Laxalt.

He lost in 1992 and then it was Bob Dole’s turn in 1996

Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes, Lamar Alexander, Dick Lugar, Phil Gramm, Alan Keyes(!), and proto-Herman-Cain businessman Morry Taylor didn’t think it was Dole’s turn.

#18 Comment By Ebenezer_Arvigenius On April 14, 2016 @ 6:29 pm

Dick Cheney had been less sinister and healthier, it would have been his turn in 2008 or 2012. Instead we had the clown car.

Good gracious. Do you want to make the current crop seem attractive? Very good attempt then …

#19 Comment By Andrew P On April 14, 2016 @ 11:53 pm

There were so many candidates because 2016 was wide open on both sides, and because there was no presumptive Republican front runner who had real public support. Every prominent Republican officeholder (and some non-officeholders) took a look at the donor favorite Bush, said to himself “the voters don’t want this guy, so why not me”?

The problem for all of them – except Trump – is that none of the non-Trump candidates was offering the voters anything different that connected at an emotional level.

#20 Comment By aaron On April 15, 2016 @ 12:19 am

I’m guessing it was the well researched GOPe splitter strategy outlined here: [3]

#21 Comment By Bobloblaw On April 15, 2016 @ 1:34 am

Citizens United has been awful for the GOP.

#22 Comment By Roy Nirschel On April 15, 2016 @ 4:54 am

Given the preponderance of “free” media for former or future commentators on Fox, the rise of (thus far unsuccessful) Super Pacs and the Obama phenomena (a bored not-yet-one term, eloquent, “unique”, attractive guy believes he can – and does!) it is no wonder that the GOP field achieved what the Democrats could not; too many candidates.
No doubt somewhere today current one-termers, talk show hosts, failed executives, retired Generals, are all “plotting” corn dog eating in Iowa sojourns to Iowa (starting January 2017) after the election of President Clinton.

#23 Comment By Ken T On April 15, 2016 @ 11:53 am

“Citizens United has been awful for the GOP.”
This has to be one of the biggest ironies of recent politics. Remembering the origin of the whole thing – it was a group formed for the specific and explicit purpose of derailing what was then seen as Hillary Clintons march to the 2008 nomination. You might recall that the full name of the group was the sophomoric joke “Citizens United – Not Timid” or “C.U.N.T.” Well, they got their wish – Hillary lost in 2008, and Republican billionaires were freed up to donate as much as they wanted to. The result? 8 years of President Obama, those very billionaires now tearing the GOP to shreds, and Hillary Clinton (remember her? The original target of all this?) now using her very own “Citizens United”-inspired Super PACS to buy her way to the 2016 nomination.

Now that’s what I call “epic fail”.

#24 Comment By bt On April 15, 2016 @ 2:24 pm

@EliteComm

“Gov. Romney’s issues were”

I have to add that “Romney”Care thing to your list.

It mattered a whole lot to many that he was against “Obama”care, but somehow promoted “Romney”care as a model for the nation a few years before.

This neat trick managed to bother Republicans and Democrats at the same time.

#25 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 15, 2016 @ 2:30 pm

“The result? 8 years of President Obama, those very billionaires now tearing the GOP to shreds, and Hillary Clinton (remember her? The original target of all this?) now using her very own “Citizens United”-inspired Super PACS to buy her way to the 2016 nomination.”

Citizen’s United ruling and its influence is countermanded in every way by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The money being spent is being used to remove certain candidates, because the message from the populace is reeking havoc on the established order.

#26 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 15, 2016 @ 2:31 pm

excuse me

remove or undermine

#27 Comment By TG On April 15, 2016 @ 4:38 pm

Well, yes, but the field for the Republican nomination for president did winnow down pretty quickly, so why is that bad? And if some politically naive/incompetent/unpalatable candidates had their political careers destroyed, that sounds like a plus!

I mean right now there are just three realistic candidates: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Hillary Clinton (who is the favorite of the Republican party donors). Barring a ‘white knight’ at a brokered convention, one of these three will be the next de-facto Republican nominee for president.

#28 Comment By Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat On April 15, 2016 @ 5:37 pm

There are too many candidates because running for president is a nicely remunerated job nowadays. The money comes pouring in. That’s also one of the reasons they spend so much time running.

#29 Comment By bacon On April 15, 2016 @ 7:27 pm

In re the remark about Rubio getting tired pretty quickly of being a senator and entering a presidential race he wasn’t close to ready for, maybe it’s just an example of a fundamental change in candidate attitude. There was a time, I think, back in the mists of history, when the presidency was looked at with some respect, maybe awe, a serious job for very serious men. Now it seems as if candidates see themselves as a potential gift to the office and to the nation and like Jindal, Rubio, and especially Romney, are surprised and shocked when the voters, in our unwashed ignorance, send them packing.

#30 Comment By John On April 15, 2016 @ 8:14 pm

I disagree that there were too many GOP presidential candidates, at least in the sense that it confused the primary voters. They’ve been pretty consistent about what they have wanted, and by so doing, told the RNC who they are. Between Perry, Bush, Walker, Rubio and Jindal, the primary voters had their choice of many small variations on an establishment flavor; vanilla to French vanilla, or maybe cherry vanilla at the very most. All were rejected, pretty much from the beginning.

The idea that you can sell the last Bush administration’s policy ideas to today’s voters should now be dead. If the GOP gets nothing else out of this election, it will always have that.

#31 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 15, 2016 @ 11:28 pm

“It mattered a whole lot to many that he was against “Obama”care, but somehow promoted “Romney”care as a model for the nation a few years before.”

I thought I addressed this. maybe a different article. The failure of Gov. Romney to communicate that a state state programs translated into some national application was wholly unfeasible was problematic.

That legislation was a state measure. I am unfamiliar with attempt y the Gov. to make it a national program.

#32 Comment By Steve in Ohio On April 16, 2016 @ 10:00 am

I think its too early to say neither Cruz nor Trump has a prayer of winning in November. Cruz is polling very close to Clinton currently. Trump is way behind, but Hillary has more baggage than he does. Moreover, Trump will be competitive in some of the blue states while he should win all of the red states (even if many evangelicals and hard core conservatives stay home). Between fear of terrorism and anger over crime in the streets, the current climate seems to favor somebody like Trump over a conventional liberal.

#33 Comment By John On April 16, 2016 @ 11:01 am

@Steve in Ohio/10:00 a.m.:

On Thursday, Fox News and CBS polled for a hypothetical general election matchup of Trump or Cruz with Clinton. Fox had Clinton +7 against Trump and +1 against Cruz. CBS had Clinton +10 against Trump and +3 against Cruz. This is consistent with most polling to this point, wherein neither Trump nor Cruz polls ahead of Clinton. While the races have tightened somewhat since the primary season began, the polling going back to July of last year showed Trump and Clinton in front, and so it remains.

Of course, Trump and Cruz could win. But it’s much more likely that they will lose.

#34 Comment By Harry Huntington On April 16, 2016 @ 11:02 am

I would imagine the thinking in some circles is that there were not enough GOP candidates. As the field has been narrowed, everyone realizes that those who remain are unfit to be President (Kasich and Cruz), or if elected, will be unable to govern because the Congress will be at war with him every step of the way (Trump).

If in the end, the race is Hillary against Cruz we can declare Goldman Sachs the winner.

#35 Comment By The Known Knowns On April 16, 2016 @ 12:33 pm

“Trump is way behind, but Hillary has more baggage than he does.”

Way more. Both personally and politically.

Passing over the open sewer that is her personal baggage, the political and professional baggage, or “experience” as she likes to call it, doesn’t seem to have made her wiser or more competent, as witness the interventions in Libya and Syria, the biggest and most expensive US disasters in the Middle East after the invasion of Iraq itself, which she voted for.

All her much-vaunted “experience” tells us is that at age 60-something she’s too stupid, corrupt, and incompetent to manage four years at State without making the Bush shambles even worse and making billions more in taxpayer money vanish into various foreign black holes.

Her Republican opponents may be as bad, but they have yet to prove it on the world stage. She already has.

#36 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 16, 2016 @ 2:01 pm

Michael Brendan Dougherty says about unsuccessful Republican candidates in the 2016 primary season: “The field was too crowded…[they] ran into an ugly matchup…one branding problem or a bad debate becomes unfixable…so many candidates vying for donors, they could not keep up momentum.”

You basically agree, Daniel, and add: “Too many Republican candidates running for president this year…lowering the standards for acceptable presidential candidates…people consistently exaggerate and oversell the abilities…trying to promote new political talent too quickly…they usually overrate the politicians that they happen to like.”

Only in the case of Rick Perry do either you or Brother Dougherty mention any of THE ISSUES as an important factor behind the success or failure of Republican candidates: “…It is unlikely that [Perry] would have fared any better than the other pro-immigration candidates that stayed in longer.”

THE ISSUES THAT MATTER TO MIDDLE AMERICANS:

(1) Immigration – both legal and illegal – and the loss of millions of jobs to Americans was the issue that Trump has championed.

(2) Bad trade agreements and shipping millions of American manufacturing jobs overseas was another issue that Trump has consistently spoken out about.

(3) Ending US military involvement in Middle East wars and using the trillions of dollars saved to rebuild America was yet another key issue that Trump spoke about.

None of the Republican candidates but Donald Trump has spoken out on these 3 key issues that matter so much to Middle American voters.

THESE 3 ISSUES are the real driving force behind the success or failure of Republican candidates in 2016!

#37 Comment By Brain Trust On April 16, 2016 @ 5:05 pm

“I assume that this [conservative media fantasyland re Obama] also explains why so many Republican voters are getting behind Trump and Cruz, neither of whom appears to have a prayer of winning the general election under current conditions. “

I don’t assume that. I assume that the voters are speaking the truth when they say they’re angry and disgusted with the GOP Establishment and its certified candidates.

I don’t know whether Trump or Cruz has a prayer of winning the general or not, because I have yet to see credible national polls of likely voters (as opposed to people who own telephones or web-enabled devices). But I strongly suspect that the prospect of Hillary Clinton in the White House will mobilize conservative voters in a way Obama never did. HRC is one of the biggest, baddest smells the Democrats could emit, far worse than Obama. She will send “likely voter” Republicans to the polls in the largest numbers ever seen.

#38 Comment By rayray On April 17, 2016 @ 12:00 am

“But Romney never explained where Bush succeeded and where he failed”

Not to point out the obvious…but is there anything that Bush succeeded in?

To turn a phrase, “it’s the policy, stupid”. The GOP hasn’t had a truly honest and pragmatic response to any of our real problems in a long, long time.

Ted Cruz? SERIOUSLY?

All significant policy issues are, as DL pointed out, alchemically turned by the conservative echo chamber into either animus towards Obama or support for some general old white guy resentment.

The left does it too, but such nonsense was ignored by a thoughtful and serious president and party leader (even if you disagreed with his policy). Thus the Democrats became, even if you disagreed with them, the default party for grown ups.

#39 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 17, 2016 @ 1:19 am

Now that it has been brought up, I cannot think of too many policy choices advanced during the previous admin. that I thought made much sense or reflected some conservative ethos.

Maybe one, and after a lot of consideration, I am unsure why it received so much criticism. NCLB. Because on close examination, it was a fairly straight forward and simple program.

There were so many tax cuts as the size of government grew and that just did not make sense to me. Not that I m for tax increases. But the logic of expanding spending and cutting the income was never going to work out.

And that is where I Pres. bush (sr.) got bad rap.

#40 Comment By JR On April 17, 2016 @ 11:02 am

The GOP is selling a very tired brand of dog food that the Bush II years merely added more toxins to, but it is dogfood nonetheless.

The GOP has run out of hot-button social issues anyone will take seriously coming, as they do from a decidedly unserious party. What has filled the power vacuum is two-party versions of populism. It will only be a matter of time until they merge as the ruling class have played-out their hand.

One wonders if George W. Bush might be the last Republican president… It’s hard to end a party on a sour-er note.

#41 Comment By bt On April 17, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

@Elite:

Mitt Romney stated that RomneyCare was a model for the nation. See Baltimore Speech Feb 2, 2007 (as reported by Red State!) So it is as I wrote it.

Trying to stuff that genie back in the bottle was a huge issue for Romney, it hurt him a lot, and it made him incapable of effectively criticizing ObamaCare. Oh he tried all right, but it just made him look cynical and dishonest to Democrats and Republicans alike.

You can be sure that if ObamaCare never happened, Mitt would have crowing non-stop about his breakthrough, patient-centered, market-based health plan for Massachusetts. He got boxed in by ObamaCare, because it IS a lot like RomneyCare.

And, to top it all off, trying to ensure all Americans have access to affordable health care is not something the GOP seems to believe in anyway.

You can go right ahead and tell us how RomneyCare’s not at all like ObamaCare and state’s right and so on. But your explanation won’t sound or work any better than Mitt’s did.

#42 Comment By Blackhorse On April 17, 2016 @ 7:14 pm

Overpromoting talent is a concern (the Democrats are guilty of this as well =John Edwards. Self-promotion is a concern (Ben. Carson). Governors need seasoning in DC. Congressmen need to hold administrative office. Experience matters. Backbenchers (Graham, Pawlenty) shouldn’t promote themselves unless they represent a faction. Behind all of these concerns, our Presidential system separates the office from leadership. In a parliamentary system, Boehner/Ryan and Pelosi would be leadership. The GOP y’all come system begged for a gate crasher like Trump.

#43 Comment By Bob K. On April 17, 2016 @ 8:22 pm

What do qualifications have to do with running for President?

In 2008 the Democrats pulled one of the least qualified and least experienced Democrat politicians out of the ether; a man with a reputation for laziness in office and a man who voted “Present” most of the time when he showed up for work and they ran him for President and he won the election and was re-elected in 2012!

DL’s last paragraph notes that the electorate has not been convinced that he is a failure as President.

#44 Comment By AZ Joe On April 18, 2016 @ 5:35 am

This whole process I find irrational and disgusting. After huge tax cuts and increases in defense spending by Reagan and GWB please explain how the GOP can, with a straight face, criticize the Obama deficits especially considering the state of the economy when Bush left office and knowing that tax receipts would naturally be low for years to come.

I find it especially egregious given that Trump, Cruz, Kasich and nearly all of the original 16 want further tax cuts and defense spending increases. They would all somehow balance the budget through (always)unspecified cuts in entitlement spending, using the magic asterisk numbers from the phony wonk, Paul Ryan.

Let’s see how many elections these people win by further concentrating wealth in the hands of the few at the top, promoting military interventions, pretending to oppose illegal immigration, promoting “free” trade agreements that destroy working-class jobs, privatizing or phasing out Social Security, and turning Medicare into a voucher system.

Paul Ryan, a “new” champion of the poor once said, (paraphrasing)the safety net needs to be a hand up, not a hammock. This may be a new definition of chutzpa. The only hammock the government has provided for decades is for the donor class. America has taken a new look at the party of “ideas.” Perhaps that is the reason the GOP seems to be falling apart. It needs not only to be a party of ideas but a party that socially conservative, thinking grownups can embrace.