Tuesday, February 28, 2012

GOP looking ahead ... to 2016

Potential GOP candidates in 2016
As soon as the polls closed in Arizona, the networks projected Mitt Romney the winner before a single vote was counted.

But, despite holding a 4-point lead throughout the night in Michigan, the networks were afraid to project him the winner, based presumably on exit polls.

Romney was winning big where most people live, around Detroit, while Rick Santorum was prevailing in rural areas, indeed much of the state, where few voters live. Eventually, Mitt was declared the winner around 7:15 p.m. West Coast time.

Neither Republican will carry Michigan in November and some Democrats consider Arizona in play for the general election.

The GOP establishment is breathing a sigh of relief tonight, but Mitt is still not the nominee, yet.

Republicans must be looking to 2016 where they hope they have a sure-thing nominee before the primary season even starts.

If he's alive, Ron Paul will be there. There will also be the token minority and perhaps, a token female.

But the nominee will be another white male, who will take positions on social issues that are out of step with most Americans.

What's happening nationally to the Republican Party mirrors what happened to Oregon over the past 30 years.

For most of our history, Oregon was largely a progressive Republican state, with long-serving GOP governors and senators. Under Republican leadership, Oregon created its well-known land-use laws and also the first bottle bill in the nation.

But, in the early-1980s, Oregon elected its last Republican governor. By 2008, we no longer had a Republican politician in any statewide office. We have just one GOP representative out of five.

A reason for the change? Well, the GOP became fixated on social issues to the exclusion of most everything else and Oregonians said "no thanks."

The GOP became known as the party of extremists and most voters are not.

It's taken awhile, but it seems that the rest of the country is following Oregon's lead. The nation is exhausted by the stalemate on social issues. It's time to move on.

But, the extreme base of the GOP still wants to wage a battle -- on abortion, contraception, gay rights -- that is less than secondary to most American lives.

GW Bush was adept at catering to the base while also appearing palatable to independents. Granted, he wasn't really elected president in 2000, but selected by the Supreme Court.

Still, Bush prevailed in 2004 by 2.9 percent of the vote, the smallest margin for a re-elected president since 1828. (President Obama won by 7.3 percent in 2008).

Compared to 2000, Republicans considered the 2004 vote a landslide and a mandate to do whatever they wanted. The obituary of the Democratic Party was written by pundits coast-to-coast.

Well, here we are in 2012 with the GOP struggling to find a candidate to face President Obama.

Since it is still February, no one knows how the election will go, but this much is certain: Obama will win most of the states where most of the people live, while Romney/Santorum will carry a majority of the states, but where fewer people live.

As in 2004, the election will likely be over once the votes are counted in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio.  If Obama takes all three, and he has the edge now in February, the election is over.

That's good for us on the Left Coast because it means we won't be hammered with as many negative ads as in the battleground states and it may keep some GOP voters at home.

Should Obama win, as I think he will, the pundits will write the obituary for the GOP.

In fact, they have already.

While demographics favor Democrats now and the foreseeable future, nothing is set in stone.

Whatever party that is in power always has the ability to squander that power.

Besides, 2016 isn't that far off when you consider the GOP presidential campaigns start a year from now.

God help us.

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