The prospects for a Republican White House in 2016 are slim, to say the least. The GOP would have to overcome numerous and complex challenges in order to win the necessary 270 Electoral College votes come Election Day. Not only do the Republicans face problems organizing their own party and popular base, but they are also competing against the ultra-organized Democratic Party, which already has very promising prospects for 2016.
The main challenge that the Republicans will face in 2016 is a demographic one. Ethnically white individuals constitute 89 percent of the party base, which does not bode well for the future. During the last Republican presidential win, in 2004, white Americans constituted approximately 67 percent of the population. By 2020 that number will be closer to 60 percent. This is especially concerning to Republican hopefuls because in the 2012 elections, Republicans only captured 20 percent of non-white voters. If the Republicans are unable to shift their message to capture the hopes of non-white Americans, they are at risk of being in serious trouble in the coming presidential election.
The demographic reality is exacerbated by the way that the Electoral College works in this nation. Nearly all states apportion all of their Electoral College votes to the majority winner of the state election, as opposed to giving them out representatively. As a consequence, even a below average Democratic candidate could start out with approximately 246 electoral votes. This was reflected by the fact that Obama only won 51 percent of the popular vote in 2012 but trounced Romney with an Electoral College lead of 332 votes to Romney’s 206.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has supported state legislatures’ initiatives to vote for changes to the system that would favor Republican candidates. However, opponents have characterized such measures as being blatant examples of election rigging. I’m not convinced that any bold changes in the fabric of our electoral process will bear any fruit by 2016. In fact, I’m sure that this electoral disadvantage will persist.
It would be one thing if there was a united and adaptive Republican Party that could face these hurdles together. However, the GOP has proved itself to be lethargic and out of touch. Democrats have successfully branded conservative candidates as being special interest representatives with antiquated social policies. Consider the fact that during the 2012 election, Republican pundits all believed that Romney was going to win. The key conservative polling group, Rasmussen, was consistently incorrect in predicting the electoral outcome of the primaries and the general election. Moreover, the sophisticated and data-driven campaign strategies of the Democratic Party have yet to penetrate the Republican organization.
To make matters worse, the key moderate prospect for the Republican seat, Chris Christie, has been relatively marginalized as a potential candidate because of a series of scandals in his home state of New Jersey leaving mostly radical party members as alternatives. Ted Cruz and Rick Perry are all considered hard-line conservatives that can fire up the shrinking base, but other than that they have little global appeal. Jeb Bush is not guaranteed to run. Rand Paul seems to be building a more nationally appealing image, but the idea that Americans will elect a self-avowed libertarian over a moderate Democrat is a pipe dream.
It may be far in the future but barring any extreme disaster in the Democratic Party that would makes its general election candidate unpalatable to the American people, I give the 2016 race to the Democrats by a large electoral college majority. America’s leading conservative party is just not sufficiently adaptive or nimble enough to navigate the enormous challenges it faces in competing for the White House.
Contact Anthony Ghosn at [email protected]