Going Red: We’re Not A Center-Right Nation–We’re A Pragmatic One

Matt Vespa
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Posted: May 09, 2016 10:45 AM
Going Red: We’re Not A Center-Right Nation–We’re A Pragmatic One

Last month, Ed Morrissey of our sister site Hot Air, released Going Red, which serves as a blueprint for Republicans concerning winning future national elections if they get serious in seven key counties across the country: Brown County, Wisconsin, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, Wake County, North Carolina, Hamilton County, Ohio, Jefferson County, Colorado, Prince William County, Virginia, and Hillsborough County, Florida.

Like the collar counties of Philadelphia, Cook County in Illinois, and the so-called donut counties that surround Indianapolis, these are the areas that decide how the state goes. And in a presidential year, that could mean serious dividends in the Electoral College. The problem is that Republicans seemed to have lost their way. George Will once said that the old GOP playbook was to win the South, Midwest, parts of the West, and spend the equivalent of the GDP of Brazil on Ohio and win the presidency. That’s all over now.

Morrissey sat down the NBC’s Chuck Todd in April, where he said that the GOP has to look at reaching out to the black community in Wake County, North Carolina and the various Hispanic communities that dot the I-4 Corridor in Florida (Hillsborough County). These are areas that have been neglected for almost ten years in Republican national campaigning.

The irony is that Republicans do well at the state-level in these areas. In fact, Republicans are doing quite well at the state and local level across the country. They have two-thirds of the governorships, 66/99 state legislatures (the most ever), and they have the most elected state lawmakers in office since 1920. Any progressive presidential administration will be sailing their ship into a sandbar. It’s not a secret that Democrats can’t really implement a hard left agenda, when the rest of the country is Republican. Attorneys General will file lawsuits, as they have against Obama’s executive actions on immigration. State legislatures can make things very difficult. But is this a midterm effect?

Ed says that in part there’s a midterm effect. Then-Sen. Barack Obama was able to throw out the old book on election turnout models and went “hyper-local” in the areas he discusses in the book. And went out of his way to understand every community’s concerns and address them. Republicans did not do that. Todd agreed, saying that Obama addressed the Caribbean and Haitian vote, along with being agile with Hispanics. What Colombians want to hear is very different than what Cubans want to hear on the stump. It paid off in 2008 and 2012.

Morrissey also stresses that this book is nominee-neutral, adding (at the time) that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has a strong ground game that’s going into local communities. The problem is that is obviously wasn’t effective since he’s dropped out and Trump is now the presumptive nominee. Trump appears to be currying favor with those on the other side of the aisle, especially union workers. We’ll see if he can do what needs to be done in these key counties.

Yet, what’s a bit frustrating is that the GOP knew the problem back in 2004. Todd remembers then-Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman, who went on to become RNC chairman, recognizing the rising demographic challenge his party would face after the Bush presidency. He did some work in that regard, as he was able to persuade 14 percent of the African-American vote in Ohio to vote for Bush. For a Republican, that’s solid.

Morrissey added that there’s this notion that the U.S. is a center-right nation, and that all Republicans need to do is show voters who that person in during an election. That’s partially true. The U.S. does lean to the right, but voters do not think that way—we think pragmatically. A sad aspect of this book is that Ed talked to people who successfully ran of office in these areas, and the activists that dot these areas, and they told him that no one from the national office talk to them…about the people they already know. There’s a reservoir of ground intelligence that’s waiting to be tapped into for 2016. The question is whether Donald Trump understands that the path to him rehabilitating his numbers in the polls is right in front of him.