“Republicans stand a slim chance of winning the presidency in 2016 – unless they nominate a transformational candidate who can dramatically broaden the GOP’s appeal,” warns conservative polling expert Whit Ayers in the Wall Street Journal.
He makes a surprisingly strong case.
Mitt Romney won nearly 60% of white voters in 2012, but still lost the election by wide margin. And things may get harder for the Republicans in the years to come, despite their recent success in the off-year 2014 Congressional races.
As recently as 1992, whites accounted for 83% of the national electorate, notes Ayers, who is President of a GOP polling firm. By 2016 the electorate will be about 69% white.
Only “by nominating a candidate who can speak to minorities, especially Hispanics,” will Republicans compete in the race for the White House, he says.
That could mean a move to the center on immigration reform and poverty programs. Both are important to millions of Hispanic voters. Vague talk of opportunity, individual liberty and free enterprise – traditional GOP themes – will only go so far.
But Democrats have no reason to be smug. In recent years Republicans have gained a great deal of ground in many statewide races. And by fielding younger, optimistic-sounding Senate races against older, and at times grumpier Democratic incumbents, the GOP made sizeable gains in 2014.
Well-disciplined party operatives know the importance of charisma, message and tone. But without pragmatic policies to match the mood of most voters, Republicans could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in 2016 and beyond.