2016 Watch

02.21.13

Here Comes Hillary

Can young guns like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan fix the Republican Party's recent electoral struggles? Robert W. Patterson, author of the guest post below, says not so fast:

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Can Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, or Ted Cruz lead the GOP to the Promised Land? Recent polls by Public Policy Polling (PPP) and Bloomberg National suggest that Republicans need more than young rising stars selling the same old message of fiscal austerity and limited government. PPP finds that even in southern and red states, the Party of Lincoln facing an uphill battle. Granted, it’s a bit early and the polling firm leans Democratic, but after finding Hillary Clinton competitive in polls in Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Alaska, PPP reported yesterday:

Add Georgia to the list of states where Democrats might be competitive in 2016 with Hillary Clinton as their nominee. She has a 49/44 favorability rating in the state and would lead Marco Rubio (49/46) and Paul Ryan (50/45) in hypothetical match ups. She would lead by an even wider margin against Newt Gingrich (51/44). Gingrich is unpopular in his home state with only 39% of voters rating him favorably to 50% with a negative opinion.

These state numbers are not just outliers. On the eve of another budget showdown, Bloomberg just last evening released a national poll giving President Obama the highest job-approval rating (with 55 percent of respondents approving his performance) -- and the Republican Party with the lowest rating (with 35 percent expressing party approval) -- since September 2009, when the news agency started tracking these numbers.

Discouraging as they are to the faithful, GOP public-opinion deficits are fixable, but not the way the inside-the-beltway crowd is suggesting. As David Plouffe told Robert Draper of the New York Times last week, the GOP should not look at Marco Rubio and his immigration-reform plan as the salvation of the party:

The Hispanic voters in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico don’t give a damn about Marco Rubio, the Tea Party Cuban-American from Florida. You know what? We won the Cuban vote! And it’s because younger Cubans are behaving differently than their parents. It’s probably my favorite stat of the whole campaign. So this notion that Marco Rubio is going to heal their problems — it’s not even sophomoric; it’s juvenile! And by the way: the bigger problem they’ve got with Latinos isn’t immigration. It’s their economic policies and health care. The group that supported the president’s health care bill the most? Latinos.

True, Democratic strategists aren’t looking out for the GOP. Yet Plouffe’s observation that ObamaCare sealed the deal with Hispanics ought to send Republicans back to the drawing board to develop a different policy agenda, one that resonates with the anxious electorate, not just with well-paid conservative pundits in Washington, D.C.