Which 2016 Republican can best unify the GOP base?

A recurring theme in the post-election GOP hand-wringing of 2008 and 2012 is that the party failed to nominate someone with broad appeal across all Republican constituencies. So one big question heading into 2016 is which candidates might be able to solve that problem and enter the general election in better position to broaden their support.

 

With that in mind, the Wall Street Journal has some interesting results from a poll question about which of 14 potential GOP contenders the party’s primary voters could or could not see themselves voting for.

WSJ GOP poll captureYou can see the results to the left. At first glance, the green “could support” numbers show a tight race, which is almost certainly true. But the difference between those numbers and the gray “could not support” numbers tell us something about which candidates might be best-positioned to solve the previous problem of party unity.

Taking the net number of the “could” minus the “could not,” the leaderboard looks rather more stratified:

1. Scott Walker, +36

2. Marco Rubio, +30

3. Ben Carson, +23

4. Mike Huckabee, +12

5. Bobby Jindal, +11

6. Rand Paul, +9

7. Jeb Bush, +7

Put that way, there’s a significantly larger gap between Walker and Rubio at the top and, say, Paul and Bush. At minus-25, matters would also seem rather hopeless for Chris Christie, who once looked like a formidable future candidate.

But today’s numbers don’t necessarily tell us much. After all, 30 percent of respondents didn’t voice an opinion about Walker; 41 percent abstained when asked about Carson; for Jindal, it was 39 percent. The gap tends to close as more voters voice an opinion about a particular candidate, which is what you’d expect. So what might things look like as voters form opinions?

There obviously are a myriad of permutations, and an accurate forecast is impossible. But for illustrative purposes I chose three possibilities: a scenario where two-thirds of undecided* voters decide they can’t back any of the candidates (e.g., after an especially negative campaign); a scenario where undecided voters split evenly; and a scenario where two-thirds of undecided voters decide they can back any of the candidates (e.g., after a more positive campaign). For the purposes of the chart below, I’ve left off Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham and Christie, who remained in the bottom three in all scenarios, as well as Rick Santorum, who didn’t break into the top half in any scenario.

WSJ GOP poll ranking exercise capture 2

Keeping in mind that these rankings illustrate how unified the party might be behind a particular candidate, not which candidate is most likely to win, a few things jump out:

Walker and Rubio finish at the top of all three scenarios. (So does Carson, but I don’t consider his chances as serious as the others’.) Among the others, only Jindal ever breaks the 60 percent threshold. And Paul, Bush and Huckabee — three candidates about whom almost all voters already have formed opinions — fare best, relatively to the others, if the campaign is more negative. That’s especially interesting regarding Bush, who has so far presented himself as a more positive, ideas-centric person. Perry, Cruz and Fiorina seem highly unlikely to galvanize the base.

It will be interesting to see how these numbers change as voters familiarize themselves with the candidates. But it would seem that the ceiling as of now is highest for Rubio and Walker, especially if they can avoid being dragged down into a messy political brawl of a primary.

*Undecided refers to the voters who didn’t voice an opinion about each particular candidate. The number varies from candidate to candidate.

Reader Comments 0

29 comments
EdUktr
EdUktr

The Republican leadership in Congress are fooling themselves if they think their double-cross on "fighting" amnesty for illegals will be forgot by conservatives in November 2016.

Just sayin.

TicTacs
TicTacs

@EdUktr  No true,  even you I would say would vote for Jeb over Clinton, or even better stay home.

TicTacs
TicTacs

Cruz is not even a real American, btw

TicTacs
TicTacs

Run Newt,  or say ole '999',  these folks all have bad reputations to most (MOST) Americans. Any would lose to Clinton, and she's not the best, just better than all those.

IReportYouWhine#1
IReportYouWhine#1

 Among those who have heard of Walker, only 5 percent had a negative opinion of him — the lowest among 14 Republicans. Meanwhile, 58 percent said they had heard of him, the fourth-lowest among the field. By comparison, 99 percent of respondents had heard of Bush, and a quarter of those had a negative opinion of the son and brother of two former presidents, who is also visiting the state this week.


It only goes up from here.


http://host.madison.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/heading-to-south-carolina-scott-walker-will-find-gop-cross/article_2d698366-f336-59a8-b9b7-20d8fd53b050.html#ixzz3UlcVAMAE

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Good poll and analysis. 


This will be good for the primary, but not good for the general election.  I felt Romney best represented Republicans overall, but there were so many so far-right Republicans that felt he "wasn't Republican enough" that the next candidate will be much less able to win the general election. 

I hope Republicans put up a viable candidate who can actually win the general election and lead from the middle rather than the far-right.   But the closer 2016 gets, the more the far-right are winning the polls. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude "This will be good for the primary, but not good for the general election."

Not necessarily. If a candidate feels like he/she has the party's firm backing, he/she may well feel more at liberty to move toward the center without losing base support.

cancunmark1959
cancunmark1959

As long as their candidate puts party first (along with the failed ideas they've been using for 30 years) ahead of the best interest of the average person, not just the rich, they don't stand a chance.  I think people are finally realizing the GOP only wants your vote but not your dieas if they differ.

GMFA
GMFA

I say Donald Trump! Can't wait to see the debates.

IReportYouWhine#1
IReportYouWhine#1

It be nice to know who the opposition candidate will be, as of now, they don't have one, do they?

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

Good stuff, Mr. Wingfield.  Some random thoughts...

I'm a bit surprised at Jeb's high negatives.

I wonder if Carson's low negatives reflect some voters who don't want to admit they wouldn't vote for him.

Rubio, and especially Jindal and Huckabee, would certainly have trouble moving back to the center, as the nominee will have to during the general election.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

You ever notice the GOP tends to move in the direction the media suggests, the Media quote Dems, who say this guy is the best GOP option and is the most electable and here we go again.  It is like McDonalds revamping their menu based on suggestions from the foodie/health nuts, who would not go there on a bet, and then not understanding why their business is off.


We fell for the "electability" ruse in 2008 and 2012, I hope we will pick someone who plans to reform and restore some accountability to the government, close the borders, develop a workable foreign policy, and embrace a growth strategy for the economy.  Time to get back to limiting government to the things it was designed to do.  


Another thing we seem to fall for is the false campaign where these guys say whatever they think we want to hear and once elected revert to form, or revert to catering to the big corporate donors.   Perfect example is the ethanol subsidies, when in Iowa last week, most of the long time critics of continuing ethanol subsidies, suddenly got the religion.  Ted Cruz was the only one who said, I have been against them in the past and still think they are non productive.  Walker at least tried to finesse his position not to change in favor of the corn farmers, but not to make enemies.  Others there just prostituted themselves, which was disgusting.  Stand up for your beliefs or stay on the porch, I say.

Caius
Caius

"A recurring theme in the post-election GOP hand-wringing of 2008 and 2012 is that the party failed to nominate someone with broad appeal across all Republican constituencies."

I would say they failed to nominate a candidate with broad national appeal in both 2008 and 2012. 


Republicans can nominate someone who says things the base likes to hear (Carson, Rubio, Paul, Perry & Cruz to name a few) or nominate someone who says things 55% of voters like to hear.

332-206
332-206

Any of the top three would be a welcome sight.

For the DNC...

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Her name wasn't mentioned in the mix, but I sometimes hold out hope that NM's governor Susana Martinez might deign to run.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @Visual_Cortex


Martinez is pro-life and is opposed to elective abortion


Martinez is personally opposed to same-sex marriage


Martinez opposes New Mexico's medical marijuana program


On those issues she fits right in. 


Martinez opposes portions of the Affordable Care Act, such as the individual mandate, but does not support repeal of the law in its entirety.


She will have to explain that position. Most likely a deal breaker. 


Plus I don't see a Hispanic candidate playing as well for the GOP outside the Southwest. 


I can hear the conversations going on in some living rooms.....Jessie !!!! Look they nominated a deportable !!!!!


Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @Visual_Cortex If they do nominate Martinez hopefully she will be ready for those gotcha questions the liberal media likes to ask like


" And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this — to stay informed and to understand the world? "


That one really threw Palin for a loop.



Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

Need to add Netanyahu and Putin to that list.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

A: Walker


He will have no chance in the general however. His anti union stance will almost assure the Dem blue Wall holds firm.



MHSmith
MHSmith

Most of these people come off my list from the get go and Ted Cruz can run for Prime Minster of Canada cause he was not born on the soil of the United States,the citizenship of your momma counts for nothing. But thankfully only a few libertarian nut-jobs of like insanity would vote for Ted. 


How they look at the budget proposal forthcoming will define if any of the people should be elected in my opinion Kyle.

MANGLER
MANGLER

If the debates can center on solutions to perceived problems rather than who is the most religious person, that would be nice.