A Party Divided, Still

Nate Cohn sees signs that “the next Republican nominee is screwed”:

[A] new Pew Research survey suggests that Republican presidential candidates won’t find it easy to move toward the center. The poll shows that Republicans recognize the need for change—with 59 percent even suggesting they need to change on the issues. But when it comes to the specifics, most Republicans support maintaining the party’s current positions or even moving further to the right. When asked about the party’s current stance on gay marriage, immigration, government spending, abortion, and guns, at least 60 percent of Republicans said they thought the party was about right or too moderate.

Desire for change was greatest, if still very limited, on cultural conservative issues. On gay marriage, 31 percent of Republicans said they wanted the party to moderate. But 27 percent thought the party wasn’t conservative enough (do they want a return to sodomy laws?) and another 33 percent were satisfied with the party’s current stance. … On immigration, where the party’s current position is potentially less clear to voters, the Republican rank-and-file isn’t itching to get behind a compromise. 17 percent support moving to the left on immigration, compared to 36 percent who want the party to get more conservative.

In a later post, on why Rubio’s 2016 chances are “alive and well” despite his stumbles on immigration, Cohn outlines the kind of Republican that wins nominations:

Yeah, you’d rather be a Tea Party candidate than a dreaded moderate, but the optimum Republican presidential candidate is a mainline conservative—someone who’s conservative enough for the Tea Party, doesn’t scare away the establishment, and doesn’t alienate either the religious or business wing of the party. From there, the candidate either needs to build a critical mass of support within the party (the so-called invisible primary), or go out on the ground and convince voters in Iowa or New Hampshire (while hoping that no other candidate wins the invisible primary). …

[F]or the moment, there isn’t another prominent, active Republican candidate with broad appeal throughout the party. For now, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz are best positioned to run as factional candidates. Perhaps one or all will broaden their appeal, especially Christie. They have time, but it hasn’t happened yet. Jeb Bush or Paul Ryan would have broad appeal, but it’s unclear whether they’ll run. Bobby Jindal, John Thune, Scott Walker, and Rob Portman could all run mainline campaigns, but they won’t win the invisible primary and their national electoral appeal is unproven, even compared to Rubio.

A quick review of those Pew numbers on the likely candidates:

Paul Ryan led in favorability among all Republicans, with a 65% favorable rating. Eighty-one percent of Tea Partiers gave that response. Rand Paul was 10 points behind Ryan in favorability among all Republicans. Seventy percent of Tea Party Republicans liked him. Marco Rubio had a 50% favorable rating among all Republicans and Chris Christie a 47% rating. Tea Party Republicans were much higher on Rubio (59%) than they were on Christie (47%). At this point, 53% of Republicans had no opinion of Ted Cruz. Of those who had an opinion, 33% had a favorable view of him and 13% an unfavorable view.