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5 Things We've Learned About Republicans

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The 2016 presidential campaign drags on and on. As we grit our teeth at the prospect of six more months of Donald Trump tweets, it's useful to look back on the past 12 months and consider what we've learned about Republicans.

1. Each of their candidates is deeply flawed. In April of 2015, according to an CNN/ORC poll, the ranking of Republican presidential candidates was former Florida governor Jeb Bush (17 percent), Wisconsin governor Scott Walker (12 percent), Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (11 percent), Florida Senator Marco Rubio (11 percent), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (9 percent), Texas Senator Ted Cruz (7 percent), followed by surgeon Ben Carson (4 percent) and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (4 percent). At the time, pollster Nate Silver observed that most of these candidates had approval ratings that are "net-negative," unfavorability ratings greater than favorable.

Even though Donald Trump subsequently emerged as the GOP frontrunner, he is not popular; as of April 19th he had 8.7 million primary votes, 37.9 percent of the GOP total. Throughout the primary there has been a persistent minority of Republicans who said they would not vote for Trump if he became the GOP nominee; in New York these were 24 percent, in Pennsylvania 22 percent.

2. Republicans have lots of money but don't spend it effectively. Of the remaining GOP candidates, Kasich has raised the least, $29 million; Trump has raised $51m; and Cruz has raised $142m. (Jeb Bush raised $150m.) $25m has been spent on the "#nevertrump" movement.

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The Hill reported that Trump doesn't plan to spend his own funds in the general election but so far Republican donors haven't show interest in supporting him: "'Trump has insulted most of the contributors and fundraisers in the country,' said Mel Sembler, a former Republican National Committee (RNC) finance chairman."

Meanwhile there are rumors that the notorious Koch brothers, said to have raised $889 million for the 2016 election, have no plans to support Trump. Politico reported the Koch brothers plan to spend millions on "issue-based attacks on Hillary Clinton and other Democrats" and a multi-state get-out-the-vote organization.

3. The GOP has given up hope of increasing their share of the nonwhite vote. At one time, sensible Republican leaders talked about broadening their base beyond white (non-Hispanic) voters. Last year, Washington Post political columnist Chris Cilliza pointed out that over the past three decades the white vote, in a presidential election, has shrunk from near 90 percent to 72 percent (in 2012). Meanwhile, the white content of the Republican Party has stayed around 90 percent as the white percentage of the Democratic Party has shrunk to 56 percent. Cilliza noted, "If the [2016] GOP nominee wins the same share of the white vote as Mitt Romney won in 1012 (59 percent), her or she would need to win 30 percent of the nonwhite vote" [But] Romney won only 17 percent of nonwhite voters in 2012."

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Donald Trump is not popular with nonwhite voters. The Los Angeles Times reported: "In a potential matchup against Clinton, only one in five nonwhite voters sided with Trump."

4. Republicans face a daunting electoral challenge. After Obama's 2012 victory (332 Obama vs. 206 Romney), 538's Nate Silver observed that Romney would have had to win the overall vote by 3 percent to carry the electoral college -- instead Obama won by 3.8 percent.

Going into the 2016 presidential election, it's generally conceded that Democrats control 240 electoral votes with 270 needed for victory.

The 11 swing states are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia (137 votes). In 2012, Obama won 7 of these.

4 of these states have rapidly growing Hispanic populations. For example, there are 4.8 million Hispanics in Florida (22 percent of the population), further tilting the state in the Democrat's favor. As another example, there are 1.1 million Hispanics in Colorado (20 percent of the population). If both Colorado and Florida are carried by the Democrats, that would give their candidate 278 electoral votes.

5. Republicans have cornered anger but not a compelling focus. Donald Trump insists on making this election about Barack Obama, but the President has positive ratings. Trump claims the economy is doing poorly but it isn't -- about 14 million jobs have been added under Obama. Trump's opposed to raising the minimum wage but 75 percent of voters want this.

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Trump's signature issue is immigration: he wants to deport 14 million undocumented immigrants and build a wall between Mexico and the US. However, Pew Research reports that 74 percent of Americans feel there should be a way for undocumented immigrants to stay in the US and 59 percent of voters oppose building a wall.

Over the past 12 months we've learned that while Republicans are angry, they do not have their act together. Unless there is a radical change in American politics, Democrats should prevail in the 2016 presidential election.

 

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.

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