by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
You don’t have to wander long in the liberal commentariat to find projections that the Republican party is in a death spiral, doomed by demographics, discredited by the dissension among House Republicans, disenchanted with its experienced presidential candidates and despised by the great mass of voters.
There is something to be said for each of these propositions — and yet Republican candidates keep winning elections. As in recent contests in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia.
Admittedly the first three of these have been solidly Republican states in recent presidential and congressional elections, and Americans have increasingly been straight-ticket voters. But state issues do give a non-dominant party a chance to reframe issues across national party lines. And Virginia was the state that voted closest to national percentages in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. …
… What may be happening is that Republicans disgruntled with party leaders — their disapproval is largely responsible for the Republican Party getting more unfavorable ratings than the Democratic Party — won’t commit to voting Republican, but on election day they do. This would explain similar phenomena in the 2014 races in Kansas and Virginia. …
… We have been told frequently that a surge of “ascendant” Americans — blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Millennials — into the electorate will move it inexorably toward Democrats. But so far the surge hasn’t happened. Turnout, particularly Democratic turnout, declined from 2008 to 2012 presidentially and from 2010 to 2014 congressionally. Barack Obama got 3.5 million fewer votes in 2012 than 2008.