Republicans aren’t their own worst political enemy: A rebuttal

August 21, 2013

Earlier Wednesday, we wrote that Republicans were their own worst enemy at the moment when it came to the party's chances of winning the White House in 2016. Logan Dobson, a research analyst at The Tarrance Group, a Republican polling firm, disagreed with our take -- via Twitter, natch. We asked him to expand on his 140 character rebuttal. He did.  Logan's take is below, unedited except for grammatical fixes when needed.

I’m not Mike Murphy, a smart political consultant with decades of experience. And I’m not Tom Davis, a former elected member of the House of Representatives. But I do work in Republican politics, and I can exclusively confirm for you one fact: Republicans’ “worst political enemy” are still Democrats.


A post earlier today on The Fix made a few valid points. Republicans are having some internal disagreements on policy, strategy, and candidates, and some in the party are now antsy that internal disunity may impact the party’s ability to win future elections.

Cillizza notes that this has occurred on the other side of the aisle too, hearkening back to Democratic struggles in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But here, he doesn’t give enough credit to the Democrats; one only has to go as far back as 2005 to find elected Democrats having to disavow controversial statements by major party figures or fielding primary challenges to more electable candidates.

Indeed, in 2005, much of the rhetoric among certain segments of the Democratic base had gotten so heated that senators had to take to the Netroots for a blog post on the subject:

According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists…  They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda.  In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in "appeasing" the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda.  The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.

I think this perspective misreads the American people.

That was Senator Barack Obama in Daily Kos in 2005, excoriating the left wing of the party for being too strident. It wasn’t so very long ago.

Which underscores perhaps the essential point: winning always makes you look like you know what you’re doing. All parties who fail to win the White House will spend some moment of time disagreeing with itself about why that happened. But a party is never more than one winning presidential election away from looking like the smarter, more unified side, and having their opponents looking fractured and hapless.

In the last election, something like 127 million people cast ballots for either President Obama or Mitt Romney. Unfortunately for us Republicans, about 5 million more people voted for President Obama. But the way some talk about the GOP, you’d think that we only received the votes of extended members of the Romney family, and half of them are on the fence about supporting us again.

Are we going to have legitimate disagreements about how best to get that 3.9 percent to move over to our side next time? Sure. But does that make us our own worst enemies? Surely not. After all, every Republican from the most passionate Tea Party supporter up to the most bourgeois establishmentarian would rather see any of the GOP contenders elected over Hillary Clinton.

Whether they’ll always agree about the best path forward is one question. But if there wasn’t a Democrat on the ballot, Republicans would be a lot better off. That makes our “worst political enemy” those guys on the other side of the aisle.

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Chris Cillizza | August 21, 2013