Republicans don’t love their candidates. But they are going to vote for them.

April 30, 2014

Republicans are split down the middle on the question of whether most GOP members of Congress should be reelected. At the same time, the vast majority of them plan to vote for their party's U.S. House candidate in November.


(Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

Wait, what? Republicans don't really like most of what they see in Congress from their party, but they've decided to double down on it anyway? Yep. The apparent contradiction is more rational than it might seem. Republicans may not be Superfans of their party's members but they loathe Democratic candidates.

Republicans aren't exactly enamored with their party's representation on Capitol Hill. There are tea party Republicans who don't like moderate members and vice versa. So, when asked a blanket question about what they think of their own, Republicans respond with a collective "meh."

Forty-five percent say most Republican members deserve to be reelected, while just as many say they don't, according to the new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

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This is not how Democrats feel about their party's members. Fifty-nine percent of them say most Democratic members of Congress deserve to be reelected, while just 31 percent say most do not.

So should Republican congressional candidates worry that their voters won't back them in November? Nope. They have Democrats to thank for that. When given a choice between a Democrat and a Republican, 92 percent of Republicans say they plan to vote for the GOP House candidates. Democrats back their party's candidates at a nearly even clip.

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GOP leaders shouldn't sweat about turnout, either. Republican-leaning voters who say their party’s members don’t deserve re-election are six percentage points less "certain" about voting than Republicans who say leaders deserve re-election (74 percent vs. 80 percent). Both are higher than the share of Democratic-leaning voters who are committed to voting (65 percent).

Here's what's going on: When forced to choose between the  two options, a Democratic candidate and a Republican candidate, most GOPers instantly forget all the issues they have with the party. Suddenly, the question hits home more -- it's about their district, their future. And did we mention the other choice is a Democrat?

Partisanship runs very high right now. Republicans may not love their candidates, but few things move them negatively the way President Obama and his party do these days.

That's why the GOP thinking actually makes some sense. It also explains why a large part of the GOP midterm strategy is aimed at getting Republican voters angry at Democrats.

Must-reads:

 "Republicans Predict Top North Carolina Senate Candidate Avoids Runoff" -- Alexis Levinson, Roll Call

"Dems want NBA to have more authority over team owners" -- Erik Wasson, Mike Lillis and Mario Trujillo, The Hill

Scott Clement contributed to this post 

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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