Being Right: Party Must Narrow

We’ve come a long way since March 23, the day Ted Cruz became the first official candidate to thrust himself into what has been one of the most fascinating races for the White House in recent memory. I highlight the word official, as the 2016 presidential campaign began well before March, with super PACs forming in what kicked off a fundraising arms race that many thought would decide the 2016 campaign. 

Enter Jeb Bush: The younger brother to former President George W. Bush created his super PAC in early January. Thanks to his brother and father, Jeb was thought to have an unmatchable base of financial support and political infrastructure. He was the frontrunner. And for a while his numbers reflected that, as he was polling at over 20 percent in March. 

Then came a rough week in May, about a month before his candidacy even officially began. Jeb fumbled through his stance on the Iraq War, trying to “be his own man” while protecting his brother’s legacy in the process. 

At that moment it became clear that the nomination was not going to come easily for him. 

In the wake of the Republicans Party’s crisis of confidence in Bush came the singlehandedly most interesting phenomenon of the 2016 race – Donald Trump. Trump’s announcement came only a day after Bush’s and his rallying cry to “Make America Great Again” took the country by storm and suffocated the campaigns of Bush and others.

The “Summer of Trump” (as it’s been coined by many journalists) was all about getting the Republican Party to “win” again. Too many times, argued Trump, Republicans had caved in to President Obama on issues like immigration and the national debt, and he was running to fix that. The American people loved the approach, as Trump soared in the polls to above 25 percent. 

Now that the Summer of Trump has come to a close it seems many Republicans may like his outsider message, but not the way he delivers it. This has lead to openings for other political outsiders such as Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson. Carson is currently nipping at Trump’s heels in the polls and is seen as a much calmer alternative echoing similar concerns. 

Trailing behind Trump and Carson are the traditional political leaders, who in order to keep up with the frontrunners, have somehow tried to twist themselves into outsiders as well. Senators Rubio, Cruz and Paul have all used rhetoric relating to them being the insiders who know how broken Washington is and that they are the ones who should fix it. 

They are joined by experienced Governors like Kasich, Christie and Huckabee, who rail against the lack of progress the Republican Party has been able to make with majorities in both the House and the Senate. 

Therefore, much of the 2016 presidential campaign for the Republican candidates thus far has been about arguing over who is the best outsider. Figuring out who is the party’s best is what the Primary is supposed to be all about, and if you only have one front runner there is less opportunity to do so.

My only concern for the Republican Party and its large field is that it needs to narrow it down sooner rather than later. Candidates need to start spending less time on the minor differences and start focusing on the major ones they have with Hillary Clinton, who has faced very little opposition in her own primary. 

And while it may be fun and interesting for us to sit here around a year away from Election Day not having any idea who the Republican nominee will be, it is also very dangerous. Republicans better quickly figure out who is their best outsider soon, or they might find themselves to be outsiders to the White House again next November.