I know it’s early and the roster of potential Republican nominees for the 2016 presidential race is hardly set. But I’m already fed up with pundits and party operatives telling me what I think of the candidates, as if they had performed a Vulcan mind meld with the conservative grassroots and GOP base (which I will use interchangeably to include local GOP boots on the ground, social conservatives, and Tea Partiers).
The punditocracy might occasionally glance at a few e-mails their assistants have sorted through, but mostly, they converse among themselves and read one another’s articles, and, rather than listening intently to the input from this varied and complex group of conservatives, they often project their perceptions onto the base. They might chat briefly with some folks at book signings or speeches, and their prognostications might occasionally square with the base, but not this time.
To dig into the current thinking of the base regarding the Republican nominee, I sent an e-mail to members of the Bay Area Patriots/San Francisco Tea Party (both of which I have coordinated since 2009). The group is quite diverse, with dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, disgruntled Democrats, Ron Paul Libertarians, and independents.
This was not a survey with simple yes-or-no questions. Prompted by Laura Ingraham’s assertion that negative commentary about Mitt only serves to help Jeb, I asked what they thought about both men getting into the race; if they would vote for them against Hillary even if they did not support them in the primaries; who their preferred candidates were; and if there was anyone they would refuse to support. I was quite startled by several consistent revelations.
Approximately 350-400 opened the e-mail, and about 90 responded – a 23-26% sample. Respondents overwhelmingly (and vehemently) oppose Jeb Bush – only three consider him their preferred candidate. While 30 respondents would “hold their nose” and vote for him if he were the nominee against Hillary, roughly 36 said “no way” to Bush, and too many indicated they would stay home or vote for a third-party candidate. If all stayed home on Election Day – 40% – that would be an electoral apocalypse when translated onto the national stage. I doubt that that would occur, but even if 5% of 50 million voters rebelled, that would be a damaging 2.5 million lost votes. Jeb’s condescending and dismissive attitude toward the grassroots, concerns about a Bush dynasty, and Jeb’s views on Common Core and immigration factored heavily into the anti-Bush sentiment.