Last week, an NBC News/Marist poll asked Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire for their 2016 preferences, but Rachel noted something in the same survey that was arguably more interesting.
“Which is more important to you,” the poll asked respondents in the two states, “a Republican nominee for president who shares your position on most issues, or a Republican nominee for president who has the best chance of winning the White House?”
The results weren’t close. In New Hampshire, 67% of GOP voters want a candidate they agree with, while only 29% are principally concerned with electability. In Iowa, the results were practically identical.
Are these attitudes unique to the early nominating states? Apparently not. A similar question was included in the new NBC News national poll, and the results were even more lopsided:
“Now, if you had to choose, which would be the next most important to you in selecting a presidential nominee for the Republican Party?”A candidate with the best chance to defeat the Democratic candidate: 21%A candidate who comes closest to your views on issues: 77%
Note, these are combined results after the question was asked in a couple of different ways, but in each instance, GOP voters just weren’t particularly concerned about electability.
Fox News poll included a similar question in its new national poll: “Which one of the following candidate qualities will matter most in deciding which candidate to support in the Republican primary?” There were more possible answers than in the NBC poll, but once again, only 13% of Republican respondents said they’re principally concerned with finding a candidate who “can defeat the Democratic nominee.”
To be sure, this may change. It’s still fairly early in the process, and it’s possible that for many GOP voters, Republican success in the 2016 race is such a sure thing, they may have convinced themselves that electability simply isn’t an important consideration.
But my suspicion is that there’s more to it – and that results like these are telling us something noteworthy about Republican voters themselves. As Rachel noted on the show last week, polls show Donald Trump faring poorly in a general election, for example, but GOP voters don’t seem to care: “Republican voters do not give a flying comb-over about who is electable. They just want somebody to fall in love with, and they have fallen in love with him.”
Indeed, to reiterate our discussion, we’ve seen this dynamic come up more than once in recent years. Republicans could have won a Senate race in Delaware, but they wanted a candidate who made them happy (Christie O’Donnell), not a candidate who would win (Mike Castle). They could have won a Senate race in Indiana, but they wanted an ideologically satisfying candidate (Richard Mourdock), not a candidate with broad appeal (Richard Lugar).
The party’s base has been told repeatedly – by party leaders, by conservative media, even by Republican candidates – that compromise is wrong. Concessions of any kind are offensive. Pragmatism over principle is a political sin.
And as it turns out, it appears Republicans listened.
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Republican voters discount electability (for now)