Republicans have made considerable gains over the past several cycles: They now control both houses of Congress and many lesser offices as well. In particular, the GOP controls 31 state legislatures while splitting power in an additional eight. Many of these seats are up again this year — and the fear is that, with the controversial and historically unpopular Donald Trump heading the ticket, it’s all endangered.
Conventional wisdom has it that voters don’t split their ticket anymore. They don’t vote for a president of one party and for the state assembly with another. Pundits point to statistics showing how ticket-splitting dwindled over the past several decades. We are too polarized; party identification is too strong.
But I think it’s precisely because of that polarization that we may see more ticket splitting this year. Ticket splitting has gone down because the parties have become more homogeneous. Whereas, in the past, it was common to have liberal northeastern Republicans and conservative Democrats, that’s no longer the case. Not a single Senate Republican voted for President Obama’s signature accomplishment — the Affordable Care Act. Likewise, there are now very few pro-choice Republicans or pro-life Democrats. During the period between 1968 and 1992, Republicans held the White House for all but one term (and even then, they lost by only 2 percent), including the blowouts of 1972 and 1984. But the Democrats held on to the House. Why was that? Because voters in the South had little affinity with the northern, urban, liberal wing of their party at the presidential level, but would vote for local Democrats. Many of those local Democrats were very similar on policy to the Republicans, especially on foreign policy. An example that comes to mind is Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, who was a Democrat in the ’80s. He didn’t change, his party did.
Donald Trump is running on a white-identity platform. He appeals to a different constituency than traditional Republicans. On many policy issues, such as foreign policy, legal immigration, trade, and the size of government, his views are at odds with the party he leads. Many prominent Republicans haven’t endorsed him. Even some of those that have distance themselves from him when they can. Meanwhile, Speaker Paul Ryan penned an op-ed criticizing President Obama’s progressive vision. The speaker has also presented a program in the House independent of both nominees. Perhaps Ryan is rearranging the chairs on the deck of a sinking ship — or maybe he’s preparing the lifeboat. Either way, it’s remarkable that the Republican party’s leader in Congress sometimes acts as if he’s in a different party than the Republican presidential nominee.Read the rest from Jay Cobb HERE.
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