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Expand the GOP Coalition…or enjoy the minority

Good people can debate how Republicans win back the House, but shunning part of the GOP isn't a serious position

What’s one of the worst things you can do as a party in the minority trying to reclaim power?

Shrink the coalition of voters and related candidates amenable to your cause.

Yet, that’s exactly what one columnist in the Washington Examiner, Neil Dwyer, proposes to do. Oddly, on the heels of Republicans losing their House majority, Dwyer proposes the GOP needs more women (true!), yet insists they be only those conservative enough for his tastes, including wishing riddance to recently re-elected Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, formerly the youngest woman elected to Congress and someone who has been comfortably re-elected twice since winning an-until-then solidly Democratic district in 2014.

Dwyer’s analysis of 2018 is: “mostly establishment and moderate Republicans, not conservative ones, were more likely to lose re-election.” Yes, sir. This isn’t hard. Moderates are more likely to be elected in swing and less conservative districts where a critical mass of voters are willing to vote for either party. Thus, they’re also the first to fall when the political winds turn. Likewise, moderate Democrats suffered badly in similar such districts in the 2010 GOP wave, also a very bad year for the party of a first-term, sitting President.

Indeed, analysis of the 2010 wave showed more conservative Democrats who created distance between themselves and President Obama were able to survive in an exceptionally challenging environment, while those more closely aligned with Obama fell.

The problem for the GOP in 2018 was there was rarely such opportunity to create space from the black hole-like vortex of political news, attention, and chatter that is Donald Trump.

Dwyer’s solution: run more conservatives in moderate districts that tossed Republicans out last November.

Eh, that’s not the answer in most cases. Take for example this post-election assessment:

One of the biggest shifts in suburban voting patterns involves married women. In 2016, for the first time since exit polling began in 1980, married women slightly supported the Democratic presidential candidate, 49 to 47 percent. That shift became more pronounced this year with married women supporting Democrats by 54 percent to 44 percent.

The answer to winning back women who previously voted Republican and have switched to Democratic in the Age of Trump isn’t likely to be a more conservative (potentially Trumpier) candidate than the often moderate Republicans those suburban women just propelled out of office.

In the face of this political reality, Dwyer earnestly insists:

Republicans who want to limit Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s second term as speaker to two years need to find women who serve as a counterpoint to the Women’s March, women who can speak directly to the mothers in these suburban districts and appeal to their family values, which include treasuring life, security (which includes immigration), and prosperity.

My dude, that’s your agenda, not the issues swing-voting suburban women routinely care about, let alone the words that would capture their favorable attention. Former House Majority Leader (and suburban Congressman) Eric Cantor summarized this well shortly after the midterms:

There is no doubt that some of the loss in support this year from college-educated women, for example, is a result of the negative opinion these voters have of President Trump. But it is also true that Republicans have not had much to offer suburban voters on what they consistently say are their top issues, including health care, child care, education, the environment and transportation.

The point here isn’t to immediately establish the specific, detailed agenda for reclaiming the suburbs. Some of that will depend on the not entirely predictable key issues and political dynamics of 2020, 2022, and beyond.

But, we should be able to say that arguing for shrinking the Republican coalition, rather than growing it, is a bad choice if one wants to reclaim a majority in the House, hold one in the Senate, and win the Presidency without the inside straight of narrowly winning Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin against an historically unpopular Democratic candidate.

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