WASHINGTON — In the 2016 presidential election, the Republican Party faces the same problem that the marine industry overall grapples with — dispelling the image of being rich, white and male.
But the field and possibilities have never been as wide open as they are for 2016, The Cook Political Report national editor Amy Walter told attendees on the closing day of the American Boating Congress.
Walter depicted the perception of Mitt Romney as Scrooge McDuck, skiing down his mountain of money, as one the Republican Party will probably work to shake prior to the presidential election.
Walter said she expects the GOP to try to find someone who is the face of or can carry the message of the next generation to voters as she discussed the political climate in Washington.
“I like Marco Rubio … as a candidate,” Walter said. “He is not white. He has a story, and this is a particular problem for Republicans in bridging this demographic gap. The whole Mitt Romney 47 percent, got the whole car elevator, Scrooge McDuck … skiing down a big pile of money, like, ‘I have so much money I don’t know what to do with it! Ha, ha, ha! Republicans are all rich!’ That stuff sticks.”
That image is the reason that in polls, though Americans think Republicans will typically do a bit better on improving the economy by a couple of percentage points, the GOP is about 20 points behind Democrats on the question of who connects better and acts in the interests of the middle class, Walter said.
And although the Democratic Party has a major frontrunner — Hillary Clinton — the party has no bench. The Republican Party is in the opposite situation: no frontrunner and a big bench.
Although Jeb Bush is an obvious frontrunner, he faces some of the same hurdles Clinton does, Walter said. That is, neither is the face of the future, and change, that America wants.
For Bush to be polling near 13 percent despite the name recognition, family and experience he has is potentially a problem out of the gate, Walter said.
“Jeb Bush is sort of fascinating to me because if you listen to people in D.C., people want him to run desperately. He’s their kind of candidate. They know Jeb Bush. They don’t get this whole Tea Party thing they see in Washington. They like the fact he’s a governor, the fact that he has experience,” she said.
But the fact that Bush’s national numbers are so low — although no one is above 15 percent — despite the fact that he is the son and brother of presidents and a former governor leads Walter to think he might not be able to win.
In Clinton’s case, not only might she not run, but it also is tough for any party to win a third successive presidential election, even if it has candidates who are very popular. Age is also against Clinton.
Some of the problems with Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act — “and many of the things that were problematic with Obamacare have been kicked down to 2016” — also could work against Clinton, Walter said.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is another Republican who might be able to beat Clinton, Walter said in response to a question. He’s conservative and has fought back against labor in a labor-heavy state.
“So they see him as a champion,” Walter said. “But he doesn’t scare off moderates, or at least swing voters. He’s a down-to-earth guy. He’s not necessarily exciting, but he’s intriguing.”
In the Senate, Walter likened the Democratic Party to a bug and the electoral map to the windshield.
“The seats that are up in 2014 are states that Romney carried, and six of those he carried by double digits. They are not friendly places for Democrats. This is where winning older, whiter voters is actually a successful strategy, and Republicans know how to do that very well. And they’re also places where the president’s overall rating is lower than it is nationally.”
The thing that helps Democrats is the frontrunners in some of those states, Walter said.
“When someone mentions a candidate that’s made comments about rape and pregnancy, and you have to say ‘Which one?’ it’s time to think about how we are choosing candidates,” she said. “And the fact that they have said everything they’re against, without specifically saying for what they are for, is problematic.”
That said, Republicans would be hard-pressed to lose the House, she said. The Senate could easily swing Republican as well.
“Nobody should get comfortable in this town wearing the majority Senate jersey,” Walter said. “The Republican House is likely to be there a good amount of time, but the Senate will go back and forth.”