Veteran Pollster David Winston Discusses the Results of the 2014 Election and One of the Key Challenges Facing Republicans Next Year
WASHINGTON, DC – Speaking at a congressional symposium sponsored by The Ripon Society, veteran pollster David Winston told a group of top Capitol Hill aides that the GOP’s victory in the election last fall was the result of a “sustainable” coalition, and that the best way to grow and strengthen the coalition was to offer voters something of “value” heading into the presidential election next year.
“This is the largest number of Members that Republicans have had since the 1920’s,” Winston stated. “But the other interesting dynamic is that this isn’t simply about just one election. If you take a look at the last three elections in terms of Republicans and number of seats, we’ve been at 230 or higher. The last time we had three elections in a row where we were 230 or higher was also in the 1920’s when Nick Longworth was the Speaker of the House.
“In terms of the Senate, over the last two elections we picked up 13 seats. The last time we came close to that margin was the Reagan election in 1980, when we came out of nowhere and got the majority. So you’re looking at two remarkable levels of winning seats that we haven’t seen for a while. How did that happen? Well, one of the things that occurred was that there was a coalition put together in 2010. The question was whether it was a sustainable coalition.”
Winston then reeled off a string of facts and figures about the American electorate to illustrate that it was sustainable. He noted that Republicans won the vote among women in 2010, and then, after losing it by 11 points in the 2012 presidential election, came close to winning it again in 2014. He also noted that Republicans won independents by 19 points in 2010, then came close to achieving that same level of support last year, winning this critical bloc of the electorate by 12 points. Along similar lines, he further noted that the GOP received 38 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2010, and came close to winning that same level of support last fall when it captured 36 percent of Hispanic support.
In light of these results, Winston continued: “I would suggest to you that last year’s election wasn’t a standalone event. It was a continuation of the 2010 wave. What that means is that the coalition is sustainable. We can build on it and keep moving forward.”
To do so, Winston pointed to three “strategic challenges” that Republicans must meet and overcome.
“The first has to do with who has the initiative,” he stated. “If the President is defining the agenda all the time through executive actions, then he is going to be defining the playing field, as well. And that’s favorable to him.” To that end, Winston said, Republicans need to develop an agenda they can point to as an alternative to whatever the President may put forward.
The second challenge, Winston stated, has to do with the image of the GOP, itself. “We have a really atrocious brand,” he declared, noting that the party’s unfavorable/favorable rating was 32-55. While adding that “Democrats are basically in the same ballpark with a rating of 36-54,” he stated that Republicans are ultimately going to have to do something to repair their tattered reputation.
According to Winston, the third challenge Republicans face relates to legislative strategy and how the party handles the various proposals that are debated and put forward this year. “There are basically three options that exist,” he observed. “One, the proposal passes Congress and is signed by the President, which is what people are going to associate with governing and getting the job done. Option two is the proposal passes Congress with 60 votes in the Senate, and is vetoed by the President, which is what Keystone looks like. What that really does is define the choice for the 2016 majority coalition. The third option is the proposal is passed by the House and filibustered by the Senate.”
Winston then turned his attention to the race for the White House, and said he believed Congressional Republicans have a critical policymaking role to play in the upcoming presidential campaign. As an example, he pointed to the across-the-board tax cut that was pushed by then-Congressman Jack Kemp in 1978 and embraced by then-candidate Ronald Reagan in the months leading up to the presidential election in 1980. “That’s an example of a huge election that was defined by an initiative of the House,” he stated.
Winston concluded by recalling a quote from Newt Gingrich. “Wal-Mart doesn’t get ahead by attacking Sears,” the former Speaker once said, “but by offering better value.” Picking up on that theme, Winston asked: “How do we offer better value? What’s our product? What is it that we’re going to do that will make people say, ‘I want that.’ That’s where the real opportunity is, and that’s where you all play a central role.
“Going back to the Kemp analogy, what are you going to do between now and the summer to think through the products? I’m talking about legislative policies here that really offer value to people and get them moved forward and get them out being discussed. Waiting until next spring is too long. We need to be thinking this through now.”
Winston made his remarks at The Ripon Society’s 5th Annual Legislative and Communications Directors Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon, which was held on February 20th. To view his remarks, please click on the link below:
The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.