As the presidential election gets closer and several debates have occurred, it appears that the Republican field is finally narrowing. And, interestingly, candidates have begun vying for three major blocks of Republican voters; these blocks, of course, represent voters seeking a candidate that embodies the party establishment, the conservative movement, or an outsider to politics.
A major criticism of the debates on the Republican side at this juncture is the large number of candidates.
During last week’s Fox Business debate, the eight candidates fell into one of the aforementioned three categories. The establishment candidates are Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. John Kasich, Gov. Chris Christie and Senator Marco Rubio. The conservatives are Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul. The outsiders are Mr. Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson and Mrs. Carly Fiorina.
After this past week’s performance it appears that the field has been refined to one or maybe two major contenders in each sector of the Republican voting sectors.
The establishment is, generally speaking, the traditional party power structure of the Republican Party. Jeb Bush typifies this group of candidates because of his lineage and big money donors. Establishment candidates tend to be more moderate on the issues; they are weaker with the base but garner greater support because of their perceived appeal in the general election.
Typically, they have been governors, as in the case of Kasich and Bush. They are moderate on immigration, tax reform, and tend to openly endorse policies that bend ideology to political pragmatism.
It is no secret that the base of the Republican Party is deadest against the idea of nominating either Kasich or Bush. Throughout the campaign season, these two governors have proven themselves to be out of step with the conservative movement; of course, this will most likely prove to be the fatal flaw in their campaigns.
Christie, on the other hand, is the dark horse in the establishment lane. He is a skilled communicator and debater, with a real knack for connecting with working-class voters. Yet, his struggles in New Jersey and the Bridgegate scandal may prove too difficult to overcome.
Currently, there is no doubt that Rubio is the emerging establishment candidate. This is ironic, because Rubio was a tea party insurgent candidate during his Senate race in 2010, and was further subordinated in the early stages of the 2016 race due to the candidacy of Gov. Bush.
Rubio’s candidacy, however, is complicated by lingering questions over Rubio’s stance on illegal immigration and his role in crafting the dormant “Gang of Eight Bill.”
The conservative movement is commonly known to embody the principles of the Tea Party movement and the libertarian wing of the Republican Party.
In this lane, Sen. Cruz is boxing out his competitors. Certainly, the libertarian wing will always have Sen. Paul, but it is becoming increasingly clear that Cruz is the choice of the base.
In fact, it is critical to point out that Cruz has spent the entirety of his Senate career crafting a voting record that is unabashedly conservative and ready to withstand any conservative criticism that may arise over the course of the next few months.
The outsiders, those candidates who do not have political experience, highlight a growing element of the Republican Party and the country that is simply fed up with the state of politics in America.
Ironically, this is the most competitive aspect of the primary field.
In most polls, over 50 percent of all republican voters prefer a candidate from this lane. It’s simply unheard of in American electoral politics.
This phenomenon has taken place for the last five months and it shows no sign of stopping.
So, the establishment should take note of this phenomenon and adjust their strategy accordingly.
This adjustment should entail recognition that base voters will be unsatisfied with establishment candidates, like Kasich and Bush. Obviously, the establishment should try and box these candidates out in order to increase their chances of winning.
In the end, it appears that the republican primary electorate is determined to nominate a true conservative who is prepared to take on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumed democratic nominee, in both substance and style.