Voters Shying Away from Damaged GOP ‘Brand’

How badly has the GOP “brand” fallen among voters? The Virginia gubernatorial race could prove instructive.

National Journal’s Charlie Cook says the race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republica Ken Cuccinelli shows that the disastrous Obamacare rollout is hurting Democrats a little bit, but there are simply more voters who prefer Democrats over Republicans.

One takeaway is that while McAuliffe ran up slightly higher margins among Democrats and liberals than Cuccinelli did among Republicans and conservatives, the fact that Cuccinelli could win the independent vote by 9 percentage points yet lose the election by 3 points is a reminder that the gap between self-identified Democrats and self-identified Republicans is getting so wide that, in many races, winning the independent vote isn’t enough for a Republican candidate to bridge the gap. Remember that Mitt Romney won the independent vote last year by 5 points but still lost the election by almost 4 points. Brand damage has hurt the GOP in party identification, and that, in turn, is hurting Republicans on Election Day.

In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie won as expected, with margins that were as broadly spread among demographic groups as they were deep. His 22-point victory in a Democratic state should be a lesson for his party: A Republican who is moderately conservative on economic issues and doesn’t emphasize social issues, even if he is relatively conservative, can win in enemy territory. Christie didn’t walk away from conservative voters and values, but neither did he try to shove his conservatism down the throats of moderate swing voters.