Dante Scala, a UNH political science professor and faculty fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy, recently co-authored a book with his associate Henry Olsen called “The Four Faces of the Republican Party: The Fight for the 2016 Presidential Nomination.” The book looks at the four main factions that the Republican candidates must win over to gain the Grand Old Party nomination.
Scala said they wrote the book because, “we thought the Republican electorate… weren’t as well understood as we thought they should be.”
They chose to write a profile of the divisions within the party that make up a more diverse constituency than they thought was represented in the mainstream political discourse. According to Scala, the story of how Republican nominees attract their voters is not well represented. The usual theory is that Republicans are more conservative during the nomination process and then move to the middle once they must contend against a Democrat. This theory, according to Scala and Olsen, is too simplistic. This is where the name of their book comes into play as they discuss the four parts of the party and how the real nomination happens.
The four parts go as follows: there are moderate voters, somewhat conservative voters, very conservative, evangelical voters, and then finally there are the secular conservatives. By using exit poll data dating back to the 2000 primary, the authors were able to see how voters go through the process of picking their candidate.
While writing the book, Scala found what surprised him the most was how important moderate and even liberal Republicans are to the nomination process. According to Scala, they amount to about 3/10 of the Republican vote.
Scala said, “Typically we think of the Republican Party as the conservative party, but in reality the more liberal side of the party makes up a large percentage. Especially in more liberal states like New Hampshire where they will make up about half of the voters.”
Scala also talked about the 2016 Republican nomination race in which Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are in first and second place while the more moderate candidates like Jeb Bush and John Kasich have had little success in gaining a strong following. Scala said that if a moderate like Marco Rubio could win second place in New Hampshire or Iowa, that he might be able to eventually weed out the more anti-establishment candidates. Once moderate voters see a stronger candidate, that’s when they will make their decision about who they think should represent the Republican Party come November.
Scala said that Donald Trump has made a mess of the nomination process in that he is very difficult to place on the spectrum of ideology. In other words, Trump is not a moderate or very conservative. Trump, as Scala described him, is a big government conservative. Although he may have some extreme views on immigration, he doesn’t have any plans to privatize social security. Scala said that Trump sounds like a conservative, but his policies show otherwise.
The biggest things to keep in mind about the Republican Party and more importantly its voters, according to Scala, “The conservative party doesn’t always elect the conservative candidate. Republicans do in fact disagree amongst themselves. There is a divide in the party between the religious and the less religious who believe in keeping religion out of the politics. The big takeaway is that Republicans are more diverse than people might think.”
Republican voters will go out this week for the Iowa caucus and then next Tuesday, New Hampshire will fulfill its role as the first-in-the nation primary.