A New Poll Highlights the Splintered State of the Republican Party – Bob and Barbara Dreyfuss on April 29, 2014 – 12:00 PM ET

GOP convention

The 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

There’s good news and bad news for Chris Christie in a new nationwide public opinion poll released today by Fairleigh Dickinson’s Public Mind. The good news is that despite his nonstop troubles since last fall, the New Jersey governor runs pretty much even with the rest of the Republican party’s leading would-be candidates for 2016. (The poll tested Christie head-to-head with Hillary Clinton, along with similar matchups for Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan and Mike Huckabee.) But that’s also the bad news. After his 60-percent-plus re-election win last November, Christie might have been positioned to be a clear front-runner for 2016. Now, not so much.

And there’s some more bad news for Christie and his GOP competitors: not one of them gets any traction—at least not so far, though it really too early to read too much into it—when pitted against Clinton. In the poll, Clinton leads Christie 46-36 percent, and she leads the rest of the field, too, by margins that are pretty much identical, given the poll’s margin of error: 48-37 vs. Paul, 49-33 vs. Bush, 49-36 vs. Huckabee and 46-38 vs. Ryan.

Some of what the poll measures is simply name recognition, says Krista Jenkins, associate professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University in northern New Jersey and the executive director of its Public Mind polling unit. And in that case, Hillary Clinton is almost universally recognized, whereas the Republican candidates, at least nationally, are far less known.

It does, however, does raise an interesting question about Jeb Bush, whose last name, at least, is part of a dynasty at least as well known as the Clintons’. If so, perhaps there’s a small message in the poll results for Bush, despite his widely recognized name. According to the numbers, Bush does least well head-to-head against Clinton, especially among women, where Clinton beats Bush by a hefty margin of 55-30 percent. If it means anything, it could be that American voters react instinctively, and negatively, to “another Bush,” and not so much to “another Clinton.”

Article continues:


Is New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez the Next Sarah Palin? – By Andy Kroll | Wed Apr. 16, 2014 3:00 AM PDT


Illustration: Dale Stephanos

As she likes to tell anybody who’ll listen, Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, didn’t start out a Republican. She and her husband, Chuck, like most everyone else in Las Cruces, had always been Democrats. But she’d long dreamed of running for office, and when word got out that she had her eyes on the district attorney’s seat, two local Republican activists asked her to lunch. At the meeting, the story goes, her suitors didn’t talk about party affiliation or ideology. They zeroed in on issues—taxes, welfare, gun rights, the death penalty. Afterward, Martinez got into the car, turned to her husband, and said, “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans.”

It’s a tidy little anecdote, and Martinez has put it to good use. During herprime-time speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention, the biggest stage of her 18-year political career, the I’ll be damned punch line brought the crowd to its feet, getting more cheers than anything said by the party’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

Previously unreleased audio recordings, text messages, and emails reveal a side of Martinez the public has rarely, if ever, seen.

It’s not hard to see why the story is appealing: It suggests that Republican ideas can win over voters, perhaps especially voters who look like Martinez. If only those voters saw through pesky Democratic talking points like the “War on Women” and recognized what the Republican Party actually stands for, the logic goes, they would embrace the party. Just like Susana Martinez and her husband did.

These are trying times for Republicans in search of inspiration. Sure, it looks like they have a shot to take back the Senate. But if the escalating civil war between the establishment and the “wacko bird” tea party wing doesn’t tear the GOP in two, changing demographics threaten to push it toward extinction. Every four years, the party turns in poor showings with young people and cedes more ground among unmarried women and Latinos—the fastest-growing parts of the country’s population. In the 1988 presidential election, minorities made up just 15 percent of voters; by 2012, that number had risen to 28 percent, and they supported Obama by a 62-point margin. “Devastatingly,” the party’s 2012 post-mortem concluded, “we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us.”

No wonder, then, that many see Martinez, who turns 55 in July, as the party’s future. Fox News host Greta Van Susteren touts her “great resume”: America’s first Latina governor. Former district attorney of a border county. Guardian of her mentally disabled sister. Tax cutter, gun owner, daughter of a sheriff’s deputy. The Koch brothers invited her to speak at one of their secretive donor enclaves. Karl Rove singled her out in Time‘s list of last year’s 100 most influential people as a “reform-minded conservative Republican.” TheWashington Post put her at the top of a list of likely 2016 vice presidential candidates; Romney has boosted her as a presidential contender. “She plugs every hole we’ve got as a party, and she’s got a record to match,” says Ford O’Connell, an adviser to the 2008 McCain campaign.

In the media, Martinez is often compared to Sarah Palin—”Susana Barracuda” read the title of a recent profile—a sassy small-town politician with national aspirations, an anti-Washington message, and an everywoman appeal (she loves Taco Bell, shops at Ross Dress for Less, and watches Dancing With the Stars). Her dead certain, with-me-or-against-me governing style draws comparisons to another Southwestern governor who made the leap from the statehouse to the White House, George W. Bush.

But perhaps the best comparison is to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Both are former prosecutors and Republican governors in blue states. They serve side by side on the money-raising juggernaut known as the Republican Governors Association (RGA), and they campaigned together during Christie’s 2013 reelection campaign; “Is This Your 2016 Republican Ticket?” was a typical headline.

Article continues: