John Harwood of The New York Times wonders when Republicans are going to find the winning presidential formula, as Democrats did in 1992:
It took 24 years for Democrats to end the last period of Republican presidential advantage, in which issues and the makeup of the Electoral College helped Republicans win five of six elections, and to start their own behind Bill Clinton.As Harwood notes, it doesn't look as if Republicans are learning:
By 2016, the Democrats' own stretch -- winning the popular vote in five of the last six elections -- will have lasted 24 years. Now, one of the biggest questions in American politics is how close Republicans are to replicating Democrats' process of rejuvenation and winning the White House again.
The most conspicuous evidence suggests they have moved further away since Mitt Romney's loss in 2012. In its policies and unflattering poll ratings, the Republican Party has grown largely indistinguishable from its feisty Tea Party faction. And that does not take into account demographic trends that favor Democrats....We all know this story. It's easy to see it as party suicide. But I think Republicans learned a very different lesson after Bill Clinton started the Democrats' current presidential hot streak.
The lesson is that when Republicans win the presidency, they really win the presidency -- they just go out there and govern as they see fit -- and when they lose the presidency, they work every possible lever to make sure Democrats don't govern.
So the lesson they've learned from the four victories of Clinton and Obama, and Al Gore's popular vote win, is that a Democratic win isn't a win if Republicans say it's not a win.
The Republicans have a lot of levers to work. They've got House districts drawn just the way they want them in much of the country. They have the filibuster in the Senate. They have Fox News and talk radio to rally angry white America. They have years of experience intimidating the mainstream media with allegations of liberal bias. They won seven out of ten presidential elections between 1968 and 2004, so their judges, most of whom walk in ideological lockstep, can undermine any legislation at the local, state, or national level that right-wingers don't like. Their voters vote, which makes it relatively easy for them to take over state legislatures and governorships in off-year elections, even in states that regularly vote for Democratic presidential candidates.
Oh, and the campaign finance system Republicans have fight tooth and nail for means that no Democrat can win the presidency without licking the boots of the rich, and then governing accordingly. That's a right-wing victory right there.
Republicans have learned that the presidency is worth winning, but it's not mission-critical -- they bottled up Clinton, they bottled up Obama, they'll undoubtedly bottle up Hillary Clinton. They've lost the popular vote in five of six presidential cycles and look where we are: hedge fund managers still pay a lower tax rate than teachers, guns laws have become less stringent in much of America, the notion of human-created climate change still can't be the basis of federal legislation, our immigration policy still isn't reformed, abortion is subject to more and more restrictions in state after state.... That's just for starters. That's a pretty solid record of victory for the right.
So really, who needs the presidency? For the GOP, it's gravy. It's no more than that. That's the lesson Republicans have learned since 1992.