Friday, May 24, 2013


It's way too early to be focusing on 2016 polls like this one, but I think the numbers tell us something about the long-term prospects of the GOP, a party most people think is doomed:
Hillary Clinton beats Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in potential 2016 match ups in Iowa, according to a new poll Friday.

Clinton, a Democrat, would best Rubio 48 percent to 37 percent and she runs ahead of Paul 46 percent to 42 percent, the Quinnipiac University poll found.

A closer look at a potential Clinton-Paul match-up shows Paul leading among Iowa independents 44 percent to 38 percent. He also leads among men 49 percent to 39 percent. Clinton wins among women 53 percent to 34 percent....
So there's a massive gender gap in a Clinton-Paul race. No surprise there. But there's also an age gap -- and it's not one that fits into the widely accepted "Demographics will kill the GOP" narrative.

Paul, it turns out, loses to Clinton in every group ... except 18-29-year-olds. Here are the numbers:
18-29: Paul 46%, Clinton 42%
30-44: Clinton 44%, Paul 41%
45-64: Clinton 48%, Paul 42%
65+: Clinton 48%, Paul 38%
Is this just Iowa? Is it a meaningless result because the subsample is small? Is there just more sexism among the young, especially young males? Or ageism?

If it's meaningful, it makes me think that the GOP just has to harness the "bros for hemp and economic Darwinism" message of Rand Paul and it can overcome its difficulties in appealing to younger voters, as the older ones die off. I think it's likely the GOP won't do this -- I still think Rubio is a much more likely 2016 nominee -- and he's actually weakest against both Clinton and Biden among young people, possibly because he is, as Michael Kinsley said about Al Gore a couple of decades ago, "an old person's idea of a young man," or possibly because he tries so damn hard to seem hip.

There isn't a significant age gap in the Joe Biden-Rand Paul matchup -- though that may be because Biden (or at least the Onion/Jon Stewart version of Biden) is seen as somewhat of a bro. Still, Paul beats Biden among the young (and overall).

Paulism is the GOP's future, though I'm not sure the GOP understands that. I'm not even sure Paul understands that -- the great drone-hater will probably vote to keep Gitmo open, assuming he sticks to the pro-Gitmo position he staked out in 2009. But the potential is there.


Jason said...

I'm not sure if I'm not reading what you are, but from what I can tell for the 18-29 group Biden loses to Paul by 7 points, larger than the difference between Clinton and Paul. In fact the only group they're close is 65+. Paul beats Biden by about 7 points in every other age category. This would suggest it's perhaps more than about "being a bro."

Of course, the MOE is 2.6... suggesting that Clinton could be a lot closer than she appears, or a lot farther away. 4 points isn't a very big difference.

Even granting that Paul is more appealing to the young, I'm not sure that the GOP could expect to win elections by re-branding itself in the way you describe. Their current base threatens to revolt over the tiniest adjustment in policy (Huckabee and gay marriage, for example). Do you really think they're going to stand for something like a pro-marijuana candidate? Remember that the problem Republicans are facing is that they have to take extreme positions to win primaries, which hurt them in general elections. Any candidate who followed your strategy would simply lose the primary, which is usually decided by the most dedicated members of the base.

Finally, I think there is something about the "Dude, weed and freedom man" policy track that appeals to younger people only when they're younger. Young voters don't vote as often as other groups; the trick is to turn young voters into lifelong voters for your ideas, and I don't think the policy you're describing is going to last past their younger days.

I think perhaps you're overreacting a bit here to one poll.

Victor said...

Rand Paul is too stupid and goofy to become President.

Of course, it took us 8 years to get out from under the last moron I said that about.

Steve M. said...

I am reading a lot into one poll, Jason -- you're right about that. And you're right that the GOP loses the old base with every slight deviation from orthodoxy. Still, at a certain point the Repubs might decide it's a risk worth taking. I suspect that won't happen, but if it did, the Democrats' alleged generational inevitability could disappear.

My point about Paul vs. Biden was that Paul also beats Biden among older voters, in the sub-65 group by the same margin as among 18-29-year-olds, so it doesn't look like just youth appeal.