Will An Overcrowded Field Ruin The GOP Chances In 2016?

On Monday, neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina became the sixth and seventh candidates to join the GOP presidential field. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is expected to make it eight on Tuesday, and another dozen candidates of varying degrees of credibility are jostling each other at the edge of the pool, deciding whether or not to jump in. 

Ask Republican activists about the increasingly crowded field, and you’ll hear happy talk about how “wide and deep” the GOP’s bench is. But it’s hard to believe that worries about an unwieldy primary field and visions of debate stages crammed with a dozen lecterns aren’t haunting the dreams of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. 

“You have the potential for it to become a circus up on the debate stage,” said Republican campaign strategist Ford O’Connell. “It’s going to be difficult to avoid that.” 

Here’s the problem: The presidential map is a tough one for the Republicans. The Democrats start with a huge Electoral College advantage when you divide up the states that reliably vote for each party. That means winning will require keeping all solidly Republican states red, and convincing multiple swing states that have recently gone to the Democrats to vote Republican instead. 

Doing that, in turn will require scraping together as many votes as possible. But if the GOP wants to drive turnout, it also needs to avoid offending voters in the early going by barring their chosen candidates – or at least candidates who speak directly to their concerns – from even getting a place on the debate stage. 

“That’s the problem right there,” O’Connell said. “To win the presidential election what Republicans have to do is increase their appeal to Hispanic voters, bring every white working class voter into the tent, and try to stop the bleeding with single women under 50.” 

Read more from Rob Graver at The Fiscal Times

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Analysis & Political Strategy