Due to a massive number of incumbent retirees and potentially toxic presidential politics, conventional wisdom suggests that the Republican Party will lose the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate in 2018. With 38 house retirees many pundits are predicting a Republican collapse, but they fail to read between the lines. Twenty-one of these 38 retiring Republicans are in districts with a partisan voting index (PVI) of R+10, while only two are in districts with D+ PVI. Furthermore, four Democratic representatives in Republican leaning districts are retiring, further mitigating possible losses.
With the disproportionate number of retirees in safe Republican districts the Republican Party has an unprecedented opportunity. Whoever wins the Republican primaries in these districts will most likely win the general election. With these nearly guaranteed victories, the Republican Party can choose a slate of candidates that includes more females, Hispanics and younger politicians. If the Republicans enact such a strategy, it can be the death blow to the Democratic Party’s use of identity politics.
The Democratic leadership in the House has an average age of 72, while it is 48 for Republican leaders. The chairmen and ranking members of the Democratic Party are on average 68 years old, as opposed to 59 for Republicans. Despite Democratic attempts to pigeonhole the Republicans as the party of old white people and old white men in particular, they are in fact the younger party. With the retiring of many incumbents, the republicans have a chance to increase this age disparity to their own advantage. If this is achieved attacks upon the Republicans as the party of ‘old white men’ will ring hollow when coming from the likes of Henry Waxman (78), Nancy Pelosi (78), Chuck Schumer (67), and Dianne Feinstein (87). The 115th congress is one of the oldest in history, the Republicans have a historic chance to claim the mantle of youth for the next several elections.
There are 84 female representatives in the House, 23 of which are Republicans and six of those are retiring. There is a gender gap between the two parties but it is not so large that it cannot be bridged. The Republican party does not need to compete with the Democrats in terms of numbers for the sake of tokenism, but it should encourage more women to seek office and influence in its ranks. Not too long ago, Olympia Snowe and Christie Whitman were strong independent voices in the GOP and the party still has insightful influences like Susanna Martinez. Encouraging young women to attempt to replace retiring congressman and to challenge vulnerable Democrats will give the party both good optics in contrast to Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Warren, as well as fresh perspectives outside of its normal pool of potential candidates.
In the 2004 presidential election Pres. George W. Bush won 44 percent of Hispanic voters. Perhaps even more astonishingly, despite his perceived ‘racist’ rhetoric Donald Trump won 29 percent of Hispanic voters, nearly one-third of all Hispanic male voters and one-fourth of all Hispanic female voters. These results should be encouraging to every Republican operative and should be worrying to the DNC.
Against an increasingly leftist Democratic party, the GOP has an opportunity to gain ground with a growing segment of the U.S. population. Polling consistently shows that the economy is the most important issue to Hispanic voters. The Democratic Party nearly nominated a self-professed socialist in the 2016 Presidential Election, the Republican Party can use issues of economic freedom as points of contention to attract Hispanic voters. Furthermore, unlike the Democratic Party which has currently relegated it’s Hispanic leaders to the DNC, the Republican Party has Hispanic elected officials that are major influences in the party such as Marco Rubio, Susanna Martinez, and Jeb Bush (though not Hispanic his wife and children are and he speaks Spanish very well). A large portion of the retiring Republicans in the House are from states with a considerable proportion of Hispanic voters (e.g. TX, CA, AZ, FL). This should allow the GOP to recruit and run a large slate of Hispanic candidates. If the Republican Party can moderate its stance on the border wall and illegal immigration, as well as cultivate a group of young Hispanic legislators, it can emerge from the 2018 elections stronger at its core than most believe possible.
With the impending short-term losses coming in the 2018 midterm elections, the Republican Party has unique opportunities to appeal to the majority of the electorate. If the RNC acts counter-intuitively and embraces the large scale retirement of incumbents, it can overhaul its image. If it welcomes younger, more female, and more Hispanic candidates, the GOP can turn the tables on the Democratic Party and make them look like the old men of the Politburo that they are becoming.
Michael Gerini is a former member of the armed forces and a first-generation American.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.
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