Sep 26, 2023  |  
 | Remer,MN
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Curt Anderson

NextImg:The voters are the problem

To hear establishment Republicans in Washington tell it, we have found the problem — it’s the voters.

Well, they don’t quite articulate it that way. Instead, they blame Republican losses on “candidate quality.” But let’s be honest about what that means — that’s a direct attack on the people who choose the candidates, otherwise known as the voters.


Of course, there’s an element of truth to it. Some candidates are better than others, and the best candidate doesn’t always win. I have the T-shirt for that one. But the candidate who gets the most votes does tend to win, and you get votes from voters. So, again, the voters are the real problem.

Hence, many in Washington believe all would be well if they could select which candidates represent the Republican Party. After all, the people based in Washington are more sophisticated and learned on these matters than the mindless rabble who attend Lincoln Day dinners wearing silly hats on the rubber chicken circuit.

As Republicans in Washington lick their wounds over the 2022 wave that fizzled, many of the self-professed smart guys in D.C. are talking big about weighing in on primaries in order to address the problem of “candidate quality.” It appears that the uninformed voters out there in fly-over country need our help.

To be fair, both parties do occasionally nominate less-than-ideal candidates. It has always been the case and some of those unideal candidates are currently serving in both the House and the Senate.

The hubris that suggests politicians, political consultants, and national party committees in Washington would make better choices or, for some odd reason, deserve to make those choices is remarkably elitist. You either embrace democracy and your own voters or you don’t. Many in the Republican Party based in Washington don’t, and never have.

As the Republican National Committee launches yet another public autopsy (how many times can you examine a corpse?), it’s a certainty that some will push for a discussion of how to convince Republican primary voters to do better at taking orders from Washington. I predict it will be a short discussion. The idea of D.C. party leaders picking candidates will be embraced by approximately zero conservatives and Republicans outside of the Washington beltway, despite its popularity among D.C.’s chattering class.

In the real world outside of Washington, if a candidate were to stand up at any Republican Party gathering and say, “Hi, I’m running for Senate, and you should vote for me because I have the backing of the Republican leaders in Washington,” the booing would be instant, deafening, and well deserved.

The story after every election is always the same in Washington. When a candidate loses, he or she is instantly pronounced a bad candidate. When a candidate wins, it’s because the consultants, super PACs, and donors dragged them over the finish line. Then the lobbyists show up at the congressional office and say, “I was secretly for you all along.”

The chasm between the views of the Republican establishment crowd in Washington and the Republican voters outside of D.C. has never been so vast. In Washington, they want candidates who will not rock the boat and play by the old rule — “to get along, you need to go along.” Outside of Washington, voters want just the opposite.

This tension won’t last forever; my money is on the voters.


Curt Anderson is a partner at OMI, a Republican media and polling firm that has defeated six Democratic U.S. Senators. He was an aide in the Reagan White House, RNC political director for Haley Barbour, and currently a senior advisor to Sen. Rick Scott.

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