Many Republicans are resigned to the idea that they can only win national elections by the thinnest of margins.
Mitt Romney’s infamous “47%” remarks were an explanation that nearly half the country would be unwilling to even consider voting for him.
The GOP has only won a plurality of the national vote once in the last six presidential elections: George W. Bush’s 51% win in 2004.
But a new Quinnipiac poll out yesterday shows a simple GOP roadmap to winning big: nominate Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.).
Here’s the key chart. While most candidates are very unpopular with the opposing side and split independents evenly, most everybody likes Christie.
The headline number from the poll is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) and Christie would tie, 41-41, in a presidential matchup in the Democratic-leaning swing state of Iowa.
But the favourable/unfavorable ratings are what really show how Christie is special. Uniquely among national politicians, he polls well with Republicans, Democrats and independents. All three groups are solidly more likely to say they have a favourable view of Christie than an unfavorable one.
Quinnipiac polled three other politicians in Iowa and found much more normally polarised responses. Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden (D), and Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) are all beloved by their parties and hated by the other side.
The chart understates how polarising Walker is because many voters have no opinion on him yet. Among respondents with an opinion, 91% of Republicans view Walker favourably and 88% of Democrats view him unfavorably.
If you’re a political party whose problem is that your appeal is not broad enough, nominating the candidate with broad appeal should be a no-brainer.
Christie is sure to face conservative resistance over substantive policy issues (like his acceptance of the Medicaid expansion) and stylistic ones (like his literal embrace of President Obama last October). But his actions that have antagonized conservative base voters are the same ones that allow Christie to maintain a broad appeal.
And Christie seems to be sufficiently conservative for the Republicans who follow his governing actions most closely. 96% of Republicans in New Jersey approve of the job he’s doing as Governor, according to a June Quinnipiac poll.
Christie shows that being broadly popular is relatively simple: You just have to show that you’re governing in good faith and willing to compromise when doing so is popular and in the best interest of your electorate.
The Republican party isn’t doomed to rejection by half the electorate. It just has to be willing to adapt in the way Christie has. The patient can change, but only if it wants to.
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