Karl Rove engineered George W Bush’s wins by turning out the base. A lot of this was accomplished using “wedge” issues. This approach became the hallmark of GOP strategy even though candidates like Sen. McCain and Gov. Romney failed to excite the base. But now we have a candidate, not issues, that have excited the base. This served Donald Trump well in the primary but it appears that he is not transition from primary candidate to general candidate. Can turning out the base work again?
If the latest polls are indication, the answer is no. The strategy failed under McCain and Romney even though they were disliked, but those two attracted some moderates and independents. Trump is not appealing to those groups. The rhetoric and policies he pushed in the primary energized a passionate part of the GOP that felt they were forgotten by the GOP establishment. It brought a lot of them that were previously marginalized into the primaries – his biggest wins were open, not closed primaries. He fed that group to be his winning base in the primary. But he painted himself in a box for the general. What worked well to win the primary among this group doesn’t sell well to other independents or moderates. If he softens the tone or reaches for that middle, his base will turn on him. So without the middle to reach for is there a way Hillary can be beaten?
The Democrats have roughly 250 of 270 electoral before they even pick a candidate. That is a huge hurdle for any Republican. So the battleground states become key. The only way for Trump to win is that these battleground states either a) have more Trump supporter (which is doubtful) of b) the middle gets disgusted and doesn’t show up.
Its a reverse of what Rove tried to overcome. Rove saw that parties lost because the wings were turned off and didn’t show. In this case, if you couldn’t win over the middle you had turn out your base more than the other side and at least hold your own in the middle. The lesser of two evils strategy won’t do it alone, the middle has to be the ones that are turned off and don’t show. With two candidates with low likability numbers its going to get uglier.