Due to extensive travel and limited Internet and posting time, I haven’t covered in detail yet the new pox-on-both-your-houses-and-the-White-House-too NBC/WSJ poll (stay tuned). But one of the most glaring findings is that the GOP is losing non-Tea Party Republicans who are becoming independents and are increasingly willing to opt for a third party. First Read gives this summary:
*** Non-Tea Party Republicans are breaking from the GOP: Our NBC/WSJ poll has shown that fewer respondents are identifying as Republicans. So who is leaving? Well, one set of numbers gives us a big clue. In a three-way generic congressional contest, the Democrat gets 35%, the third-party/independent candidate gets 30%, and the Republican candidate gets 28%. You might think that it’s Tea Party Republicans who are siding with the third-party/independent candidate. But you’d be wrong. The third-party support is coming mostly from self-identified independents and NON-Tea Party Republicans. In other words, it’s the NON-Tea Party folks who are splitting from the GOP. Here’s the data:
Among Democrats: 73% back the Dem candidate, 2% support a GOP candidate, 19% third party/indie
Among Republicans: 65% GOP candidate, 2% Dem, 28% third party/indie
Among Tea Party Republicans: 72% GOP candidate, 0% Dem, 25% third party/indie
Among NON-Tea Party Republicans: 58% GOP candidate, 5% Dem, 32% third party/indie
Independents: 13% GOP candidate, 12% Dem, 61% third party/indie
And if you dig even deeper into the demographics, you see that a lot of groups that usually lean GOP (but ONLY lean) are the ones most intrigued about bolting to a third-party candidate. A year ago, many Republican Party leaders were concerned about Tea Partiers leaving the party (it’s something Erick Erickson has threatened from time to time). But according to this polling data, the threat is from SOFTER more moderate Republicans. By the way, he wasn’t a MAJOR congressional candidate, but in North Carolina, Jason Thigpen, a moderate Republican challenging GOP Rep. Walter Jones, bolted his party and switched to the Dems, arguing it has become too beholden to the base. Thigpen appears to fit the profile of Republicans we see in our poll as open to a third party.
This isn’t surprising, on a personal level, I know many folks who were staunch Republicans who simply cannot be a part of the current GOP with the way its tactics and tone seem influenced by conservative talk show hosts and Tea Party members. To be sure, they have their strong proponents on the internet. Plus: current conservatives have lost the ability to communicate or discuss ideas. Lightning strikes more often than the thoughtful emails I get from conservative Republicans who disagree with TMV posts, my Cagle columns or articles in The Week. They are all screaming, yelling, and name calling. He who disagrees is an enemy, ill-intentioned, part of a conspiracy, dumb — not exactly the way to change the mind of someone with whom you disagree. But it seems largely about going on the attack against those who see things differently, not trying to make them agree.
Plus: on a national tour two years ago where I drove 49,000 miles across the country it was jarring how many people I met who were Republicans who were turned off by the tone of the current incarnation of their party and they word they used often was “extremist.” Many didn’t like the Democrats at all but they felt they had lost their party to a segment that had once been ONE segment of the party — not the party that called the shots.
And then there is the obvious: conservatives on talk radio, on cable, on Internet political sites make no attempt to hide the contempt and disdain they feel for those who are moderates or who are conservatives who believe in trying to reach some compromises, no matter how small. They’ve all but said “Get the hell out of our party” — and some Republicans who aren’t fond of Democrats are now doing just that.
And there’s little sign that the hard-liners will change their tune as they opt for a smaller tent with an ideological bouncer scrutinizing the crowd, looking for people to throw out of the tent.