MATTHEWS: On Republicans and the ‘electability’ argument 

Dan Cox, candidate for the Maryland Republican gubernatorial nomination, speaks during the gubernatorial forum at the Maryland Association of Counties, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022, in Ocean City, Md. (AP Photo/Todd Dudek)

We’re just a couple of months away from the crucial midterm elections, and once again the “electability” argument is being brought up in Republican circles for self-serving reasons. 

Last week on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” program, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, was peppered with questions on whether he was running for president in 2024 and also on the July Republican gubernatorial primary in his state which saw Trump-endorsed candidate Dan Cox defeat the Hogan-endorsed Kelly Schultz. 

After tapdancing around his possible 2024 ambitions, Hogan then lit into Republicans who nominate supposedly “unelectable” candidates. 

“It was really sad,” Hogan said of Cox’s win. “And it’s what I’ve been talking about for two years, that, you know, this should be a really huge year for Republicans just because of the failures of the Democrats — who are in control of everything — and Biden’s low approval ratings. But we could blow it by nominating unelectable people. And that’s exactly what’s happening across the country and why the [red] wave is going to be more of a ripple rather than a tidal wave.” 

Hogan went on to reiterate that the alleged electability problems were not confined just to his deep-blue state. 

“But this is just — not just Maryland, this is happening across the country,” Hogan suggested. “This is … why Mitch McConnell is saying they’re not — we may not win the Senate. It’s why we were hoping to pick up seats in governors’ races and now we’re not.” 

Because Hogan and others in the GOP establishment continue to demonstrate what I believe is a willful ignorance when it comes to the “electability” question, here’s a refresher for why such “issues” no longer matter to the Republican base. 

In 2012, Republicans were told Mitt Romney was the “electable” presidential nominee just like they were told in 1996 that Bob Dole was the “electable” choice. Both Romney and Dole were trashed mercilessly by Democrats who predictably warned the country would be taken back to the dark ages of slavery and the subjugation of women if either of them won. 

In particular, they viciously trashed Mitt Romney, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him once he won the nomination with the occasional gutter shot taken at his wife Ann Romney for good measure. 

The latter happened despite the fact that Romney was, like Hogan, a milquetoast center-left Republican in a country where Republicans were rapidly going solid right after decades of being told to nominate Republicans whose most “attractive quality” was in how well they worked across the aisle with Democrats. 

George W. Bush was an exception to this rule, but even his luck ran out with the base after his reelection in 2004, where Republicans who stood behind him turned against him over his middle-of-the-road stances on illegal immigration as well as the botched Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination. 

In 2016, Donald Trump won despite being portrayed as the “unelectable” candidate by Republicans like Hogan and Democrats, the latter of who actually wanted Trump to win the nomination that year because they felt he would be easy for them to beat. He, too, was also trashed by Democrats as someone who would take us back decades. 

Some have suggested that Trump’s win was the GOP electorate’s way of thumbing their noses at the establishment, with who they were fed up for making promises on policy that they continuously failed to deliver and for pushing “electable” candidates who ultimately didn’t get elected. 

Unfortunately for career Republican politicos, from here on out there are going to be candidates out there who run in the style of Trump, because the days of conservative Republicans worrying about supposed “electability” are long gone. 

Some will win, some will lose which is, last I checked, how this is supposed to work. 

North Carolina native Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a media analyst and regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.