Former presidential candidate Bob Dole criticized the Republican Party this weekend. But that’s not the news. The news is that people think he still matters.
Dole’s candidacy was a remarkable failure. He received only 159 electoral votes—less than Romney in 2012, McCain in 2008, and Bush I in 1992, the other three Republicans to have lost in the past 25 years. It’s hard to see how he has any right to criticize the party, especially since he hasn’t been relevant at all since the mid-1990s.
Dole is just one of several examples of the extraordinary failure on the part of the GOP to put up good candidates. The Republicans haven’t put up a strong candidate for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Those who have managed to win—Bush 41 and Bush 43—won despite themselves, thanks to outside factors. Bush 41 had the advantage of following Reagan: it’s hard to imagine a situation where a Republican could have lost that one. Bush 43 benefitted from lousy opponents—Al Gore and John Kerry—and even then he still barely beat them.
In 2012, it was pretty clear that the Republican base didn’t like Romney, which explains why there was always a non-Romney candidate polling strongly throughout the entire primary season. They also recognized that all of the candidates were weak, which explains why the spikes constantly shifted among those non-Romney candidates.
The base knew Romney was a bad choice, but, after trying out almost everything else, they realized there wasn’t another option. That left the election between Robot Romney, who seemed to be entirely out of touch with America, and Agreeable Obama, who seemed like a guy you’d want to drink a beer with, despite the fact that he was in charge while the economy was in the tank.
After such a beating, we can only hope that the GOP has learned its lesson. 2016 is a unique year for the GOP because of the sheer amount of up-and-coming talent. There are a lot of young, fresh Republicans who have the potential to be great candidates.
It’s still too early to tell what they’ll do and if they’ll be able to turn the party’s chances around, but it doesn’t help to have Bob Dole poking his head in and trying to stay relevant. There are plenty of things Republicans can do to improve their chances in 2016, but listening to Bob Dole isn’t one of them.