The defeat of Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor has prompted us to release this new and updated, full report of Democracy Corps’ Republican Party Project. The focus groups were conducted and reported last summer; the latest survey interviews were conducted in May and include results on immigration measures.
The Republican establishment and commentators should pay attention because they have entirely misread the primary battles, the strength of different camps, and indeed, the key groups and the issues that animate them.
The engaged core of the Republican Party is comprised of Evangelicals and Tea Party Supporters who form 54 percent of the GOP base. Another 15 percent are deeply observant and predominantly Catholic.
They had their say when Dave Brat defeated Eric Cantor this week. Brat’s attack on Cantor as “the No. 1 cheerleader in Congress for Amnesty” was surely a factor — as the GOP establishment will probably pay much closer attention to the strong views on immigrants expressed in this report. For the core of the party, allowing the undocumented, mostly Hispanics, off the hook is a deep offense, rewarding the most irresponsible.
But Brat was also a Christian conservative who described his victory as “a gift from God,” an easy identity not available to Eric Cantor in this rural, non-cosmopolitan district.
The GOP establishment has prevailed in these party battles when they fully embrace the Evangelicals and Observant who form almost half the party. That may explain why the party has become even more vocal and active fighting abortion this year. But the GOP Establishment did not prevail in Texas and may not in Mississippi where the Tea Party-Evangelical majority may have its way.
Pay attention to this report’s findings on climate change. There is a reason why Republican candidates are rushing to repudiate the latest US and UN assessments on global warming.