The style of Republican businessmen who once dominated the party when it was largely dominated by the country club class are struggling to connect with the extremist base that has dominated the GOP in the era of Donald Trump.
In a new analysis for the Nevada Independent, David Colborne examined how this trend is impacting two Republicans running for statewide office in the 2022 midterm elections.
"Dean Heller and J.D. Vance have quite a bit in common. Both men attended private universities — Dean Heller received his degree in business administration from the University of Southern California; J. D. Vance went to law school at Yale," he explained. "Both men are also now running for statewide office as Republicans — governor, in Dean Heller's case, while J. D. Vance is running for Senate in Ohio. To succeed, they both need to rebrand themselves, fast."
Colborne wrote that both GOP candidates were once "prominent Never Trumpers" who are now attempting to run on his MAGA message.
"The problem for both of them is, less than a decade ago, it was largely assumed there were two kinds of Republicans — successful conservative capitalist businessmen and the voters who grudgingly supported them," he explained. "Sure, few people trust, much less like, angry conspiracy theorists, bloodthirsty racists, or loudly hypocritical Bible thumpers, but nobody really likes conservative businessmen, either."
Their wealth is no longer insulating them from the whims of the GOP base.
"It's also hard to be politically active without becoming openly contemptuous of most of the people you have to talk to, especially when you're the sort of person who always has a few million in the bank to fall back on," he explained. "That's a problem for Heller and Vance, who both grew accustomed to wealth and connections keeping them safely unmoored from the worst vicissitudes of Republican opinion while they pursued their careers. Now they have to find some way to relate to, and gain favor from, some of the most stubbornly, persistently unlikeable people on the planet — the very same people they sought to rise above and avoid when they enrolled in college."
He described the approach both are using to imagine what the GOP base wants.
"When you view your audience with thinly veiled contempt but still need something from them, the obvious approach is to embrace your inner H. L. Mencken and give the rubes exactly what you think they want, good and hard — which is exactly what both Heller and Vance are doing," he explained.
Read the full analysis.