Republican voters are enthusiastic about having a wide field of possible choices for the 2016 presidential election, but that enthusiasm could wane if candidates go negative, said Karl Rove.
In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal
, the former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush cited a May 18 Pew Research Center poll that showed that 57 percent of Republicans have an excellent or good impression of their party's candidates. By comparison, 54 percent of Democrats share that view of their candidates.
"The Republican presidential primary is a jumbled mass of competitors, with new ones joining the jostling for support seemingly every week. Meanwhile, the Democrats have more a coronation than a contest, with one figure ignoring the rabble en route to the nomination," Rove said.
"Bigger fields and active contests sometimes generate greater support than smaller fields and quiescent competitions. That happened in 2007 when Pew found 64 percent of Democrats liked their party's candidates, while only 50 percent of Republicans did."
Rove said the quality of contenders is also a factor in whether the public is enthusiastic about a party's options. He said that the quality of candidates this cycle is better than in 2012 and perhaps the best since 1980.
"Perhaps the biggest reason Republicans are more satisfied with their field than Democrats is the opposition party's natural tendency to be hungrier and more energized after an eight-year absence from the White House," Rove wrote.
Rove noted, however, that despite being satisfied, many Republicans have yet to make up their minds about who to support.
And enthusiasm will decline sharply if they witness personal attacks by GOP hopefuls on other Republican contenders, he said.
"Concerned Republicans should let every candidate and potential candidate know what is acceptable — and unacceptable — behavior."
He concluded by saying, "Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment — 'Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican' — is a powerful injunction. But in politics, commandments are not delivered on stone tablets. They are best sent from the grass roots."
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