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GOP Pollster to Christian Group: Balance Ideology With Electability

Bolger said Republicans will have to quickly rally around their presidential candidate if the nominating process stretches into the summer. (File Photo by Tom Williams/Roll Call).

A top Republican pollster on Friday stressed to a gathering of the Christian right the need for an electable Republican presidential nominee, saying a nominee who can beat Hillary Rodham Clinton is a top priority among Republican voters.

With a wide open Republican field, Glen Bolger told the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference his research shows that for GOP voters, electability might outweigh how close a candidate aligns to their values.

“Among Republican voters right now, they say it’s more important to have a candidate who can beat the Democrat than one who agrees with them totally on issues,” Bolger told the crowd. “That’s going to be important as Republican voters are making their decision.”

Bolger, whose client list includes more than a dozen U.S. senators, along with the super PAC that supported 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, added that this year’s GOP primary field is anyone’s for the taking.

“In my political lifetime, and you can tell from the gray hairs it’s been a while, I’ve never seen anything as wide open as this,” Bolger said.

He added that Republicans will have to quickly rally around their eventual candidate, as it’s possible the nomination process could drag on through next summer leading up to the GOP convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Once we have a nominee, we’re going to need to unite behind that nominee very quickly because Hillary is going to have … a unified party behind her and we are going to have to make sure we do the same,” Bolger said.

Bolger made a bold prediction that Clinton would not win the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary, but said despite that, she is almost certain to be the Democratic nominee.

“I think that Hillary is going to lose to Bernie Sanders in Iowa, I think she’s going to lose to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire. Then Democratic primary voters will go, ‘Oh my God, what are we doing here?’”

After his speech, CQ Roll Call asked Bolger if his take on the early Democratic contests was based on polling, but Bolger said it was just a “bold, fun prediction.”

Bolger cautioned his audience against assuming that 2016 will be as good a year for the party as 2014 — when Republicans swept races across the country and won a majority in the Senate for the first time in a decade.

“Don’t assume that the political environment and the makeup of the electorate is going to be the same in 2016 as it was in 2014,” Bolger said, adding that more Latino and black voters will head to the polls — groups that Republicans have struggled with in the past.

Bolger also stressed the need for Republicans to turn out their base, lamenting the polarization of politics today and the decline of split-ticket voters.

“There are no longer Republicans who will vote for Democrats, and Democrats who will vote for Republicans,” Bolger said. “And turning out the base is so crucial because there’s more Democrats in the country than Republicans.”

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