Are Republicans optimistic about the GOP’s future?

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Political analysts closely watched recent gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, thinking it would illustrate an outcome for the next presidential election.

In both states, Democrats won.

The Democratic party also won a high profile Senate seat in Washington state, and Maine voted to expand Medicaid even with the GOP trying to roll it back. In September, Democrats won legislative seats in both Oklahoma and New Hampshire that had previously been Republican.

Are Republicans concerned about the future of the GOP? A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that Republicans are not quite as optimistic as they once were.

According to the study, “college-educated Republicans have seen a particularly sharp drop in their party outlook.”

Chart courtesy of Pew Research Center

“Beltway News” spoke to several D.C.-area Republicans for their take on the future of the GOP.

“We can’t rest on our laurels”

Ashley Carter is a member of D.C. Metro Area Republicans, a conservative social group whose aim is to encourage political discussion among local Republicans.

Carter doesn’t see the New Jersey and Virginia elections as a “precursor to the future” as many political analysts seem to think. Neither of the Republican candidates in those elections was strong and both “faced uphill battles,” Carter said. She thinks the losses can be a learning opportunity.

“I see it as a lesson for the party that we can’t rest on our laurels,” Carter said.

They seem surprised that we’d ever have a Republican president again.

James Parmelee is on the Executive Committee of the Fairfax County Republican Party. He’s also a member of several D.C.-area conservative groups, including the Washington Area DC Republicans Meetup group, the Northern Virginia Republican PAC and the 11th Congressional District of Virginia Republicans Committee.

“I feel optimistic that we’re going to do well,” Parmelee said. “The source of concern for me is that Republicans in Congress are not taking this opportunity to get legislation through. They didn’t seem terribly prepared after the years of Obama. They seem surprised that we’d ever have a Republican president again.”

Eventually, there was going to be another Republican president, and Parmelee thinks they should have had all their legislation written, gotten it approved by their members and they would have been prepared to roll it out.

“So, if you’re looking for areas of concern for Republicans, that would be one,” Parmelee said.

“This is nothing all that new”

In light of the recent gubernatorial elections, Parmelee thinks “this is nothing all that new.”

For decades, Parmelee said, generally, one party wins the White House and the next year, the other party wins the governor’s race in Virginia. “That’s been a pattern for decades,” he said, though the previous race with Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., was “sort of an aberration.”

“I think the Republican party took a hit [in the Virginia election], but I’m about as optimistic as I was before,” Parmelee said. “I was less optimistic around this time last year when I thought we’d get clobbered in the presidential race. That was a pleasant surprise. For me, at least. And the reaction from democrats… it’s amazing how stunned they were. I mean, elections happen.”

More Republicans are upset with Congress than they are with the President, Parmelee thinks.

He thinks the general consensus is they’d like the president to spend less time on Twitter, but overall, they like what he’s been doing. “Other than the tweeting, there has been a lot of policy change, there have been a lot of good people appointed, so there are things getting done,” Parmelee said.

The big problem, in Parmelee’s mind, is why isn’t Congress getting more stuff on his desk to sign? “All Republicans need to do is get their own people to agree and put stuff on his desk,” Parmelee said. “That seems to be a bit of a problem. “

Looking to the future

Both Carter and Parmelee are optimistic about the future of the Republican party.

While Carter thinks that both parties are going through changes, she thinks “Republicans as a whole see that change is needed and was wanted with the November election of the President.”

Republicans are hopeful that positive changes will happen at the local, state and national level, Carter said. But she also said “some Republicans are upset that the changes aren’t happening fast enough and/or that we can’t come together and work as a unit to create positive change, like we saw with the health care bill.  I think if the party can pass tax reform then we will see the optimism levels rise.”

Parmelee is also optimistic about the future of the party.

“I think the average Republican, who’s not sitting around writing angry op-eds, is happy that Donald Trump is our president, is happy that Hillary Clinton is not, is wondering why the party can’t get more stuff to his desk,” Parmelee said. “And I think they’re looking forward to hopefully reelecting him.”

Parmelee mentioned that he doesn’t see a lot of dissension at committee meetings, or when talking to average Republicans. “I think people are pretty happy,” he said. “They just want to do more.”

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