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Elections analyst Henry Olsen shares his thoughts on the GOP presidential candidate race


“There are four factions of the Republican Party,” Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) shared with our class, “you have your moderates or establishment candidates, the evangelical voters, very conservative seculars and then your somewhat conservatives.” According to Mr. Olsen, it is the movement and allegiances of these four factions that dictate the outcome of Republican Primaries. The 2016 Primary fits this model, with one exception.

A self-described “political junkie,” Mr. Olsen analyzes elections for the EPPC and blogs for the center as well as the National Review.

“Trump doesn’t quite fit. He is attracting people on a class base, not ideological,” Mr. Olsen said. “Senator Rubio appeals to ‘somewhat conservatives’ – whereas Kasich appeals to ‘moderates.’” Not surprisingly, Gov. Kasich did well in New Hampshire, a state Mr. Olsen described to the Campaign Battlegrounds class as 45 to 49 percent moderate and the most moderate of early voting states.

Throughout our conversation, Mr. Olsen shared his insights on many recent events, including the Iowa Caucuses. Mr. Olsen noted that the polls were largely accurate. However, the voters’ capacity to change their minds was underestimated, resulting in a surprise win for Senator Ted Cruz.

On Governor Bush’s campaign, Mr. Olsen referred to a blog post he had written comparing Jeb to Rip Van Winkle, suggesting Governor Bush had taken a twenty-year nap, entering the 2016 campaign prepared to run in 1996. Clearly, the Jeb Van Winkle problem was real, contributing to the governor’s suspension of his campaign following the South Carolina caucus.

In our discussion, Mr. Olsen also cautioned against stereotyping Southern Republican primary voters as exclusively Evangelicals.

“John McCain beat Mike Huckabee in Texas in 2008,” Mr. Olsen reminded the class. Suggesting those Southern states are not necessarily committed to the most religious candidate.

As for the current state of the GOP race, Mr. Olsen noted “three candidates are still viable.” Updates to Mr. Olsen’s interpretation of the current primary process can be found on his blog for the National Review.