GOP candidates' fatal problem

Story highlights

  • Jennifer Granholm: Republican candidates at debate touted radical positions that appeal to base, but don't represent most Americans
  • She says polls show Americans overwhelmingly disagree with GOP candidates on issues like immigration, abortion, climate and more

Jennifer Granholm is the former governor and former attorney general of Michigan. She's currently a senior research fellow at UC Berkeley and the director of The American Jobs Project. She also serves as the co-chair of Priorities USA Action, a super-PAC supporting Hillary Clinton for president in 2016. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)I used to chuckle when people claimed that voters make decisions based upon how much they like a candidate and not on a candidate's policies. But after last night's debate, I'm starting to think that the GOP candidates must believe that policies don't matter much to voters at all.

Jennifer Granholm
These Republican candidates seemed hooked on the debate sugar-high -- touting radical positions to win the adoration of a base that does not represent the majority of American society. I know, I know: That's nothing new. But it did seem to be even more outlandish than usual.
Whether it was Mike Huckabee talking about taxing pimps and prostitutes to "fix" social security, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker opposing women's choice even in cases of rape and incest, or Jeb Bush arguing that taking health care away from millions by repealing Obamacare will somehow guarantee 4% economic growth, the Republicans all did their very best to trump Donald Trump in their extreme policy positions.
    However, if people actually do vote based upon policies, you only need to look at public opinion polls to realize how destructive these positions will be with the general electorate.
    Seventy-two percent of the American people support a path to citizenship. Yet, one by one, the Republicans on stage took turns attacking undocumented immigrants, many of whom were brought to this country as youngsters, through no fault of their own. By the end of the night it was clear that Donald Trump was not alone in his bellicose and anti-immigrant demagoguery.
    Polls have shown that two-thirds of Americans believe that a woman should be able to terminate a pregnancy in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother. Moderator Megyn Kelly asked, in post-debate analysis: How would these men feel if their wives faced a severely problematic pregnancy? Would they allow them to die? Not one candidate on the prime time stage expressed support for the woman's life.
    Support for women's reproductive freedom was not the only issue left out of the main debate.
    Eighty-three percent of Americans believe in climate science, but climate change was not mentioned once.
    Eighty-four percent of Americans support paycheck fairness and equal pay for women -- not one word.
    Ninety-two percent of Americans support universal background checks for firearm purchases, especially in the wake of recent shootings: nothing from the candidates.
    The debate took place on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, yet not a single candidate expressed support for the freedom to vote. Candidates in the first debate did not utter the words "middle class" even once. The words were uttered only twice in the prime time debate. You'd think with all of those candidates, one could afford to spare a moment for issues that are so important to so many Americans. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong.
    In 2008 and 2012, the Republican Party lost presidential elections because its candidates hitched their campaigns to an unpopular, out-of-touch and out-of-date agenda. This time around, some Democrats privately worried that, perhaps, they had finally learned their lesson and would moderate positions.
    If last night was any indication, the Democratic nominee may not have anything to worry about.