The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman sees the Republican party on the horns of a dilemma regarding its 2016 presidential nomination. In a Sunday post, Longman asserted that any candidate who strongly appeals to the GOP base couldn’t win the general election, but acknowledged that it’s understandable that the rank and file would point to several recent losses by center-right nominees and ask, in effect, “This time, why not a real conservative?”
Republican righties, Longman remarked, “are more inclined to test the idea of nominating a fire-breathing conservative who won’t trim their sails. Better to go down swinging tha[n] to unilaterally disarm by caving on principles within your own party.”
From Longman’s post (bolding added):
Obviously, someone is going to win the [Republican] party’s presidential nomination...But there is no one on the horizon who has all the things candidates require (a strong base of support, the ability to raise sufficient amounts of money, media savvy) and that has a message that can both appeal to the Republican base and refigure the electoral map...
There’s a reason that people keep sampling the list of possible contenders and keep spitting them back out. Just as Mitt Romney fell behind every opponent at some point or another only to come out on top in the end, there’s a reason people keep going back to Jeb Bush. He can check every box on the list except the one where the Republican base allows him to win with a message that can change the Electoral College.
Simply put, the Republican primary voter holds a set of beliefs that are nowhere near close to being acceptable to enough states to win the Electoral College. In the past, they’ve fallen in line for candidates like Poppy, Dole, McCain and Romney, only to be disappointed in victory or devastated in defeat. It’s getting increasingly hard to convince them to be practical, especially when the watered-down version of conservatism hasn’t brought them the electoral or practical victories they seek. Why should they believe that Jeb Bush would do better than McCain or Romney did? Why would they support a candidate who promotes Common Core and comprehensive immigration reform?
Throughout recent history, the pragmatic streak within conservatism has won out in these presidential nominating contests, but only by rendering the “practical” candidate unelectable. The obvious answer is to get behind someone who can run less as a conservative than as a traditional Republican, but they are more inclined to test the idea of nominating a fire-breathing conservative who won’t trim their sails. Better to go down swinging that to unilaterally disarm by caving on principles within your own party.
…None of that matters unless or until someone emerges who has a plan to change the Electoral College. That means winning some states that no Republican has won since 2004 or maybe even 1992. You’ll know such a candidate has arrived on the scene when you see them [sic] taking unorthodox positions and nonetheless getting showered with campaign cash donated by enthusiastic supporters. Rand Paul wants to be that guy, but he isn’t.
A bit later on Sunday, Longman commented on the Hillary “juggernaut” and other factors that have made the race, or lack thereof, for the Democratic nomination such a snoozer: “Is the left even in the mood to have an ideological battle in 2016? Perhaps there is some appetite for it, but I haven’t seen it reflected in our elected leaders. The Republicans are acting so badly that the left has united in response and reaction."