February 23, 2012

For Those Who Say The GOP Loses With Moderates

This from over at Jawa Report is mostly accurate.

We didn't lose in 1996 and 2008 because we ran moderate candidates. That's historical fiction. We lost those two elections because of a) economic conditions (good in 1996 favoring the incumbent, and bad in 2008 favoring the out-party candidate); b) because of a third party candidate in 1996 (remember, Clinton never got a majority of the vote in either 1992 or 1996, Ross Perot eroded the Reagan independent vote); c) because of weak candidates (the weakness of their personal candidacy having nothing to do with their alleged moderation).

The other problem with the two examples Rush uses is something called selection bias. His chooses cases where moderates lose, and ignores when a moderate wins.

How about 1988? Did a moderate Republican win or not? Um, yes he did.

Remember, George H.W. Bush ran against Reagan as a moderate and famously called Reagan's economic plans "voodoo economics".

My one observation is that Bob Dole was historically a pretty conservative politician. The problem with Dole, of course, was that he (rather like McCain) had two modes of operating -- flat and cranky. He was Gerald Ford's vice presidential choice in 1976 because he was seen a conservative favorite who would help draw Reagan supporters. Indeed, the 1996 ticket was arguably the most conservative GOP ticket ever, given that it also included Jack Kemp.

The problem with the "Dole was a moderate" analysis has to do with the reality of American politics -- the GOP has moved right in my lifetime. In 1964, Barry Goldwater as viewed as hard right -- a candidate with his positions today would likely be viewed as a moderate by some of today's folks demanding some latter day version of conservative purity.

UPDATE: Got an email from a reader shortly after posting this.

you [REDACTED] Rino mother [REDACTED]!! It is people like you who are the problem with the Republicans today!!!! You are no conservative -- go vote for that Kenyan mother [REDACTED]ing son of a [REDACTED] Obama!!!!!!!

Sorry, dude -- you read me all wrong. I want a conservative -- and view ALL of the candidates running (with the possible exception of Ron Paul) as conservatives. Indeed, Mitt Romney would have been viewed as a very conservative candidate in any other election year -- as he was in 2008. I'm arguing that the definition of conservative has changed -- and not necessarily for the better. Plus, I stand with Ronald Reagan on the following point.

But then again, you would probably declare Ronald Reagan to be a [REDACTED] Rino mother [REDACTED] if he were running today, and damn him as a part of the Establishment.

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Comments on For Those Who Say The GOP Loses With Moderates

I think you're right about Dole - in 1996, he the old, cranky, easy-to-caricaturize Republican going up against a relatively popular, young incumbent. I also agree that he was more conservative than people care to remember.

The trouble this year is that we have a real shot at beating Obama. I think the question primary voters should be considering at the polls is whether they want to give up this opportunity to put an actual game changer in the White House, or keep with the status quo. That's my biggest issue with Mitt Romney, really. He's the literal heir to the moderate side of the party that fought Goldwater's nomination and did what they could to keep Reagan off the ballot.

|| Posted by MJSamuelson, February 23, 2012 01:59 PM ||

I understand the sentiment -- but also realize that we have a real shot at losing to Obama if we move to far to the conservative side. As we both know, political victory is as much art as science.

And let's not forget -- While Mitt may be George's son, he is not his ideological clone, and he holds positions closer to those of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan than his father ever did.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 23, 2012 03:54 PM ||
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