By Mark Rhoads
In almost every GOP presidential cycle with no incumbent running over the last half-century, someone always makes the superficial argument that the party should nominate its most liberal credible candidate in order to appeal beyond its base conservative voters to win over more moderate Democrats and independents. There are several reasons why this argument is based on a false premise. Some of them are listed below.
One major reason is that the most successful GOP candidate of the last forty years, Ronald Reagan, was able to expand his base not by reaching out to more liberal voters outside the GOP, but by finding additional conservative-value voters among blue-collar Democrats and independents and also by motivating turnout of the base. For example, the current CNN poll of Republicans shows that party rank and file voters are overwhelmingly conservative in their beliefs.
For the beauty contest, the poll shows Republicans favor Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) by 27 percent nationwide over former Gov. Mitt Romney (Partly RINOish-Massachusetts) with 14 percent. Sarah Palin follows Romney with ten percent and Michelle Bachmann follows Palin with 9 percent. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani also measures at 9 percent and former House Speaker New Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul are each the preferred choice of 6 percent. Rick Perry was also at the top of the GOP field by a wide margin in last week’s Gallup poll with Romney in a distant second place. If you add together the support levels of Perry, Palin, Bachmann, Gingrich, and Ron Paul you come up with a total of 58 percent of Republicans wanting a range of conservative to libertarian positions. If you combine the support of Mitt Romney and the widely admired former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, there is a total of 25 percent who favor candidates on the more moderate-to-liberal wing of the GOP. If the delegates elected to the national GOP convention are in any way representative of the rank and file GOP primary voters, and they usually are, the delegates will be conservatives by a wide margin which means a conservative platform and a nominee with distinctly conservative views.
There is little disagreement about the need to broaden a candidate’s base to win in November 2012. The only difference of opinion among the self-appointed party pros is what is the best way to broaden the base. Absent an incredible realignment election, Republican candidates have not in recent years have had much of a chance of carrying New York (31 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (21), Michigan (17), Illinois (21), California (55), Oregon (7), or Washington (11) for a starting Democratic advantage of 163 Electoral Votes. Even John McCain in 2008 who lost many former GOP states to Obama still managed to carry 22 states with 173 Electoral Votes. For a GOP candidate to win, the party must win back formerly red states carried by Obama in 2008 such as Florida (25), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Ohio (20), and Indiana (11) to add back 84 more electoral votes to the McCain list for a new total of 257 electoral votes or still 13 short of the majority of 270. Those 13 votes could be found in some combination of swing states such as New Jersey (15), Wisconsin (10), Minnesota (10), Iowa (7), New Mexico (5), or Colorado (9).
Also recall that Texas has gained four more electoral votes since the 2010 census which would make the GOP base of 22 states now yield 167 electoral votes instead of 163. There are other states in play in 2012 that normally would not be. Michigan (17) for example can normally be counted in the Democratic column but with an unemployment rate far above the national average, even Michigan could be deducted from the Blue column and added to the Red one. The unemployment rate in California in August was at a monstrous 13.3 percent and headed higher by the end of December. Republicans have not carried California for the presidential nominee since 1988 which was also the last time a Republican, George H.W. Bush, carried Illinois. If California tilts to the GOP column on Election Night 2012, everyone can go to bed early unless they are celebrating.
Of the 2008 Obama states that the GOP must get back in 2012, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana are all in play for a conservative candidate who can motivate the enthusiasm of the bast to turnout in a similar way to how the Obama base turned out in 2008 while some of the GOP base stayed home. On the other hand a liberal GOP nominee would only help in very long-shot states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, or the West Coast.