John McCain and Mitt Romney are moderate Republicans who were both nominated after a broader group of candidates split up the majority conservative vote. They both came from behind to win the nomination, and they both were defeated in the general election.
This cycle is older than you might think. You have to look all the way back to 1984 to find a Republican nominee with true conservative credentials, and that candidate was Ronald Reagan. Since then, many conservatives have run, and they always lose the nomination to a non-conservative candidate.
But things look different this year, according to a WPA Opinion Research poll that tested the strength of the 2016 Republican contenders. The top two contenders are both conservative, and they’re locked in a dead heat at 13% each. The probable candidates are Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The top-placing RINO is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who scored 11%. Every other contender is in the single digits.
“With a field of quality candidates, it’s no surprise that no one has broken away from the pack,” said WPA Research CEO Chris Wilson. “The important thing at this point of the race is staying in the conversation, and the fact that Rand Paul, Huckabee, Bush, Christie and Cruz are all managing to do that bodes well for them long term.”
Wilson added, “Rand Paul seems to be doing what his father never was able to and reaching out to other parts of the party to win support. While young voters are his best group, Paul also manages to pull in support from other age groups, as well. He wins 16% of the 65-to-74 age group.”
Let’s Focus on Ideas, Not Rhetoric
Of course, the Washington GOP establishment would be aghast if either Huckabee or Paul became the Republican nominee. The party elites spent decades discrediting Paul’s father, former Congressman Ron Paul. Remember when Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush’s former White House Press Secretary, tweeted that Ron Paul “is nuts”?
Not much has changed when it comes to his son, either. The classic argument is that “Rand Paul could never win… he’s too libertarian.”
And as far as Huckabee goes, the establishment says that “Mike Huckabee was once a Baptist preacher, a preacher could never win the presidency.”
Notice how neither argument is centered on ideas. That’s because party moderates can’t secure the nomination by saying, “Rand Paul wants to cut the size and scope of government. What we need is a big-government Republican like Chris Christie.”
Big-government Republicans rely on arguments devoid of ideas and focus on unprovable assertions such as, “Candidate X is unelectable.” Expect to hear lots of this type of bogus reasoning flowing out of D.C. in the next two years.
Let’s hope the GOP voters will ignore the noise and pick a conservative like Mike Huckabee or Rand Paul. Both would be great candidates, and either would likely beat whatever opponent the Democrats dig up to carry the banner of Obamacare, food stamps, higher taxes, and more government regulation.
This commentary appeared at CapitolHillDaily.com and is reprinted here with permission.
Photo credit: Jay Phagan (Flickr)
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