Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Brewing Republican Civil War

In an upstate New York congressional district, the GOP is in civil war. Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty, two potential 2012 Presidential candidates, have endorsed the conservative party nominee, instead of the Republican nominee. They cited concerns over Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava’s insufficiently conservative views.

From the point of view of a Republican strategist, I’d think the move is a mistake. What’s likely to happen now is a splintered vote. The Conservatives and Republicans will split the conservative vote in the district. That will leave the Democrat in the race only to unify his base and win some moderates to carry the day.

Moreover, the Republican Party is purging itself of exactly the kind of moderates they need to become competitive again in parts of the country like New England, or the West coast. The median voter in these parts simply does not agree with Sarah Palin’s hard conservative line on many issues. The message sent to moderates is loud and clear: don’t think about running for office as a Republican, or conservatives will do everything in their power to defeat you.

I understand that Republicans might like to have ideological purity. But the Republican nominee will still be with the party on most issues. By contrast, a Democrat elected from this district will vote with President Obama on most issues. Do Republicans want to remain a permanent regional rump?

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