I am frequently asked if Obama will be re-elected in 2012 and my answer is “not if Republicans nominate a principled,small government constitutional conservative for president.” That answer always seems to surprise establishment media types,and even some conservatives,such as Ann Coulter,because they assume that in order to win Republicans must run a content-free campaign around whichever candidate the establishment media has anointed as the “most electable.”

However, grassroots conservatives and tea partiers see electing another business-as-usual establishment Republican as losing the election – and they are right. Conservatives long ago figured out that establishment Republicans run content-free campaigns so they sound conservative while running, but can govern as business-as-usual insiders once elected. This explains why for most of the past 40 years Republican presidential candidates from Jerry Ford, to Bob Dole, to the Bushes, to John McCain, have ended up at war with the conservative base of the party.

But this election cycle the old establishment Republican formula is failing, because in 2009 the tea party brought together a new coalition of conservative voters and the 2010 congressional elections proved that you don’t have to be content-free to win. Indeed, Republicans did better when they ran as unapologetic small-government conservatives and the face of the party was not the tired insiders of the Capitol Hill Republican Party.

In the 2012 election cycle the traditional triad of economic, social and defense conservatives coupled with the newly energized constitutional conservatives of the tea party movement would be unbeatable – behind a candidate that shares, and is willing to advocate and fight for conservative principles.

Republicans need look no further than the recent state legislative elections in Virginia for instruction in how to lose the national campaign in 2012. In those campaigns where Republicans campaigned on the issues that brought out tea party and conservative voters, for the most part, they won – in those campaigns where the establishment ran message-free feel-good campaigns, featuring lots of smiling pictures of Governor Bob McDonnell, they lost the seats that could have realigned Virginia politics for a generation to come.

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