It cannot be denied: the last two Republican primaries, those of 2008 and 2012, yielded the wrong candidate. This is not to necessarily suggest that any of their other Republican rivals would have effected a different outcome in the General Elections but merely a general observation for the future.
Great Americans were (and are) both Senator John McCain and Governor Romney. Both were eminently qualified to be President of the United States. Eminently more so than their vanquisher.
But their natural political instincts were not sufficiently conservative. “It’s the economy, stupid”, chiseled into our minds by James Carville in 1992, is always accurate (the economy is pivotal to the social and cultural) but such a vision can easily lead to missed opportunity. The Romney campaign provides no better example of this. It’s real simple: You can’t win an argument if you don’t even start it.
Voters are often far more visceral than pragmatic; they vote on values and big vision. In an electoral system of voluntary voting, emotion is a most valuable commodity. It is one of the principal reasons President Obama will return to Chicago having spent eight years inside the White House. His ideas, values and vision are inferior to ours, and horrible for America, but he talks about them. All the time. And when aided by a teleprompter, he does it remarkably well.
In the last two elections, we conservatives (through our Presidential nominee) haven’t spoken or branded about our ideas or values or vision. For two reasons: our candidate has not personally shared our ideas, values or vision (or didn’t at one stage of their times in public life), and we’ve been frightened into believing only our superior economic management and wealth creation is attractive to voters. To use an American phrase: that’s baloney. We have so much more to offer.
Senator McCain and Governor Romney were not sufficiently conservative to energize the conservative base. Yet both won their respective primary fair and square. They were democratically elected using the primary process that exists. Every candidate competing in those primaries had ample opportunities to make their case.
But the problem is the process. The current system is not working for Republicans. The outcome would be very different if the Republican primaries for the 2008 and 2012 election began in a different state.
Moderate Republicans in states of the Northeast (North Hampshire) and Midwest (Iowa) are virtually determining the Republican candidate, while being unable to deliver their votes to the GOP on election day. By the time Texas, the state that delivers the most electoral college votes to the GOP, votes in a national Republican primary, the result is but a rubber stamp. Or if it is consistently going to come down to these key swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, why not start there? Iowa might represent thirty odd years of tradition but it might be time to re-think. Conservatives cannot afford national candidates, no matter how qualified or esteemed, representing the GOP that are unwilling or unable to articulate the social and economic vision of conservative philosophy.