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Why Are Conservatives Failing ?

One of the enduring mysteries of the 2008 Republican race has been why the ostensibly conservative candidates — Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney — are failing to capture the attention of Republican voters. Jennifer Rubin examines the issue in the New York Observer.

First of all, Rubin correctly points out that the problem wasn’t the voters, it was the candidates:

Mr. Thompson’s ideas were not a problem. His own indifference and lack of organizational prowess were. He had Social Security and national security plans. He unfortunately lacked the energy and the willingness to put up with the indignities of campaigning.

As for Mr. Romney—who may still win, but who has underperformed in the early going—he certainly was a dutiful spokesman for every possible item on the conservative wish list, but perhaps he was a bit too dutiful. His penchant for pandering grew to ludicrous proportions as he not only reversed himself on a long list of policy positions but cooked up a distinctly unconservative proposal for rescuing Michigan’s auto industry just in time for its primary. When he finally reverted to the “real” Mitt Romney—an optimistic businessman with no compunctions about directing an activist government—it was clear that even his newly minted conservative persona was in a Bain-like turnaround.

Or maybe, Rubin notes, the voters really don’t care about McCain’s shortcomings:

[I]t may simply be that the Republican electorate (or at least enough of it to select a nominee) may not be as ideologically pure as the conservative pundits might prefer. Perhaps many Republican voters really do think global warming should be addressed. It could be that lots of Republican voters like tax cuts but want them accompanied by good old-fashioned budget cuts. It may be that when they’re not in the throes of an impassioned immigration debate, many Republican voters wouldn’t mind eventually legalizing millions of immigrants, so long as the border is sealed first. And frankly, G.O.P. primary voters simply may find Mr. McCain’s heretical support for campaign finance reform a lot less significant than personal character traits like honesty, courage and persistence.

Maybe things would’ve been different if there was a stronger conservative in the race. For example, where would be be today if George Allen hadn’t had his macaca moment and lost his Senate seat in 2006 ? Before his downfall, there was serious talk that he would be the conservative candidate in 2008. What if Newt Gingrich had decided to run ? Would voters have overlooked his personal failings. And, most importantly, what if Fred Thompson had actually run a campaign ?

As things stand now, it would take a miracle for anyone other than McCain to be the nominee and there’s no use crying over it .

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