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Republican Presidential contenders face a dilemma.
If they want to win the nomination, they need to drift to the right to appeal to the extreme conservative base that dominates their party.
But if they want to win the general election, they need to be more centrist.
So each of the top candidates in the current crop of GOP wannabes now espouse positions that are more right-wing than their positions just a few years ago.
That might give one of them the nomination but it won’t play well with the independent voters who hold the key to winning a national race.
Call it the tea party effect — a right-wing shift that can control the party and some local elections but one that still does not have the clout to control a national referendum where voters demand a more centrist candidate.
Which, as former Harvard mathematics professor and satirist Tom Lehrer once said, leaves GOP candidates “feeling like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis.”
Writes Charles Babington of The Associated Press:
“The most visible shift in the political landscape” in recent years “is the emergence of a single bloc of across-the-board conservatives,” says the Pew Research Center, which conducts extensive voter surveys. Many of them “take extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues,” Pew reports. They largely “agree with the tea party,” and “very strongly disapprove of Barack Obama’s job performance.”
Climate policy is a dramatic example of how GOP presidential hopefuls have shifted to the right in recent years. Former Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Jon Huntsman of Utah, along with other likely candidates, have backed away from earlier embraces of regional “cap-and-trade” programs to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
Such stands were unremarkable in GOP circles just a few years ago. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 presidential nominee, supported a cap-and-trade plan to place prices and limits on the emission of heat-trapping gasses.
Now the position is anathema to millions of Republicans, and therefore to the party’s candidates. Pawlenty is the most effusive in his backtracking. “I was wrong, it was a mistake, and I’m sorry,” he says repeatedly.
The likely presidential candidates have shifted rightward on other issues as well.
Which plays well with the lunatics of the GOP but how will play in November?