The Republican Primary: Conservatism is Winning

Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh nailed the GOP Establishment to the wall with a frank, spot-on assessment of the Santorum Surge:

Well-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l. How about this, ladies and gentlemen? It looks like the establishment Republicans are very worried that Romney cannot win, even if he is nominated. They’re very, very worried that, even if Romney is nominated, he can’t win, yet they continue to push him. There are a bunch of pieces.

…But, at any rate, it was fascinating to read blog after blog and news story after news story. The establishment Republicans are scared to death. If Romney loses Michigan, his so-called home state, if Romney loses Michigan… In fact, I don’t know if it was a blogger or an actual news network, they talked to an unidentified Republican leader, might have been a Republican Senator, might have been somebody in the upper ranks of the party, not sure which, one of the two. They actually said that if Romney loses Michigan, the party is gonna have to get in gear and try to find somebody else that they can nominate at the convention, ’cause they don’t want Santorum and they don’t want Newt, and they don’t want Ron Paul.

…Here you have the Republican establishment which, by virtue of this admission, that if Romney loses Michigan they think he’s gonna lose the nomination. And that means it’s time to ditch everybody and go find somebody else. That is a tantamount admission that they don’t care what their own voters are saying in all of these primaries, in all of these elections. We are seeing the Republican establishment force a candidate down the throats of the Republican base. The Republican base is obviously saying from primary to primary to primary they’re not really sure, really not all that sold on, Romney. And so the establishment, “Oh, well, okay, well, we gotta find somebody else you don’t like that might be able to win it,” which is what it boils down to.

They are saying, depending on where you go, certain bloggers, certain Republican Party officials, high-ranking elected Republicans are saying that the reason this is happening, the reason that Romney doesn’t catch hold, the reason Romney’s not getting any traction, the reason Romney’s not running away with this, is because of the conservatives who have been challenging him. And they think none of these conservatives can win. Santorum can’t win because he’s too conservative. Santorum can’t win because he’s too big a spender, according to Romney and Paul. The Tea Party needs to stop making demands of Boehner and company. The conservatives are screwing everything up. The Republican establishment is essentially saying that the conservatives are screwing everything up, making a mess of this. That if it weren’t for the conservatives, which is just the party, if it weren’t for the conservatives, Romney would have had the nomination sewn up by now, damn it. If it weren’t for the conservatives, all this would be done and everything would be hunky-dory. It’s funny. It is breathtaking to watch.

According to Gallup, conservatives continue to be the largest political ideology in America, with 40% of the population claiming that mantle.  35% of Americans claim to be moderates, and 21% identify themselves as liberals. It is also noteworthy that 78% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.

Apparently, the GOP power brokers seriously underestimated the old-fashioned American system of faith and values that still flourishes in the heartland.

Frank Newport, Ph.D is the editor-in-chief of Last Thursday, he wrote the following assessment of the Republican primary:

As predicted, Rick Santorum has moved up in support among Republicans nationwide. Meanwhile Newt Gingrich is down and Mitt Romney has slipped modestly. We are now in a situation in which Romney and Santorum are statistically tied. Santorum’s meteoric rise is, of course, a direct reaction to the results of his Feb. 7 victories in the caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota as well as the primary in Missouri.

Now when I say direct reaction, I’m underscoring the fascinating way in which Republican support has played itself out all year. Generally speaking, a sizable segment of Republicans nationally have been willing to shift their preferences from candidate to candidate extremely quickly, based on the latest events on the campaign trail. These events have mostly been debates and actual voting in primary and caucus states.

When Gallup reaches a person by phone who identifies themselves as a Republican or says that they lean Republican, it seems like we essentially find them figuratively scratching their heads and scanning the news environment to figure out whom they support. As in “Hmmmm, I see in the news that Rick Santorum won in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri Tuesday night, so I guess I will support him.” This suggests that Republicans nationally are letting the process provide them with a continuing flow of information that they take into account when constantly adjusting their support preferences. The fact that they are open to this type of movement, of course, allows us to rule out the hypothesis that large numbers (i.e., a majority) of Republicans across the land are excited by Romney and eager to get behind his candidacy.

This is not exactly how the Mitt Romney campaign team had hoped this would play out. They anticipated that Republicans nationwide would coalesce around Romney just as they coalesced around John McCain by February 2008, at which time over 6 in 10 Republicans nationally supported McCain. We certainly have not seen that level of support for any candidate so far this year.

The GOP Establishment are victims of their own pretensions.  They believed that by putting all of their considerable resources behind a clearly center-left candidate, that they could force the conservative base to compromise their belief, swallow hard, and vote for Mitt “The Legacy” Romney.

So far…it appears they were wrong.

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