GOP's Beck-Limbaugh wing misreads Hoffman's loss in New York
The renewed effort to field staunch conservatives in competitive districts is sure to backfire.
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A national party cannot sustain itself if it does not carve a presence in inhospitable territories. This is why moderates play a key role: they inject fresh insight to perspectives dominated by partisanship, and they help grow talent for Senate and gubernatorial races.Skip to next paragraph
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Other measures demonstrate the Republicans' weaknesses. A mid-October CNN poll found that only 36 percent of Americans view the GOP favorably, while 54 percent view the party negatively. The split for the Democratic Party was 53 to 41. A more recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found just 25 percent viewed the GOP positively and 46 viewed it negatively. It also revealed that just 17 percent of respondents identified themselves as Republicans, versus 30 percent as Democrats.
The practical impact of the GOP's identity struggle will be felt in races in the 2010 midterm elections. With Hoffman's close loss, many party activists will now feel emboldened to wade into many more contests, even if that means opposing a slew of quality candidates and primary challenging centrist congressmen in places like Illinois, New Jersey, and North Carolina.
Already, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate, finds his front-runner status for an open Senate seat threatened by a hard-right candidate, and the Club for Growth, an influential group, is promising to fund opponents of Mr. Crist and others. The loss of these seats would further marginalize the Republicans in swing areas.
For their part, stalwarts like Newt Gingrich and Lindsay Graham have begun warning against the futility of only putting up staunch conservatives for office. But their pleadings have been drowned out by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the seething frustrations of Republicans.
In a nation that is so diverse economically, culturally, and politically, a party that enforces a rigid litmus test for membership will not be able to remain viable.
If Republicans continue to move from the center in areas where adherence to conservative ideology is not palatable to a majority of voters, the GOP will not be able to regain Congress or the presidency anytime soon.
Mark Greenbaum is an attorney and freelance writer in Washington. He can be reached at email@example.com.