"It's gone. The breakup of what was the Reagan coalition — social conservatives, defense conservatives, antitax conservatives — it doesn’t mean a whole lot to people anymore," - Ed Rollins, Ronald Reagan’s political director and Mike Huckabee’s national campaign chairman.
I've been harping on this for a while now, but it seems the idea that the GOP coalition is beyond saving is starting to spread like wildfire.
Although I don't see much way that the GOP coalition will remain intact in the medium or long run, I have this week floated the one way I can see it staying together at least through the next election. I argued that one way requires that McCain get the nomination and bring on a prominent evangelical as a running mate:
The Republican coalition is held together. This scenario is imaginable only if McCain wins the nomination and nominates Huckabee (or another prominent evangelical) as his VP candidate. McCain appeals beautifully to moderates and is at least tolerable to enough (though perhaps not most) libertarians to keep them in the fold, especially if Hillary or Edwards are the alternative; if his full record were properly represented, I also suspect he'd be quite acceptable to evangelicals, especially with Huckabee on his ticket. I might add that Huckabee seems to have a tremendous personal respect for McCain. This might result in Tancredo's head spinning like Linda Blair's and even a third party anti-immigrant run, but on the whole, I think it keeps the GOP coalition together for at least another election cycle, longer if they manage to win.
Of course, the establishment conservatives would probably lose their minds trying to support a ticket comprised of their 2nd and 3rd least favorite Republicans (Paul being the first). But they would do it because what I refer to as "establishment conservatives" are GOP loyalists first and foremost; they don't really have a coherent ideology other than whatever the GOP leadership says is right. They are, as I have dubbed them, the Romney Republicans.
I think that McCain understands all this to a large extent, which is one of the reasons he has been courting a very positive relationship with the Huckster. But if the GOP nominates any other candidate for President, I cannot see any way for the GOP coalition to remain intact even for this next election, much less for the long-term.
***UPDATE: Town Hall blogger Matt Lewis continues to push the meme that Romney still stands as a unity candidate capable of maintaining the Reagan coalition. What he fails to realize is that the so-called anti-tax wing of the party is essentially the libertarian wing of the party, which now cares an awful lot more than it used to about civil liberties issues. Maybe if Romney could give a straight answer on waterboarding, he could appeal to libertarians and, for that matter, sincere evangelicals. As I've argued repeatedly, though, the "three legs" of the GOP coalition no longer have much in common with each other. Which means that ideologues from at least two of the three legs can find little or no common ground with Romney.
A Romney candidacy won't unite the GOP coalition- it will get it to break apart even faster.
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