Matt Towery

Ronald Reagan Republican voters are speaking, and the GOP needs to start listening.

On July 18, former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed was blown away by his more moderate opponent in the Georgia Republican primary race for lieutenant governor. Reed had hung his hat on a theme of "faith and family values."

Earlier this year, former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore banked on his reputation as the self-proclaimed "keeper of the Ten Commandments" to get elected governor. He was pummeled in the GOP primary.

In Florida, the man I call the South's most charismatic "movie-star metrosexual," Attorney General Charlie Crist, will likely defeat longtime GOP officeholder Tom Gallagher in their primary race to replace Jeb Bush as governor. ("Metrosexual" isn't a slur, or even a reference to sexuality. It's a trendy new fashion term.)

The able and likable Gallagher reportedly plans to intensify his own Ralph Reed-style campaign theme in an effort to overtake Crist, whom he trails in the polls. That will signal the beginning of the end of Gallagher's ultimate chances as well.

The list goes on.

All of this reflects a shift in sentiment among conservative voters.

Remember the "Reagan Democrats"? They threw Jimmy Carter out of the White House. It wasn't that they didn't believe he was a sincere Christian, or that he didn't have high moral character, as he often implied (when he wasn't openly proclaiming it).

It was because they saw him as unwilling to face reality. Carter had responded to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by expressing shock and disappointment. But that's pretty much all he did.

His response to an energy crisis was to ask everyone to don sweaters and turn down their thermostats.

As interest rates rose and the economy sank, Carter offered little in the way of concrete policy to countervail these trends.

In response to his collective nonresponse, practical-minded Democrats abandoned Carter and helped propel Republican Reagan into the office.

Switch to the present. With less than four months until the general election, the GOP-led Congress has been "holding hearings" on illegal immigration; "looking at" tax reform. As far as actual votes on actual bills -- or constitutional amendments -- they have reserved that for measures to protect the American flag and ban gay marriage, which is already illegal most everywhere.

As well-intended as all this may be, most of it appears to most of the public as so much fiddling while Rome burns.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery