Last week we took a look at the historical template for the Republican Party nominee to win the presidency going all the way back to the 19th century. In case you missed it, here’s a brief refresher course:
1) Since 1892, only five incumbent presidents have lost re-election campaigns. The only one of those five that didn’t face a divided base was Herbert Hoover, who faced the Great Depression. In other words, minus extraordinary circumstances it is difficult to defeat an incumbent president unless he faces a primary.
2) Since 1976, only one Republican has won the presidency without winning more than 60% of the white born-again Christian vote. George W. Bush did it in 2000 by becoming only the third presidential winner in American history to lose the overall popular vote, which further reinforces how important that voting bloc is to the GOP.
3) Instead of pitting conservatives vs. independents, the winning formula for Republican presidential candidates is to first convince the conservative base they are with them on their principles in the primary. Then, in the general, the nominee is free to pursue enough independent voters necessary to create a winning coalition on Election Day.
4) Therefore, the base of the Republican Party holds far more sway over the outcome of the presidential election than either the liberal media or the Republican Party establishment that loathes grassroots conservatives cares to admit.
This brings us to 2012.
When you are the party out of power, it is foolish to pursue a strategy in the primary of elevating the candidate you think has the best chance to win the general election, because you are not in control of the news cycles and events that will shape the electorate. All the challenger can do is respond to events beyond his control. Especially if the challenger is not basing his candidacy on his own merits as much as he is a referendum on the incumbent. The smarter play is to nominate the most credible candidate that excites the base, because that excited base will remain so regardless of pressure from the mainstream media.
For example, prior to the 2008 primary cycle many know-it-alls lined up to endorse moderate-to-liberal Rudy McRomney in an effort to stop Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency. Of course, we now know Clinton didn’t even win her party’s nomination. The GOP was left with a decrepit little ball of hate, Caucasian career politician to take on the powerful narrative of America’s first potential black president.
Game, set, and match for the Democrats.