Friday, July 10, 2009

Will moving to the Right work for Republicans?

The Republican party appears to have doubled-down on the idea that ideological purity is far more important than poll numbers. With congressional Republicans polling as low as 12 percent (as of July 9), one has to wonder if the strategy will work. I've read elsewhere that this is based on "lessons learned" from Democrats during Bush's presidency; that sticking to their ideological guns was the saving grace that finally got Democrats into their current electoral position of strength. Certainly the culturally relevant voices in the Republican party are enforcing a sort of discipline, such as is happening in Florida with moderate Charlie Crist facing a primary challenge from Marco Rubio.

I picked that article about Rubio because it highlights some of the challenges facing Republicans. With approval numbers as low as they are, fundraising will be a problem. More importantly, I think fundraising for primary elections will be particularly tough for challengers without a strong base of financial support. It's an interesting conundrum; on the one hand Rubio has lots of "grass roots" support and very vocal support from the cultural Conservatives. On the other, that support isn't translating into real dollars. Ultimately, I think, one of the great successes of the Democratic "surge" is the mobilization of small-dollar donations. Not just offering that option, but actually getting large numbers of people to donate money. This is the kind of thing a "populist" campaign like Rubio's could take advantage of, but people don't seem to be talking with their money (or at least not yet). I've seen it happen over and over again, anecdotally, all around the Internet. Generally speaking, Conservatives haven't been able to really draw the small-dollar donors in large numbers. Now, it's true that campaigns aren't all about money -- after all, McCain won the Republican nomination even though his campaign was pretty much bankrupt. But if the lack of small-dollar donations continues, then I suspect the war within the Republican party will not be won by the ideologues unless the corporate Conservatives suddenly change sides (they seem to support the established party leadership, which means Crist in this particular election).

So what does all this stuff have to do with the Mormonism or politics? Well, at some point in time a new Republican leadership will emerge from the ashes of these battles. And, at the moment, moderate (relatively speaking) Mormon Republicans such as Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are looking very attractive in comparison to their potential competition (i.e. Ensign, Palin, Sanford, Jindal, etc). More importantly, they seem to have the support of some large-dollar donors, or a large fortune of their own, or both. Is it possible that a moderate Mormon Republican leadership could be the end result? As I contemplate the current political playing field that seems to be much more likely.

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