Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Republican presidential candidates debating this evening at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley have an insoluble problem on their hands:

Everything they say to win support of the conservative forces they need to win the GOP nomination will further distance them from mainstream American voters in general and California’s moderate, independent, centrist voters in particular.

Pick an issue: Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, public education, health care, taxes on the wealthy, environmental protections, climate change, religion in the schools, citizenship for immigrants, investment in roads, bridges, flood control and transportation or, above all, compromise with the Democrats.

Just about any stand the candidates take to please the Tea Party Wing of the GOP on any of these issues will come back to bite them when they have to appeal to the broad center in order to win the White House in November.

The results of the recent USC Dornsife College/Los Angeles Times Poll of California voters demonstrate how this all works in California. In head-to-head match ups, President Obama smothers any of the GOP candidates by about 2-to-1. But if you use support/non-support for the Tea Party movement as a demographic, here’s what you find:

– Obama vs Mitt Romney: 67-20% among non-TP voters; 20-74% among TP voters.
– Obama vs Rick Perry: 69-16% among non-TP voters; 22-73% among TP voters.
– Obama vs Michele Bachmann: 70-16% among non-TP voters; 22-70% among TP voters.

The problem for the Republicans: only 27% of the California voters support the Tea Party movement; 73% do not.

Because this evening’s debate is at the Reagan Library, we can expect to hear a lot of slavish praise for the late Gipper. But the mad hatters who now control the agenda of the Republican Party, and those who decide what is and what is not an acceptable stand for a legitimate member of the GOP, would likely never include Reagan in their big tent.

Don’t take our word. Consider what his most accomplished biographer, Lou Cannon, formerly of the Washington Post, has to say about it.

From his shared commitment with Mikhail Gorbachev on nuclear arms reduction and his reluctance to commit U.S. troops to combat, to Social Security reform and immigration policy, Reagan – though he cast himself as the keeper of the conservative flame – was, by today’s standards a compromising pragmatist.

To read entire column, click here.